Chapter 8 – The Floor is Lava
Monday, November 21st, 2016
I’ve had a bit of a rough morning, after an intense silent therapy session with Doctor Delgado. I can’t believe Calo gave my parents his contact information and I can’t believe he got is father to agree on seeing me right the same day, instead of having to wait for weeks until a spot opens up.
Mom forget to put towels and other stuff in the right place, and Pyper placed the clothes in the wrong spot because she was running late for her next day in suspension, sending me in a slight panic-attack.
Then it caused me a dozen attempts to get the backpack onto my shoulder the right way, and I couldn’t flick the lights off because I had a different song in my mind that messed up my rhythm. It’s the tune to the news that dad was watching after I left the shower. He should’ve been to his work by now, but since I’m constantly freaking out, he took the day of in case mom needs help to pick me up in school or whatever.
After trying to flick the lights of for about twenty times, mom knocks on my door and opens it with a worried look on her face. She seems stressed, and I’m the one to blame.
This morning isn’t the only thing that is putting me on edge. It took until about two at night before I was able to go to bed, and mom kept checking on me to see if I was in bed. She didn’t sleep a lot, I barely slept, and Pyper kept waking all of us up with her coughing frenzies, that started the day after I had a panic attack in the shower area. Which isn’t surprising me, at all.
I’m late, and I’m already giving up on going to school. I just want to go downstairs and have breakfast since I’m hungry.
‘Honey, I have to go to the dentist. We have to leave in fifteen minutes, or I will be late.’
‘I know.’ I whine, feeling desperate, messing up another attempt of turning of the lights. Thank god dad connected all the necessary lights onto one switch, instead of a different switch for every light. ‘I can’t get it right.’ I’m long past the stage of being calm and rational. ‘I have to get it right.’
Mom takes in a deep breath, sadly watching me trying to tap right. ‘I’m calling school. You’re staying home.’ She wipes away some tears that roll down my face.
‘I want breakfast.’ I whisper with a hoarse voice. ‘I’m hungry.’
‘Okay.’ She nods, understanding I have to turn of the lights. ‘Let’s sing together.’ She grabs my free hand in both her hands, humming the tune, tapping along with the rhythm. ‘Just listen and feel.’
We both close our eyes, focusing on the tune, while I’m trying to force the thoughts of everything that will go wrong if I don’t get it right to the back of my mind. I have to get it right, or there will be fire today. The lights will burn down and cause a fire. And with Pyper in a bad condition, that would lead to her not being able to leave the house in time and result in my parents losing yet another child.
And it will all be on me.
‘Focus, Neo, just the song.’ Mom whispers with a southing voice. In the background, Pyper’s coughing sounds and dad’s footsteps on the stairs send me off again, causing me to scream out in frustration. Pyper is staying home from school since she had to go home early yesterday.
‘It’s too loud in here! I can’t concentrate! I hate this!’
‘Neo, calm down, sweety.’ Mom pulls me in a hug, swaying me from left to right calmly. ‘Just close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Pyper is okay, we’ll visit grandma and grandpa on Sunday. She’ll bake your favourite cookies and grandpa will watch Supernatural with you.’ She’s holding me protectively, a hand rubbing my back soothingly. ‘I’ll call off the dentist appointment and I’ll call you in sick for school. We’ll go to the park, buy an ice cream and sit by the pond, feeding the ducks, okay?’
That might sound a bit childish, but sitting there, eating ice cream, feeding the ducks, reminds me of better times. Times in which I didn’t have all these habits and subsequent activities to save the day. Simpler times. Happy times.
Times in which Pyper wasn’t sick, and I was pretty decent functioning.
‘Just follow my lead, Neo.’ She whispers, she puts my finger back on the switch, tapping the rhythm while holding me close to her. ‘Tap, tap – tap, tap – tap, switch.’ She repeats it twice more, before she pulls back to look at me proudly as soon as I sigh in relief. ‘See, we’re the best team.’
‘Thanks, mom.’ I mutter, feeling a bit ashamed for screaming a minute ago.
‘Hey, you’re our son. Your father and I love you, and we will always be there for you, okay?’
‘Now, let me get you breakfast, and cancel my appointment and your day in school.’ She taps my cheek three times, pecks a kiss on top of my head and leaves me behind to finish leaving the room myself.
