The rest of the day flies by fairly easy, which I guess is good because after my break down in front of Antonio, I wasn’t in the mood for anything slightly problematic. I decided it best to even stay after school with some of my teachers to catch up on work that I missed yesterday. Me not being fond of Lincoln High doesn’t mean I’m not fond of my academic career. I still like to put my best efforts forward.
Right when the dismissal bell rings, I troll my tail over to Mr. Hanson’s class (my first period English teacher) to see what the hell I missed.
When I arrive, Mr. Hanson is crouched over a student’s desk genuinely helping out with an assignment. I smile a small smile when Mr. Hanson pops up and notices my presence in the doorway.
“Ron Mitchell! So glad to see you again buddy.”
Okay, that was weird. I don’t recall Mr. Hanson ever being enthusiastic about seeing me. Ever. But I allow him to contain his excitement as I softly chuckle and say, “Well uh, I’m glad to see you too.”
“What...happened to you yesterday?” he asks, eyes dark and full of concern.
He asked me this during first period as well, but he said it more in an authoritative tone, the way teachers ask you while taking roll just to note that you weren’t in class the day before. Now, he is legitimately asking, what happened to me yesterday?
“I uh, got, sick, right before first period so I called my mom and she took me home. I missed out on the whole day, not just your class.”
Mr. Hanson’s dark brown eyebrows crease into a frown and he slowly walks back towards his desk. I plop down in a seat next to the female student he was helping and pull out my notebook for his class.
“I took all the notes from class today but I never got a...”
“Persuasive essay rubric? Here.”
Mr. Hanson likes to use colored paper for his printouts, which I find very cool and unique. The rubric is turquoise and the outline for the essay is printed on pink paper.
“Thank you Mr. Hanson,”
I plug in my earbuds and start working on the outline for this persuasive essay of mine. I want to persuade people that depression is real and it’s contributing factors come from living in such a messed up world with messed up people in it. I have a pleasant time writing the essay. This is one of the few things I actually know what I’m talking about.
My father texts me around five-thirty asking why I’m not home yet. I text back, “Stayed after school for tutorial. Be home soon.”
He’s fine now.
I don’t realize I’m still in Mr. Hanson’s classroom until he walks by my desk and peers over my shoulder. He’s glancing at what I’ve written down so far, and I freeze still, awaiting a response like, “Good job,” or “Keep up the good work.”
What I get instead is a lot more surprising though.
"Depression is like a knife lodged down one’s throat, cutting at bits and pieces of one’s happiness, self-assertion, and capabilities to interact with the outside world. Ron, this is deep.”
I take my earbuds out and slouch in my chair. Even the girl next to me heard the excerpt and turns her gaze to look at my paper.
"Depression can be physically painful to endure and mentally draining, as it deprives one of energy to look for hope or the promises of compassion ...”
He fades out, reading the rest silently to himself. My heart is quaking a little, slightly embarrassed and slightly hoping he gets what I’m trying to convey.
After he’s done reading, he takes my paper in his hand and starts walking around the room with it. This catches me off guard, questions bubbling in my head like persistent curiosity. The girl next to me wonders about this too and quietly says, “Wow, you must’ve wrote some deep ass shit.”
“Not really. It’s all a rough draft anyway, I was just trying to jot my thoughts down.”
“Hey, what you wrote about depression though...”
She starts nodding to herself, then looks at me and gives me the okay sign.
“...super fucking true. It sucks that depression is taken so lightly. That shit drives you insane after a while, constantly being in that dark state of mind.”
I nod, really thinking about her words. Depression feels like a sorrow cloud floating above you every single day and you can’t do anything about it but just sit there, unmotivated, and let hell break loose from the cloud. My emotions always feel like a thunderstorm, but hearing that girl’s input actually lessened my figurative waterfall. It’s nice to find someone who can relate to your struggles. Sometimes I feel as if everyone just lives a better life than me, no doubt about it.
Mr. Hanson comes back over to me and returns my paper. His eyes look peculiar now. I notice his body is stiff and awkward, which isn’t necessarily unnatural for him, but it is considering his change of demeanor just a moment ago.
