Carbon

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Chapter 39

I remember paranoia setting in as soon as April 29 hit my calendar. I remember immediately snapping my eyes from right to left, expecting to see him wherever I went. I remember being so terrified that he was coming back to finish the job he started.

I tapped my pencil against the desk, staring off out the window across the room. I was already moved from one seat because the teacher said I managed to stare out the window for three hours.

I don’t remember doing that.

The proctor’s stomach folded on top of his desk uncomfortably as he tried to resettle within his tiny chair. His wispy, white hair stuck out in all different directions like Einstein but with thinner hair and no mustache. The man glared at me with his arms crossed, probably upset that he had to proctor a pointless class. Usually the class had three to five students too disobedient to be kept on suspension filling the desks, but I was the only one left at the end of May. A week until I would be rid of this school and its rancid students… After that, I don’t know what.

I just knew I couldn’t stay there.

I raised my hand after peeling away from the window and noticed he was staring intently at me. I glanced at the clock, noticing it was 13:00, about time for him to escort me to the lunchroom to grab some food, or watch me look at it with disgust and decide against it like I usually did.

He nodded his head.

“Aren’t you supposed to bring me to lunch?”

He rolled his eyes and leaned back into his chair. “So you can look at it and then end up not getting anything? The cafeteria isn’t a store you window-shop at. You’re wasting my time.”

I refrained from correcting him in saying that this class, In School Suspension, was a waste of his time, not because I was afraid to be suspended but because I was afraid he would “lose” my tests and assignments so I could fail and repeat high school all over again. I put down my hand and waited for him to give me another look. “May I use the restroom?”

“No.” He slid open his desk drawer and pulled out a tabloid with the faces of two famous movie stars claiming some luscious rumor involving probably some scandalous infidelity. He unfolded the magazine on his breasts as he thumbed through the magazine boisterously, crumpling the corners of the papers and rubbing the pages together. His nails scratched across the glossy pages.

I furrowed my brow, my nerves raw from the awful noise. I cracked my thumb, pressing it against my palm with my index finger, fixing my eyes on the teacher quietly. “Please?”

“No.”

I rolled my eyes, premeditating a way to relieve myself from the boredom of this class. Vincent van Gogh once said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” I was suffering from the latter whenever I tried to distract my mind from the scrolls of thoughts that kept flooding my mind but made my heart ache. I needed to go home and just sleep. I just needed to leave this place for a little bit. “It’s an emergency.”

“No.”

My mind flickered to the one subject that brought every man to his knees. I turned back to him and declared, “If I don’t use the restroom right now, I’m going to bleed through my pants and then all over this seat.”

His jaw dropped; he slammed his magazine down on the desk and pointed out the door. “Oh my god, just go. For Christ’s sake, just go.”

I stood up, grabbing my bag from the floor, and slung my backpack on. I marched out of the room nonchalantly, hiding back a smirk that would have given away my true intentions. My fingers wrapped around my backpack strap as I strolled down the vacant hallway.

I glanced down at the floor and noticed a yellow sign around the corner, but there was no sheen of water or anything else. I recalled the camera system the principal installed a month prior, and I glanced up at the corner of the corridor. A black dome glared down maliciously, reflecting my presence in a distorted view. I responded with a grimace and rethought my plan.

I couldn’t be expelled and not get my diploma.

A lone janitor turned his gaze up to me. His hazel eyes bulged from a wrinkled, jowled face distorted by the extra skin and the wrinkles. His fat, pink tongue folded over his bottom lip, his eyes widening. His frame was a mixture of stout and skinny—a large stomach protruding from his silhouette of skinny appendages. A white ring of hair encircled the back of his head, sunburnt skin easily seen through the sheer coverage. Patches of mangled hair speckled his jawline. His hands slid up and down a mop inside a little yellow buggy with all of his equipment.

A pit fell into my stomach, and I hesitated to walk closer to the man. His eyes never separated from me except for when he pulled out a piece of paper for a moment and then looked back at me. I pivoted on my heels and made my way to the restroom across the school, strolling around the corner to the other restroom.

The buggy’s ungreased wheels whined and wailed behind me.

I glanced over my shoulder furtively.

The man pulled the mop out and began to trace an image into the floor meticulously and then continued to dunk it.

My foot inched forward surreptitiously, and he did not move. My left foot dragged across the floor, and the wheels whined like a dog. I whipped around to confront him.

Then the bell rang.

People poured out of the classrooms hurriedly not for class but social gatherings. Members of cliques created a wide network of traffic intertwining around specific individuals. Clothes of different styles and fabrics mingled into one sea of fabric. Heads bounced and shook as the bodies moved around me, bumping into me and pushing me forward.

My eyes scoured for the janitor, expecting to see him still mopping away.

Then the hazel eyes pierced mine through the sea of kids swaggering through the hallways.

My heart stopped.

I whipped around and pressed through the kids rashly, shoving and pushing through the crowds like an uncivilized beast from before etiquette and manners existed.

“Damn, chill out.”

“Hey.”

“Dude!”

“Did you hear about Jenny Quinten’s new boo?”

“I totally failed that exam.”

“Stop pushing!”

I fought my way through the crowd, dropping shoulders and throwing elbows as I saw necessary, and finally made it to the other restroom. I slid into the doorway, trying to make the door opening as small as possible to not give away my location. I ran into restroom crowded with girls fixing their hair and makeup in front of the mirror. I heaved breaths as I thought of what to do next, acknowledging this was not the safest decision with only one exit being the one I just entered through. I ran my fingers through my hair and then heard the door open.

I sprinted to the last stall and slammed the door, quickly locking it with a finger. I placed my two feet on the porcelain toilet and squatted down on it, hiding my feet from view. My hands plastered against the walls to maintain my balance.