I wait until she closed the door and walked towards the stairs before I move to follow her down the stairs and into the kitchen. It catches me a bit off guard to find dad seated in there with tired eyes.
‘Morning, sweety.’ Mom greets me as if she didn’t just help me get out of my room. ‘Let’s pretend its still Sunday, okay?’ She tells me when she catches me staring towards dad.
‘I’ll try.’ I nod, sitting down in my regular spot. ‘Morning dad.’
‘Morning kiddo.’ He smiles at me, though it’s a sad smile. ‘I heard your mother is taking you to the park today.’
I nod and smile at the made promise.
‘I think it’s safe to say both Neo and I need a time-out and have some alone time.’ Mom smiles, placing a plate with sweet buns in front of me. ‘It’s Sunday, remember?’ She winks, and I smirk, digging into the sweet buns happily. She places a glass of orange juice instead of milk and no lunch, but toast with a sunny-side-up egg.
‘Don’t let anyone know your parents spoil you whenever you’re skipping school.’ Dad winks too, still smiling. ‘I think we’re supposed to encourage going to school, instead of reward skipping.’
I chuckle and shrug. ‘As soon as people know what it’s like to be in this family, they’ll be entitled to form an opinion.’
‘Exactly, and until then, they can all just go to…’
‘Perry!’ Mom exclaims in shock, not able to hold back a small smile. ‘We do not judge others, even if they judge us.’
‘We just silently curse upon them.’ Dad winks, I laugh, and mom shakes her head in disapproval.
‘I’m going to make the calls. Finish breakfast and we’ll leave.’
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016
‘Remember, dad is picking you up, just like always on the fourth Tuesday of the month. He’ll bring you to see doctor Delgado.’ Mom kisses my cheek. ‘And we’ll eat pancakes because Pyper wants them and we know you love them.’
‘Fine by me.’ I nod, feeling relaxed after spending half of yesterday in the park with mom, just talking about sweet nothings. We made fun of a duck that was constantly stealing bread away from others, ending up in scaring it away to feed the rest. We ate two ice creams instead of one and mom bought me new Polaroid cassettes, so I can go around and take pictures while the rest of the students in my history class are on a field trip to a museum.
‘And you can stay up and watch Ghost Adventures with dad if you make it through the day without calling.’
‘I’ll try, I really will.’
‘I know you will.’ She winks. ‘Dad will probably allow you to watch anyway.’
I know he will. It’s his way to spoil me a bit. And to let me know neither him or mom thinks I use my OCD to get out of school early. They know, whenever I call, I really need to go home.
‘Have a nice day sweety. Be sure to call whenever you need me.’
‘Will do.’ I step out of the car, walking towards the entrance of the school, noticing a small crowd in front of the main student entrance.
I wonder what people are fuzzing about, but the fact they’re fuzzing about something is evident. There’s a funny mood hanging in the air around me and I carefully shuffle closer, making sure to not touch the lines between the tiles.
‘Just move!’ Someone calls out annoyed. ‘Stop blocking the door, freaking toddlers.’
Someone is shoving through the crowd, pushing me aside rather harshly, causing me to nearly end up on the floor.
‘Is this your doing?’ Angela helps me to regain my balance. ‘I’m sure it’s not, huh?’
‘Look.’ She grabs my hand, sending a panicky tingle through my body, pulling me through the crowd. We stop in front of the door, where there’s a large piece of red paper, with the word “lava” written on it. People are one by one jumping over it, laughing and having fun, while I stare at the paper feeling perplexed.
‘I bet Calo did it, huh?’ Angela giggles. ‘Since he stood up for you two weeks ago, he’s been jumping the same spots you jump. Come!’ She jumps over the spot, and I follow her lead still not knowing what to say. We’re greeted with a large banner with the words “Let’s play a game” written on them. It creates a buzz all over school and among students, and even teachers.
And much to my surprise, most of those teachers joined in, moving around the papers on the floor that say there’s lava.
It’s not exactly how the game is played, but I recon Calo is simply trying to force people to join my irky habit, instead of laughing at me for it.
And I can’t help but feel thankful for his stupid humour and his… irky ways of suiting my needs.
