Walking the Line
As I hit my head against my desk in my room I can't recall them. I've been sitting at my desk for hours just staring up at the ceiling, expecting an answer to drop out of the sky. I sigh and think, “If I remember their faces, why can't I remember their names?” Maybe they were always just mom and dad to me. I angrily slam my fist against my desk as I've done before. Then why the hell don't I remember my own name?! I'm a senior in high school and when I introduce myself to someone, I can’t even speak without stuttering or looking like a complete idiot. When I tell them my name is David, it feels like a lie. If David was my real name, then maybe I wouldn't hate liars as much as I do. I've never told anyone my real name because I’ve never known my real name. To my foster parents I'm David, to my teachers I'm David, to all the friends I don't have, I'm David. But no matter how many times I unenthusiastically say, “Hi I'm David.” It always feels like a lie. Yet, somehow in the middle of all my forgetfulness, I remember. I remember everything I've ever learned. Oh, and whenever I say I've forgotten something, I'm lying then too. My lousy brain can remember literally everything but the three most important names I've ever cared about. The funny thing is, I actually like the name David even though I doesn't belong to me. It belonged to the David in the stories. The David who was brave and took Goliath down with a slingshot. I don't think of myself as a brave person. When I was first abandoned (my orphanage said I was “dropped off”) I had a slingshot in my hand. When the stout woman began to question me, she asked for my name. I had no idea what to say because when my parents “dropped me off” they told me they loved me but never said my name. So I responded with the only name I knew.
When I was little, my foster friends always told me I had a lot of hope for a kid who was dumped on the sidewalk. I was a dirtied blonde haired kid with a heart of gold. I was much too trusting and much too kind in the type of place that would eat me for breakfast. So I learned to keep my mouth shut and my eyes down. For how tall I am it's surprising that I can fade into the crowd like I was never even there. Now that I've mentioned my height, I'd like to note that I am not the confident kind of tall. I'm the kind of tall as a giraffe on roller skates, always about to fall from only looking at my feet. Usually, before I fall I can see all the other kids snickering only after I've realized they've tied my shoes together. The majority of my class thinks I'm “challenged” just because I don't feel like giving them the time of day. News flash: just because I wear a watch doesn't mean I'm inclined to tell them what the time is. Lucky for me, none of them know I'm actually smarter than all of them. Ever since I was dropped off at my foster home I've remembered every minute, every thing I've learned, and all the details that they would never pick up on. Once I realized I had this ability I began to do the only thing that keeps me sane to this day, read. As I developed the love of reading I also devoted the habit of closing myself off to others.
As I lay on my bed in my room that feels more like a cell, I contemplate my life and decisions that have led me to my first day of senior year. I go brush my shaggy hair out of my eyes only to recall I got it cut yesterday after my foster mom insisted that I look slightly presentable for my last, first day of high school. I sigh once more as I look in the mirror only to find the same thing I've seen the past 17 years. A boy who remembers everything but his own name. The only thing that's going to get me through today is the glorious cold spaghetti I'm looking forward to for lunch. It's strange, I enjoy cold spaghetti, the 3 o'clock bell, and people not talking to me. You could say I'm not a “people person”. Just because I avoid social situations doesn't mean I don't know how to have fun. Barnes & Noble with a burrito from Qdoba? I call that a wild night.
The morning passes in a blur, almost like today will go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, I would be slapped up side the head by reality and the truth that high school actually SUCKS. I've kept under the radar of the “cool kids” for a good three years and I wasn't planning on messing that up. However, I guess sometimes life decides it's time something terribly ironic happens. As I walk into the lunchroom, one of the players on the basketball team waves at me. Wow. Someone's acknowledged my existence. That's a first. I slowly point to myself double checking that he's actually waving at me. He nods, and I almost walk with my shoulders slumped, but this time I hold them back making myself look taller. “David is it?”, the basketball player asked. “I'm Ryan.” He gave a little wave. Little did I know, this man would become my “Saul”. For those of you who who are unaware, Saul is the king that came before David. Saul tries to kill David, many, many times.
Ryan was the kind of person who seemed to have it all. He was well off, popular, had the perfect girl, and seemingly perfect life. I had no idea why he would want to talk to me. “David why don’t you come sit with us?” He said with a smile that could've fooled anybody. I was uncomfortable, but I gave a small nod as I set my tray down in front of me like any prison inmate. All the boys started introducing themselves to me at once and lucky for me I catch on quick. Then a guy named Zack proceeded to tell me to join the swim team, and another dude suggests basketball. I tell them each the same thing, “I'm not an athlete,” even though I could run a marathon at the drop of a hat. It's silly I tell people that I hate working out and all that, but I actually enjoy it. There I go again, lying.
