When I Was a Rule Follower
We all have been told as a child to never talk to strangers or watch where we step while playing as a kid by our parents. "Don't do this!" or "Don't do that!" Always in that stern tone so it's drilled into our heads to never do it again. Maybe once or twice be punished for the crime of breaking a rule. "Go into the corner! You're in time out!", "Go to your room and don't come out until I say so!", or even "No television or games for a week!"
I haven't never had those words spoken to me. It wasn't that I was a good kid, and truth be told I was a relatively good kid. I wouldn't dare upset my mother or father in a way that wasn't fit. And it wasn't because I didn't want to be sent into my room or put into a corner and stare at a hideously colored wall. It was the method of obeying that was used on me. I didn't know if my mother was intentionally doing this or did I think she was. I didn't think about it. I was too focus, too involved into what she said to me every few nights. She would sit next to my bed with a colorful book in her hands and play out the words within it. She changed her tone to match the character's voice, make facial expressions so I knew what the characters were feeling. What was this? Reading it was. It was reading.
On those nights, she tell me a story. It would entertain me, amuse me to the point I was smiling and not taking anything consent into what she was saying. That smiling ceased when she told me the warnings. "Don't talk to strangers or you'll be eaten like Little Red Riding Hood almost was.", she would say after reading Little Red Riding Hood. "Don't eat or drink strange things. You never know what could happen.", she recite after reading Alice in Wonderland.
Those fairy tales had become my guidelines to living as a child. They were permanently my codes to playing safe in the world. It was to the point I was bossing my classmates around and telling them to stop what they were doing for their safety. I was a total mother hen.
It had gotten so bad one day that I had begun to lose myself and a friend.
Some days I would walk home with a friend or two. One of them was Mason. Mason wasn't a scrawny kid like me. He had the body of a kid preferred footballs than video games. Dark hair, brown eyes. Simple features. But opposed to me, he was more adventurous. He had a challenging mind that opposed rules while I was more into them. If only.
It was in the fall, the leaves were turning into warm earthy colors. The wind had felt nice against the skin that did show. Mason and I had bolted out the door of the school, exciting for the break we were just about to have. Boy, were we ever excited. Mason never looked so ready for it. And I killed that mood.
We were always cautious when walking home. Both of our parents told us to be so. I guess it skipped Mason's mind that day. Just passing by various houses within our neighborhood, Mason and I chatted carelessly about our plans for the break. And then he stopped. A man was just heading in our direction. Something dark within his eyes. He had worn a black overcoat with matching dark pants. His head was covered by a black hat, only strands of dirty blond hair sticking out. And his skin was a pasty white. He had stopped in front of us, a sudden smile creeping onto his lips. He had begun to ask us a question, but I was quick to turn away. I pulled Mason away from him, dragging him along until we were home.
"Why did you do that?", he had asked me with eyes were now dull and angered.
"He was a stranger. We're not allowed to talk to strangers.", I answered in a quiet voice. I now realized that I was scared. But of what?
"I know that. Nat, you're such a worry-wart."
Worry-wart. What a childish name.
"No, I am not. I'm just being careful."
And then he blew up at me. "Careful is always what you are! You need to stop that! You don't play like us kids. Instead, you're yelling at us to stop us from hurting ourselves." Cocky. He was cocky. "You're not an adult, Nathan! You're a kid!"
I didn't answer nor did I want to. Instead, I turned from him. "I know that." I didn't have to look at Mason to know he was scowling at the back of my head. "I don't think you do."
He just walked into his house and I walked into mine.
Those were the last words Mason ever said to me. And he was the last I ever spoke to.