“This restroom is under maintenance. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, ladies,” a hoarse voice interrupted the girls’ rituals. A couple girls groaned a resigned sigh and easily vacated the restroom, no confrontation or questioning for the man.

They didn’t notice he lacked a school badge.

I silently cursed under my breath. My hands shot to my mouth, trying to smother the sounds of my breathing as I began to breathe more unevenly and loudly.

“Devin…” The deadbolt shut suddenly.

I clenched my eyes shut, begging to wake up.

“…where are you?”

Wake up.

“Devin…”

The door of the first stall slammed open, and I jumped at the sudden brouhaha.

“Devin, your daddy just wants to see you… come on out. It’ll be a little reunion. Come on…” Another door slammed open.

I leaned forward, pressing my eye into the gap of the stall, staring at the mirror across the way. Six stalls. The janitor kicked another door wide open ruthlessly, a mark appearing on the plastic due to the stress.

I had two more doors. My eyes wandered around the stall, searching for an escape route or a plan. I should have just stayed outside in the hallway with the group of kids and kept out of the way. I should have just stayed inside the classroom with Mr. I Have a Diploma But Not Using It because I needed witnesses for this.

“Devin…”

Bam!

One door.

I frantically stood up on the seat and grabbed the lip of the stall and began to pull myself up onto the rim. I balanced my abdomen on the lip, holding my heavy legs parallel to the ground with a slight bend to keep them out of view.

Bam!

“Devin… Time to come out!”

My stall.

The door slammed against the porcelain wall, and I cringed as the tiles cracked from the pressure of the lock busting through the sealant. I held myself steady, using the mirror to attentively watch the faux school worker.

He stepped into the stall and glanced around him, and I silently prayed for him to not look up. I swallowed hard and began to perspire as I impatiently waited for him to allow my body to relax. My muscles ached as lactic acid began to build up, cramping heartily throughout my body like a venomous plague. I struggled to remain erect and constricted.

And then he sauntered out of the stall and walked to the sink. He buried his hand into his pocket and pulled out a phone from his front pocket. He slowly dialed a number he had written on his left hand and then pressed the device to his ear. “Hey, I can’t find her.”

My abs slowly relaxed, allowing my legs to dip down, but my arms remained contracted, holding me up on the side of the stall. I perked my ears, cautious to fully fall into my place.

“Yeah, I thought I did, but she disappeared.”

And then his eyes fluttered to the top of the mirror.

Our eyes locked.

“I’ll call you back.” He whipped around and marched into the stall angrily, a growl penetrating the air like a war cry.

I reached out to the next stall over, my fingers brushing against the edge. I tried to stretch toward the wall, but I was interrupted.

The man snatched my ankle and yanked down as hard as he could. The stall’s plastic scratched against my stomach and created streaks of green paint to stain my abdomen. My nails clawed at the lip as I slipped down into the bottom of the stall. I slid down the stall wall, and he shoved a fist into my kidney. I didn’t cry out as I caught myself on my feet and turned hastily to him. I threw a punch that he dodged, but I then threw an elbow from the same arm, crashing into his ocular orbital like a speeding train. His head cracked against the porcelain wall, and then he responded by shoving me back into the stall wall.

“Devin, stop fighting!” He snatched my right wrist, and my left fist rushed through the air, nailing him on the side of the neck aggressively. “I’m trying to help you see your daddy! He misses you!”

My nails clawed into his flesh as I slapped him again with my left hand. Blood trickled down his cheek loosely like water from a light rain.

His other hand snatched my crown and shoved my head into the porcelain bowl. I whimpered from the sudden impact, and then he threw me into the bowl again. My view got a little foggy suddenly, and I frantically pleaded, “Stop! Stop!” He shoved my head into the bowl one last time, and then my body fell limp. His fingers untangled from my hair, and I hit the floor like a pile of bricks. My face met the cold tiles, and I slowly blinked.

I couldn’t compute what was happening anymore. Anything that was in the room just was. Everything just was. I just was. Everything was too foggy to explain and understand. It was out of my realm of control and made absolutely no or very little sense to me.

I blinked several times as the janitor knelt down beside me. He growled, “Dumb bitch.” He rubbed his right eye meticulously, and I couldn’t remember why.

Something rustled as he pulled it out of his pocket, a large, black, plastic bag of some sort. He lifted my ankles and placed them inside the bag, and then he shimmied the bag over me. It was so warm and comforting, I did not register that perhaps this was how I would die. This was how I was going to be killed. It didn’t make any sense, but it didn’t have to.

Molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide floated together before my eyes. Electrons repulsed each other so that my skin wasn’t really touching the bathroom floor but floating above it. The light spectrum absorbed by my eyes became a blur of just blacks and tans, and the smells of the world wavered between piss and perfume. I was in a dream caught in a world of my own.

The black bag crept above my head and was knotted just above my crown. A knife tore a hole into the top of the bag, and I pressed my nose against the hole, breathing in the sweet smell of overzealous perfume. I heaved a resigned sigh and allowed the darkness to settle in my brain.

I caught a glimpse of hands grappling the top knot of the bag, dragging me towards the sinks. And then all of a sudden, he pulled me onto a platform and then began to roll me to wherever our final destination was. The wheels whined and cried out rebelliously, and the door was unlocked with an audible click.

I blinked my eyes, trying to stay awake due to my curiosity, but I found myself slipping into slumber. I remembered thinking how strange it was I was suddenly ready for a nap as I wasn’t that tired previously in the day. I nestled into my forearm, and my eyes shut for one last time before I fell into a darkness that felt more comforting than abysmal.


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