The middle-aged man chuckles lightly and then walks over to his desk. I had no idea that my writing was powerful enough to make someone speechless. Especially Mr. Hanson, who usually always has insightful information to give.
I guess I made this assignment a tad bit too personal.
It’s fifteen minutes until six and that’s when the girl next to me clears out. She told me her name was Ariel and that we should hang out sometime. I’m not gonna lie, it struck me as a bit strange at first, her just randomly giving her name and asking to hang out soon, but if I ever see her around again, I will consider getting to know her.
She openly relates to depression. Already one thing we have in common.
I start gathering my things when Mr. Hanson finally speaks up about my paper.
“Ron, you know you’re more than just your feelings, right? I hope you do know that on some level.”
I stand up with my backpack, ready to call my dad and ask for his assistance in picking me up. Mr. Hanson looks at me seriously, expecting a prompt answer.
“Right?” he states again.
“I don’t know Mr. Hanson, what do you want me to say?”
“I want you to say that you’re an intelligent, bright, and creative young man that has a lot more than offer than just being mentally drained.”
I stare at him, my eyes narrowing but then widening considerably. I’m in no mood to talk about this kind of stuff right now. I just want to go to my room, cuddle with my Squirtle and butterfly plushie, and take a nap for the rest of the evening.
And daydream about Blake of course.
Mr. Hanson has a sad glint in his eye and it makes me feel a little sad too.
“Ron, I think you’re one of the brightest kids I’ve ever met. I see how some of these kids talk to you and it’s honestly disgusting. I just want you to know that high school isn’t forever. Whatever you feel right now, it isn’t forever.”
He looks at me, but my eyes are finding better company with my shoes. I always stare at my shoes when I’m uncomfortable. Human eye contact can be a little overwhelming.
“I know during class I may act like some old, dusty teacher who doesn’t care about what he’s doing for a living, but honestly, I do. Teaching English is my passion and even passions can get a little tiring at times. Hey, here’s what I want you to do for me.”
Finally, I look him in the eye. He smiles, eyebrows raised high and animatedly against his forehead.
“Find a passion. Do something that you really want to enjoy. Do something you’re okay with doing for the rest of your life. It’ll help. Can you do that for me?”
I nod, forcing my best smile.
“Of course I can. I’ll find my passion tonight sir.”
“Don’t force it. It doesn’t have to be tonight. Take your time, discover yourself, and see how things play out naturally.”
See how things play out naturally. Interesting approach.
When I get home, the first thing I do is run to my room and fish out an old history notebook from eighth grade that I never filled up completely. I sit down on my bed, put the notebook in my lap, and start writing away.
My cell phone buzzes obnoxiously under my pillow. Turns out I had fallen asleep after free writing for almost two hours straight. Still groggy and uncoordinated, I reach for my phone under my pillow and answer the call from an unknown number.
“Hello?” I sound like a dying toad.
“Ron, it’s Blake.”
I nearly fly off the edge of my bed as I pop up way too fast and have to hold on to my headboard to keep steady. My heart starts beating at a stupid, irregular pace and I have to force myself to talk like a regular person.
“Oh, hey Blake. Wait, how did you get my-”
“I have my ways. Anyway, we’re having a meetup tonight. I need you to come to the hideout house.”
“Wait, the hideout what?”
“Boy you act like you just woke up or something.”
This makes me laugh. Blake’s obliviousness is actually funny.
“Actually, I really did just wake up,” I say, voice deeper than it ought to be.
Blake doesn’t acknowledge my silliness though. I guess this is serious then.
Damn, another serious matter?
“Just get your white ass up and come to the hideout house.”
“Blake! For one, I don’t know where the hideout house is. And how am I going to escape? Both my parents are here and they don’t like me being out too late.”
“Bruh, we literally spend all day and all night in Chicago yesterday and your parents believed you on some bullshit, ‘I’m with a study group’ excuse.”
“But I just stayed after school for tutoring. They know I don’t go out that fucking often. They’ll really be up my ass if I go out tonight.”
I hear Blake groan and this honestly makes me nervous. How the hell am I going to call myself being apart of a gang if I have to plan how I’m going to get around my parents?
That doesn’t even sound right.
I stammer for words to try and come up with a workable solution. Blake hushes me and then spells out his plan in coherent sentences.
