Bracing Oneself This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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There was always something like restless paranoia that haunted James on the weekends. He often felt as though there were two sensations desperately battling to get out: the lethargy of inactivity and the prickling urgency of shadowy things that waited for him which made his breath come in and out in in quick gasps. And it was here again as he sat on a Sunday night, hunched on his bed, the door to his room closed, the light badly filtering through his small window.
He felt cold sitting there on top of his blankets. He had thrown himself into his math homework, reaching for the solidness of the numbers, the facts. But he had stopped two problems in, numbed by the ice-cold numbers.
He was waiting for something. He didn’t know what. His shelf was littered with trophies, but they were two or three years outdated. James shuffled and got up, stiff from inactivity. There was nothing to do. There was nothing to think about except the schoolwork he had neglected. All of a sudden, it was too quiet—he needed music, or someone to talk to, but in this state, he remembered, the quiet was reassuring. The music would remind him that he was alone. It would remind him of the violin lessons he used to have until a short while ago. The silence was only like snow.
He sat, tangled in the haze that threatened to overcome him. He tried to ignore the voices in his head, but failed—realized they were not in his head. Love was a bitter thing. It woke him up. It made him feel alive, this bitter sensation, like coffee. His face twisted and he thought of what people would think if they saw the state of his room, of the violin packed away deep in his closet, of the chair so full of stuff that he could not sit on it, of the outdated trophies. He thought of what people would think if they saw the state of him. Down below, their voices floated up to him, and he detachedly observed how gracefully their voices twisted up the stairs to his room. Really, his mother’s voice was like a soprano’s, bravely quavering above the orchestra, above the chorus. Really, his father’s voice was like a tenor’s: deep, strong, rooted. In a swift movement, James stood and then realized that he had nowhere to go, nothing to do.
There would, of course, be school tomorrow. It now seemed like a heavenly routine, though he knew he would hate it the moment he arrived at the suffocating, ivy covered brick prison the rich people who lived over the hill sent their children to. He listened to his mother. She sounded like a small animal. He hated her for that. He sniffled, blaming it on the cold. He sat on his bed. He abandoned his homework. He stayed up late—
There was nothing to do.





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