It causes a smile on my face that is wider than it has been since last week. I simply stand in the middle of the hallway, watching other students and teachers play along.
‘When did he do this?’ I ask in wonder, since there’s a lot of papers, all taped to the floor. ‘School doesn’t open until half an hour before classes start.’ That’s fifteen minutes ago.
He can never have pulled this off in merely fifteen minutes.
‘I don’t know, but it’s pretty cool, isn’t it?’ Angela’s eyes twinkle in amusement. ‘Come.’ She gestures for me to follow her, and while we join in on diverting the tiles and spots marked as lava, we make our way towards the first class of the day. We’re greeted by a handful of classmates, all staring at me with grins on their faces.
Then I notice the sign on the door: “The floor is lava is so Favre”.
As soon as I stand in the doorway, I find Calo, casually seated at his desk, feet propped up on the desk, typing away on his phone, all with a happy smile on his face.
The classroom is part of the playground, the place I always jump is off course marked as lava, and there’s small strokes of red paper lined up with the desks legs, projecting little streams of lava that should be avoided.
And for the first time ever, I’m not the only one who watches his footings while walking through school. Everybody is doing it.
For the first time ever, I feel like I’m at least a little normal.
There’s tears of happiness prickling in the corners of my eyes as I watch each and all of my classmates jump into the classroom, enjoying their selves with lots of laughing and cheering.
‘Look, Neo.’ Angela tapped my arm, pointing towards the two desks that belong to Luke and Jimmy. The whole floor underneath the desks, chairs and around them is one big spot of red and I can’t help but laugh out a bit.
It caused Calo to look up towards me, smirking devilishly. ‘So Favre.’
‘So Favre.’ I agree, smirking back.
‘Favre did it before it was cool.’ He puts away his phone, looking around to the result on the floor of probably a whole lot of hard work.
‘You did all of this?’
‘I had a bit of help.’ He shrugs. ‘I wanted you to feel welcome again and I contacted your father to make sure you’d be in school today. He told me there was a big change you were going to show up.’
‘He didn’t know why I needed to know if you were to show up.’ He shrugs carelessly, nodding towards the door in amusement.
Jimmy and Luke showed up, faces red in anger as they push Ramon aside in annoyance.
‘I bet they’re about the only ones not playing along.’ Calo chuckles as Jimmy and Luke simply walk over the floor, more anger flaring up in their eyes as they notice the floor around their desks. ‘Now who’s a misfit?’
I can’t help but laugh, stopping as soon as Luke snapped his head in my direction.
‘The fuck, Favre? Are you fucking laughing at me?’
‘I think I was, yes.’ I nod in confirmation. ‘You’re both a bunch of misfits today. Welcome to my world.’
Calo laughs over my remark, Luke steps in my direction.
’Is this your doing? We’re not in fucking kindergarten, Faulty Freak.’ He spits out the last words, causing my smile to disappear as snow in the sun.
‘Oh!’ Calo calls out. ‘We’re not? I would’ve sworn we were, judging upon your own behaviour.’
‘Shut up, Delgado. Who made you king of the school?’
Calo simply let’s out a throaty laugh, shaking his head in disbelief. ’My god… king of the school…’ He nudges me. ‘Did you hear that. Luke thinks there’s a king in school.’
He causes some of our classmates to laugh, though they laugh insecurely. It’s never a good idea to taunt Luke, or Jimmy. But Calo seems like he doesn’t care about becoming their enemy.
I can’t help but smirk at Luke’s face, full of anger, but obviously uncapable of coming up with a decent comeback.
‘Everybody, please take a seat.’ Mr. Gilman shows up in the door opening, taking in the jungle inside his classroom. ‘The second bell rang and even though apparently we’re part of one big game, we still have a class to start.’
‘Whoever did this, is going to get detention, right? This isn’t a playground.’ Jimmy calls out in annoyance, tearing away a piece of the red paper next to his chair.
‘Oh, I think it’s a nice… addition. Our government wants us to move more, right?’ Mr. Gilman winks at me and I wonder if he thinks this is on me. He surprisingly jumps over the floor tile in front of the door, making sure not to touch the streams and puddles of “lava” while making his way towards the desk. ‘We just had a quick meeting and we decided, since it’s nice weather and we’re all in a good mood, today, we’ll allow it.’
