School doesn’t feel so bad today after last night’s pep talk in the mirror. I had looked that image straight in the eye and said, “I’m through with you.” And I meant it.
All day, there has been something off about the atmosphere. Everyone stares at me but only with different eyes. Everyone looks...skeptical. For a lack of better words, suspicious, as if I’ve done something and everyone is keeping their mouths closed about it. This stark attention slowly fades once lunch time comes around, and my main goal is to eat so I can gain weight. From up ahead, Adrienne skips up to me with the brightest glow in her eyes. I can tell she likes me very much.
“How are you baby?” she greets me with a kiss on my nose. I can tell she really likes doing that.
“Fine,” I say back, still flustered from her kiss. She notices my tense muscles and lays her hand on my arm. Smiling, she links her arm through mine and leads me down the hallway, which seems endless with bodies and chatter and more bodies.
“How was yesterday?”
“You sound so hoarse. Did you get enough sleep?”
She stops. Turns around to face me, and lifts my chin up to meet her eyes. I would be lying if I said Adrienne didn’t have beautiful eyes. They are pure green; vibrant and saturated with deep intensity. It looks like a jade. Two round, beautiful jades.
My own eyes narrow as she cups my cheeks, leans forward into my face, and kisses me on the lips.
It doesn’t faze me that I let a girl (my “girlfriend”) actually kiss my lips. I can tell she’s wanted to do it for awhile now. I sometimes wonder why it took her up until this point to actually give me a real kiss. Maybe she knows who I truly am but is trying to change me?
Adrienne pulls back, a blush highlighting her cheek bones. She is a very pretty girl. I only look at her with the same eyes I had before; vacant.
She feels the emptiness in my eyes. I watch her face sulk as she sadly smiles. She may have known, or she may not have, but she is only a friend to me. A decent sister in a way. But still, that is what Emily is for.
Adrienne just smiles and tries to ease the awkward situation.
“So uh, you know for what’s for lunch today?”
“Well we’ll see when we get-”
I see her coming before Adrienne can finish. She stares directly at me, her eyes prompting a response. I point at myself, making certain the girl is looking at me.
“Who are you looking at Ron?”
Adrienne looks behind as well and we both are confused. The girl is quiet but prompting all at once. She wants me to go up to her.
“Who is that? What does she want?” Adrienne is defensive now.
The girl has this soft look in her eyes that make me question why on Earth she would be in a gang. More specifically, Blake’s gang.
Why are they all in this gang with the most vicious person I know?
At least, that’s what I choose to believe.
Her name is Barbara, and I don’t believe that she is in a gang. Even though she tells me all these stories and experiences of her with the others and Blake, I still don’t believe she’s in a gang. She’s too quiet. She’s too reserved. But somehow I can see that’s why Blake took her in.
She’s an abused soul. Fear runs her life just like it runs mine. As she speaks in her feathery little voice, Adrienne moves closer to me. I feel her protecting my space from the explicitness of Barbara’s stories.
“He’s a good guy in general, but he’s a little irresponsible,” Barbara explains. Her eyes are brown and they scan over my face. So far, she has sat Adrienne and I down at the far end of the lunch room to talk about if I’m interested in Blake’s gang or not. I secretly know all the kids who associate with him, but seeing them up close and personal (for instance, Antonio in class yesterday) I have come to this conclusion that so far, they’re not the trouble makers I assumed them to be. I have yet to meet the last member of the gang, who I know for sure isn’t soft spoken at all just by how she talks. She is the exact opposite of Antonio and Barbara. I have yet to meet Valerie Wilson in person.
“Blake spoke to you yesterday, right?” Barbara tries to clarify.
“He told the rest of us about it. Said that you need help. Said you just need a little push to set you in the right direction.”
“And you guys think the push Ron needs is for him to join your ridiculous ‘gang?’” Adrienne sits up straighter, voice alarmed and alert.
Barbara clears her throat. Reaches for her milk carton, but Adrienne stops her.
“You guys have a bad rep for yourself just by associating with that psychopath Blake,” she argues, jade eyes wide and glaring. “And you think it’s okay to drag an innocent soul into trouble with you? Oh no. No thank you. I won’t let this happen.”
“You don’t understand the true principles of being in a gang in the first place,” Barbara tries to explain. “It always sounds like the people in it are just crazy violent criminals but really, that’s not what this is about. It’s friendship. It’s bonding. It’s...belonging somewhere.”
That word, belonging, arises a tight feeling in my chest that I know can’t be anything else except fear. A pinch of curiosity and excitement, but mostly just fear.
Adrienne doesn’t see eye-to-eye though.
“Join a club then,” she retorts, eyes narrowing.
“A club is a gang. One term just sounds nicer.”
“Ron, are you hearing this?” Adrienne looks at me.
I look at Barbara, then to Adrienne. I am unsure of everything at this point. Unsure of my life, unsure of how I feel, unsure of this gang epidemic. Just the word itself makes my stomach feel hollow.
I look into Barbara’s eyes and slowly say, “I don’t know. This is all so crazy,”
My eyes widen, and suddenly, I erupt in an obnoxious laughter. I’m hysterical with tears. I laugh and cry at the same time. I know I appear like a lunatic mess, but it’s the craziness that’s killing me softly. Joining a gang? Making people fear me? This makes me laugh harder. Before I know it, I’m laughing so hard that my face is stained scarlet. Once I finish, Barbara is looking at me with the cutest grin on her face. Adrienne looks plain horrified. She probably believes I’m a little touched.
“I believe you have it in you Ron,” Barbara sparks, voice calm and balanced. “I believe you can demand your respect. You just need to find that power within you. You have it. In fact, you and I and even Antonio are no different.”
She leans over the table, brown eyes never leaving mine.
“We all got sick of it at one point.”
“Blake will help me?”
“Of course he will.”
“Ron, I swear to God, if you agree to this absurd transaction, I-I,”
I know what she is going to say. Adrienne is too good for this. If I know anything about her, it’d be the fact that she was raised with decency and a brain that wouldn’t allow her to be tormented all of her life. I’ve reached this point of my life where I’m ready for a change. Leaving behind the old me will be the start of my new life.
Yeesss. A new life. A new me. A new everything.
“Ron,” her lips quiver, eyes watering. This is hurting her because she really likes me. She doesn’t want me to change. She’d rather be my guardian angel forever than to allow me to change. But I can’t let her do this. She can’t stop me from wanting to learn, to experience, to grow.
“If you agree to this, I promise, I will never talk to you again.”
“Then you’ll finally have a reason to leave.”
“Adrienne, I can make my own decisions. For once, stop treating me like I’m a baby all the time.”
“Well if you were a real man I wouldn’t have to look after you like one!”
“Maybe it’s best for this to happen.”
Her eyes water even more. My voice is somewhat determined but still lost. What am I getting ready to do? Who am I getting ready to make a deal with?
All of a sudden, she stands up. Adrienne still looks at me, wondering if I’ll change my mind. I keep my eyes on my lunch tray, the food too repulsive to touch. I’ll never gain weight at this rate.
But when I look up again to find Adrienne still standing there, she does something no one has ever, ever, ever, done for me before.
“I love you Ron.”
The first person who’s ever loved me in an intimate way, cannot have me because I do not feel for her.
I am sorry.