Yet, no matter how much we try to put someone in a box, we don't have a clue. Sure Ryan had it all, but did he? That's where I was wrong. I didn't realize that he was failing half his classes, I didn't realize that the only way he was happy was when he was with Harper. Harper, Harper Jones. That girl is a piece of work. Whenever you're mad at her, she won't ask for forgiveness, she’ll piss you off even more just to show you that she can't be controlled. Prettiest girl in school? Yes. One of the best, most kind, fun person I've ever met? Also yes. Harper was also dating Ryan. Unfortunately. She seemed a little sad lately. I didn't know what was up with her but I was determined to find out.
As I zone out, Ryan snaps his fingers in front of my face. “Hey buddy where'd ya go off to?” I immediately feel belittled and annoyed, but I've gotten good at hiding my emotions. “Sorry, I was thinking about how I have homework to do.” I say with a convincing smile on my face. “Perfect.” Said Ryan, “Because I was just about to ask for yours.” At this point I've realized that I don't want to be anyone's “friend”.
“Sorry Ryan but the homework isn't something you shouldn't be able to figure out on your own.” I pick up my spaghetti and start to walk away, but Ryan had other ideas.
“Listen, I know homework comes easy to you, but some of us have actual lives.”
“Oh so highschool basketball and standing on kegs is considered having a life and me doing my homework isn't? Sorry I don't consider those things worth my time.” Now people have started to stare and the lunchroom has gotten quieter. Ryan looks a little dumbfounded but I shrug and start to walk away. Then, I feel a hand shove my face into my spaghetti. “Sorry I don't eat like you too, Ryan.” The lunchroom bursts into laughter. Now Ryan has got this ‘I will murder you’ look. I'm not afraid. That was freshman, sophomore, and junior me. Not this year. When I said I kept below the radar, that was a lie too.
You're probably thinking that Ryan is more like Goliath. However, Ryan isn't as tall, and he is not as menacing. Luckily for me, he also isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Still a tool, just not the sharpest. The next couple periods pass by quickly, except for my last period. I sit down, and to my surprise, none other than Harper sits next to me. We start talking about our summer and we begin to have a pleasant conversation. Before I know it, my last period is over thanks to Harper. Harper and I start to walk out the door when none other than Ryan. “Dave! What do you think you're doing talking to my girl?” “Having a conversation, that's what people do. Or were you not aware of today's social customs?” I feel a little smug as I walk away. I walk down the halls a little more confident than before, a little ,more sure of myself. I pass by Harper to see that she's cleaning out her locker. A little perplexed I shrug it off and tell myself she's just doing some spring cleaning despite the sinking feeling in my gut.
I get home to find chicken and salad in the fridge. I tell myself it was just another day. Different day same crap. But somehow, I know I'm lying to myself. Today I stood up for myself. I've never stood up to Ryan before. I feel a surge of pride as I nestle into bed with my book. Specifically my old bible. I've never been a religious person. I only go to church a few times a year. My foster parents are always working late nights at the hospital so I rarely see them and I almost never see them on Sundays. It's taken me so long to realize that I can't keep waiting around for people to notice that I've been treated like crap since freshman year. I've been scared to open my mouth in fear that I was going to be told to shut up. I'm not afraid anymore.
I wake up to my alarm blaring in my ear. I check the clock and it's 2:00 am. “Ugh”, I make an incoherent sound. I know that my alarm was most certainly supposed to go off at 2:00 pm but I decide to get up anyway. I don't know what possessed me to get ready so swiftly but I threw on my cloths in under a minute. You're probably thinking ‘why would anyone wake up at 2 pm on a Saturday morning’, well that's what I was thinking too. I hopped in my car to just go for a drive. It's still dark outside but the moon hangs a little ominously in the sky. I look to my right out over the river as I drive across the bridge to see someone standing on the edge looking down. I slam on my breaks and pull over to the shoulder of the road. My head is spinning and my heart is racing. I feel like I'm about to vomit. I throw my car door open and whip my head around to see the girl standing on the edge of the railing. Harper. The girl standing on the edge of the bridge is Harper.
“Harper!” I shout. “What are you doing?” “Something that I've wanted to do for for awhile.” “Can you talk to me… please Harper, I don't know what you're going through but I promise you it'll get better.” “It's not gonna get better, I don't have anyone.” “I know it's not much consolation, but you have me. I'll be here whenever you need me. I need you to step down from the ledge.” Harper didn't move a muscle. I started to walk towards the ledge, towards her. She stiffened but didn't step back. I continued to walk towards the edge. “Please, please step down Harper.” “I wouldn't be missed.” She spoke softly like a ghost. I knew I had to do something. I could not, correction, would not let Harper throw herself from the bridge. She leaned slightly forward and at that moment I didn't think, I acted. I reached out for her arm and pulled her back and landed on my back on the concrete with Harper on the ground next to me. I breathe a sigh of relief. I look over to see Harper looking down with tears falling down her face. She looks up at me the same time as she throws her arms around my neck, “Thank you David.”