‘So, recon you like it?’ Calo nudges me again, smirking at me while I place my stuff on the right spot on the desk.
I can’t fight back the smile, nodding to answer his question. ‘I do, thank you.’
‘You are very welcome.’
All thanks to Calo’s large fantasy, my day started of better than any in the past years, and due to the fact the school allows it to last for the entire day, I keep laughing and enjoying myself, watching others play the game. There are, off course, people who do not play along and ignore the tiles. But for once, they’re the ones hollered at by others. They’re the ones who get called to act out for ones, stop being boring.
And after his action, I can’t treat Calo badly anymore. I can’t doubt his intentions, I can’t doubt his actions. He really is my friend.
‘How did you do it?’ I ask, taking a seat on the grass outside, next to Calo. For once, I don’t spend my lunch alone in the corner of the cafeteria, close to other bullied kids.
For once, I have a friend to sit with.
‘Large family, the additional boyfriend and girlfriends.’ He shrugs. ‘I told them about what they do to you and dad has a dark sense of humour. Since mom got all worked up over the fact people can threat others as poorly as they threat you, dad and I came up with the idea.’
‘Your parents helped you?’
‘Yeah.’ He smiles wearily. ‘So, had a rough week, right?’
‘Uhu.’ I nod, sighing deeply. ‘Some days are easier than others. Some days it’s hard to leave my room.’
‘Well, I hope this helps you through today. One day at a time, right?’
‘Yeah…’ I frown, surprised because he actually said something my parents, Pyper and all of my therapists keep telling me, concur one day at a time. Baby steps. Every victory is a victory, no matter how small it is.
‘You’re most definitely not the only one who has a brain with too many tabs open.’
My eyes widen more in surprise, and again, Calo caused me to be at a loss for words. I stare at him, while he’s enjoying the sun with his eyes closed. ‘Who do you know? I mean, other than me?’
Calo swings his head sideways to look at me with a serious expression on his face. For once, no carefree attitude. ‘Dark thoughts every so often cloud my mind. And when they do, I can be very… unpleasant to be around.’
‘Should I be scared?’
He smiles a small smile, before he shakes his head. ‘I think, by the looks of it, you’re probably one of the only people who can tell when to back off. Because you know what it’s like on my side of those dark thoughts.’
‘So, do you… like… have OCD too?’
‘No, no OCD. I’m chronically depressed and most days are good days, but lord save the people around me when I have a bad day.’
‘Oh, wow. Is that what was going on last week? When you came to school to be my friend?’
‘I had a bad week.’ He chuckles awkwardly. ‘Don’t worry, Neo. I usually target my enemies on a bad day, not my friends. I’m just a bit more silent.’
Which I noticed when he accompanied me in silence for nearly half a day.
‘One more question.’
‘Why do you do it? Why did you decide to stand up for me?’
‘I don’t really know.’ He shrugs with a smile. ‘At first, I thought you were just a geeky kid who was paying attention, but when I got you send to the principal, which I am sorry for, I saw you struggle to leave the classroom. I saw how you had to keep yourself from crying. The fact you disappeared for two days…’ He takes in a deep breath. ‘It’s not because I pity you, because I don’t. It’s because I understand some of it, and I think you could understand me too. So, in one way, it’s a bit selfish, but in the other, I kind of made it my mission to help you as much as I can. Because I wish someone could help me and would do it with the best of their abilities instead if taking the easy way out.’
‘By bullying you, or ignore you…’
‘Exactly. People don’t understand, and it frightens them to not understand. So, they do what comes natural to them; they defend themselves in a way to make sure you will never get too close.’
‘I hate people,’ I mutter, staring towards the grass sadly. ‘I hate life, I hate my illness. I hate how unfair this world is.’
‘Sometimes, I do too. But most of the time, I do not. And in those times, I will try to make you change your mind. Because there’s people out there who are kind and loving. There is more to life than your illness. You just have to start discovering that world.’
‘Believe me, I’ve tried. But every little thing can throw me off completely, and my battle starts all over again. And then my energy is gone, and I want it all to end. For everybody to go to hell and whatnot.’
‘Well, next time you feel that way, know that I’m out here somewhere, and all you have to do is call for me.’