“You know what, don’t worry about it. Give me your address and I’ll do the rest from there.”
“God damn, yes. Give me your address so I can put it in my GPS and head over there.”
I follow his instructions, give him my address willingly, and change into different clothes for comfort. I then trot my ass downstairs to let my parents know that I’m going out tonight.
Now they’re more hesitant.
“Ron, it’s almost eight-thirty,” my mother says, peering over her reading glasses. “what study group meets that late on a Thursday?”
“Are you sure you aren’t doing something else?” my dad teases, heading over to their dresser to gussy up in the mirror.
I laugh, suddenly feeling hot and ganged up on. I try not to seem fidgety or nervous in my skin. If I look too suspicious, they definitely won’t let me go.
“Mom, dad, it’s normal for teenagers to want to meet up and study late. It gets the motors running, you know? And there’s a nice girl whose head of the group. Her name is Lauren and she’s really smart and her parents take good care of us while we’re over.”
“A smart girl named Lauren? I didn’t know you were talking to girls now,” my father says, lightly laughing under his breath.
I sigh. Pleading with them is going to be harder than I thought.
"Parents of mine, can I please go study tonight? I have a huge exam tomorrow and I’m trying to pass with a good grade.”
My mom looks at my dad in the mirror reflection. My dad stares at her back, then eyes me like I’m a random object misplaced in the room. I have no sign of deceit on my face. Disguised in a red hoodie and gray sweatpants with a binder tucked under my shoulder, I really look like a kid who just wants to go over to fictional character Lauren’s house to go, “study.”
Finally, my dad breaks the silence. He turns to me and looks me straight in the eyes.
“I don’t mean this in a bad way Ronald, but it’s unusual for you to be so social all of a sudden. Which isn’t bad, that’s not what I’m saying, but it’s just so...out of the ordinary.”
“Well dad, I’m trying to break out of this shell of mine, so letting me out for two hours to go do some practical studying shouldn’t be a big deal.”
My mom’s eyes don’t believe me. I can tell because she’s squinting so hard to try and spot one little detail wrong in my pleading. My dad, on the other hand, is more of a dad, and half-heartedly believes me but wants to believe I’m opening up. Whatever the case may be, I just need Blake to hurry up and rescue me from this prison.
I want to do something way worse right now.
It’s 8:45 when a loud bang meets the door. My mom nearly jumps in her skin at the sound, and this lets me know right off the bat who it is.
Always making his presence well known.
I’m standing a few feet behind my mom and to her right when I witness her open the door to reveal Blake. My heart jerks like it’s spazzing out and I feel my throat clogging up.
Why does he look so good right now?
“Uh, hi,” my mother manages, caught off guard by Blake’s bold demeanor. “you must be one of Ron’s study group friends.”
“Yeah, I am. Name’s Blake,” he says, extending his hand in formal greeting. My mother shakes it, not knowing how to feel. If I saw some dark and handsome boy with a biker gang jacket at my front door claiming he was one of my kid’s study group friends, I would be at a loss for words too. Blake does not fit the description of what one would call, a “scholar.” Blake looks like he doesn’t even know what studying is. Not trying to undermine Blake’s intelligence, but I feel like he’s more streets smart than school smart. He just has that look to him.
While Blake is buttering up my mom, I take the perfect opportunity to admire the art of his body.
He’s really tall and lean, and even being clothed in a leather biker jacket and a worn, vintage Beatles shirt, I can still see the faint muscles snuggled behind the fabric. His face is beautifully shaped with big black eyes and hair that is cut clean and low, giving him that masculine and tough guy appeal that someone like me could never pull off. It amazes me how one can be carved like that. It makes me nervous how one can be attractive like that...
...to the point where I’m caught staring. Stupidly.
“Ron? Ron, you can go now,” my mom repeats, and it sounds like she’s been repeating that for a while now. Blake’s eyes meet mine and I swear I hear my stomach churn. He smiles that wicked smile of his, luring me into the dark, luring me into his car.
When I get in the passenger’s seat, all I hear Blake say is, “You’re retarded Ron, fix your face,” and he kick starts the engine and we pull off to whatever awaits us.