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I WANT to wake up kicking and screaming. I want to kick so hard I’m tearing through the air. I want to scream so loud the foundations around me break down and tumble around me. I want to stand above it all. But first I have to wake up.
I keep having this terrible nightmare. Sometimes it gets so bad that I don’t think I’ll ever open my eyes. Right now what I am seeing just, it just isn’t what I believe. You wouldn’t believe it either. How long will I be asleep?
I heard that sometimes you listen and to be honest I find that hard to believe because no one has ever listened to me. Really. I’m always saying something, but I don’t hear anything back, and sometimes I wonder if I am saying anything at all.
Where are the words coming from, if they are coming out at all? That’s a good question, but I don’t know the answer. Not really. I was hoping if I tell you, I’ll find out and discover this something that I don’t have the answer for. Just listen to me please, in case I don’t find that answer.
It all started in art class. And my art teacher, he isn’t really nice. I don’t really think he knows anything. He came up and he got mad at me because I was using all the red paint and that I wasn’t using a paintbrush. He told me that I was failing the class and not listening. And all I could think of was that No. You aren’t listening. You aren’t. And I got in trouble because when I heard him say that to me, I took the red paint and just spilled it. I spilled it all over the floor because to be honest I didn’t want to see it on my canvas any more. It wasn’t making sense. In the teacher’s words “It wasn’t speaking out.” No teacher. It was not listening. I took the red paint and without a paintbrush I took as much of it in my hands and I just pushed the paint against the canvas. The red spilled through my fingers and down the page, and I was just trying to give it the message, trying to make sure it was listening.
Are you listening? I don’t want to ask you again. I just, I just wanted to know. If you ever had to tell me something, I would listen. I really would.
I don’t like walking in the hallways because I feel like kicking and screaming and asking “Listen!” Everything in the halls are so loud with who’s-who? She-did-what?! And oh-that’s-so-sad. I never have the right answers. Maybe you do, but I never don’t. I always want to ask them. Like that girl in the bathroom, the one that was always happy. You should know who I am talking about. She was always smiling and making jokes and reading out those notes from her boyfriend. Well, did you see her in the bathroom? I did. She was crying really bad, and I just wanted to ask her, and I would tell her I would listen, but when I asked she gave me this weird look. Like she didn’t know why I was asking her. All I could tell her was that I would listen, and she just told me to go away.
Are you sure you don’t know who I am talking about?
I told myself that I would ask her again tomorrow, just in case. If she won’t talk to me though, you should try to talk to her. But only if you will listen.
After art class I went to math. It wasn’t so bad, only the math teacher is crazy. He was telling me, and I swear to you, that a square was a rectangle. Can you believe that? I couldn’t. So I told him that. And you want to know what he said to me? He told me “Listen and you’ll find out why.” But even when he told me why, and I really listened, I still didn’t understand.
The craziness didn’t stop there. I was in English class and we were reading an essay that was so beautiful and made so much sense, but then she flipped around and told us that it was all wrong. I really couldn’t believe this. So I raised my hand and told her I understood. I told her that it had a lot of beautiful words and that I understood. And you want to know what she said to me? She said, “The author was using all the words incorrectly. That throws the reader off.” But even when she showed me how to correct everything down to the correct punctuation mark, and I really paid attention, I couldn’t read it the same.
So now I am wondering, are you able to understand me? Am I throwing you off using the wrong punctuation, the wrong words? Look, please listen to me. Just. Because. I. Can’t. Put. A. Sentence. Together. Correctly. Doesn’t. Mean. I. Don’t. Know. What. I’m. Saying.
I know you can hear me.
I stayed after school that day, just to get my mind off of all the craziness, but it still didn’t stop. (Subside. I mean, “it still didn’t subside. My English teacher told me to use my better vocabulary so I sound like I know what I am talking about.) My friends came up to me and they told me it would make me feel better and that I wouldn’t think about the craziness and that everything would make sense and so I took it. I took it. (That’s the most important sentence, in case you didn’t understand sense I used a run-on.)
Nothing stopped being crazy. I really didn’t want to. But something happened. The pressure released in waves. It crashed all around me and lifted me in the air, and guess who I found?
I found you. You were just staring at me.
Look, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken it, but when you’ve had enough, it really brings you to see the things you thought were well hidden, things that you thought had been stolen, taken away from you. But you were there, staring at me. And you asked me:
Are you listening?
Images of red took over me. Have you ever thought like that? Like, think about something you want to do, but you know you never could? I was. I was imagining throwing red paint all over the art room, and at the squares that are really rectangles and the words that make sense but really don’t.
“How do I tell you? If I can’t use the written language? If I can’t – If I can’t use it right? I… I just want….want you to understand…that’s all I want.”
I just said that out loud. If I wasn’t typing this letter out to you, the letter would be all wet. I really want to tell you, but I don’t want you to run away from me. I consider you the only person I can talk about this. What will I do if there is no one to listen to me?
Mom picked me up when I came down and we went to the Dreaded Place. I hate that place. You’re supposed to wear black, but personally I wish I didn’t. I feel like if I walk in the Dreaded Place wearing black I would not ever find myself. The Dreaded Place is a dark place.
The flowers are pretty though. They are like little colors of light. Mom told me to put them by the gray stone, and I did and I cried just like I am now. I’m glad you weren’t there, but who knows – maybe you’ve been in a situation like that. I hope you haven’t. The Dreaded Place is a place no one should ever be.
When we got home Mom played her music and I waited for Dad to get home, wondering if he ever would. I went into my room even though I wanted to be with Mom and her music and tell her about the kicking and screaming and about the listening. But I didn’t. I went into my room and closed my door and I thought about the squares and why they were really rectangles and why they told me they were squares in the first place.
I fell back on my bed, hearing the music. I won’t tell you what song though. Just imagine a place really close to the Dreaded Place, and imagine how it would sound like. That’s the song. Right there. Listen to it. Listen.
I closed my eyes and went from the squares to the words that the English teacher said that weren’t being used right and I was wondering if you understood them even though I wasn’t using them right and that I was using too many ands (called conjunctions) only because my mind is racing so fast to keep this all down and I don’t want to loose you.
I haven’t told you that I started smoking cigarettes. I bet you’ve tried them, once or twice. Don’t be addicted. Drugs are bad. I haven’t told you that I never asked that girl who cried in the bathroom who used to be so happy what was wrong. See, I saw her two weeks later and she was happy again.
How do you think that is?
I’m always sitting on this bed, waiting for Mom to snore so I can turn the music off. I always think about that girl’s smile when I turn the music off, and I wonder, I mean, wouldn’t you? How do those things happen?
Then I go back to my bed, and I think about red and the Dreaded Place and about the math teacher telling me “Just listen and you’ll know why”. I close my eyes and listen to that song, you know the one, and I try to make out the words, the words I think that are being used all wrong but the ones I understand.
When the song is over, which you know, seems like a long time, I always wonder if I’m dreaming. Have you ever felt that way? Can you tell me? Am I? Am I dreaming? When will I know I am not? When the Dreaded Place is far behind? When I can’t see the red any more? When the squares are squares and rectangles are what they are and words make sense? Will I wake up when I know that someone has listened?
Look, I wrote this to you…so you should know what that means. I mean, if you have been paying attention.
I woke up.
Another High School Kid