Story A Day May: Day 1!

Needful Things-

I missed school pretty often. Or rather, I was absent a lot, because I certainly didn’t miss any part of it. I kind of liked learning, when there was something interesting to learn, but my school wasn’t conducive to that. Not at all. I went to a tiny school in Indiana, and there were thirty students in my eighth grade class.Two of them liked me, three if you count the class’s pet fish. A lot of the students were indifferent towards me, but most of them actually went out of their way to make me feel left out and hated.

The teachers didn’t help at all. They didn’t stop the students from groaning or laughing every time I opened my mouth to speak, and they didn’t ever punish the students for hiding my coat when it snowed, or for telling the bus driver I was absent that day so I had to walk home, coatless, cold, alone except for the sun, though it left me in the dark of dusk soon enough.

I don’t understand how anyone can be that cruel. I never did anything to them. They just picked me to be wicked to. Maybe it’s because of my regular absences, I guess that gave them time to make up opinions of me, and didn’t give me time to redeem myself in their eyes.

It wasn’t my fault that I missed school all the time. Sometimes I got sick, sometimes I broke my arm or my leg or something, but most of the time I was just having family problems. Finally, my mom had to be institutionalized. She was schizophrenic. I don’t remember crying when I found out. I didn’t have much a connection with my mom, or anyone for that matter. I just stopped interacting with people during junior high, so I didn’t have a well-developed sense of family or friendship.

Instead, I watched my mom lapse into her old habits of lethargy and prescription medication. I don’t know how or where she got the stuff, what with the town being so tiny. Anyone could have found out just by asking any of the ten employees at the only pharmacy we had. It’s possible my dad was just trying to avoid the truth, but it came around and when it did, they dragged her off and left me sitting on the porch. It was summer. School was almost out. I was excused from the last week and a half, to help my dad clean and pack.

“Where are we going?”

He didn’t say anything, so I didn’t ask any further. I woke up in California.

I spent that summer before ninth grade almost completely alone. I didn’t know anyone in this new city–a huge city, to–on the coast. Sometimes I went to the library and read or used the computers, and sometimes I stood on the beach a few blocks from my house and dug my toes in the sand. I closed my eyes and pretended that I was on the pebbly shore of Lake Michigan, the trees behind me so dense that I could fall back and they would catch me.

Eventually, though, my eyes would open and I would see the myriad umbrellas and bikinis, the lumpy grayish expanse of sand, dotted with bronze-skinned volleyballers and surfers. Staring out at the ocean made me feel more alone than anything else. Maybe it was the smallness that I felt, looking out at this apparently infinite body of water, so full of life that I couldn’t describe or even imagine.

Somehow, the summer waned, and school began. I had never seen such an enormous cluster of students. The campus, I had read, held around two-thousand students. At registration–which I went to alone–I saw more students than had been at my entire school in Indiana.

I was a goldfish in a glass bowl–small, isolated, and aware of the curious looks I was receiving.. As I navigated the halls and tried to memorize the strange, outdoor corridors, I received text books and had my picture taken and was nearly assaulted by the yearbook representative who urged me to buy this very important keepsake. I practically sprinted from him.

As I was leaving, I saw the booth: “Sign up for drama!” My eyes must have lingered because the next thing I knew, I was being half-dragged to the table by a very excitable pair of students. I don’t remember how it happened, but I signed up. There was a girl with piercing eyes and a gentle smile who said that she was a senior and that they would be performing Wicked that year, and she thought I’d make a great something or other, and there was a boy who smiled at me and talked to me, asking me about where I was from.

When I was reluctant to answer, he dropped the subject with an assurance that plenty of students were funneled in from all around the county, so I wouldn’t feel left out at all. Everyone agreed emphatically and I suppose I gave them my information and my counselor’s name–“We’ll switch you into drama by the first day of school, promise!”–and that’s how it began.

The hope, I mean. That there was a place where I might belong and maybe even have friends. I finally had the opportunity to come out of my lonely little fish bowl and swim in the ocean.

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