All Greek to Me

February 13, 2009
I am walking. Today my shoes pad a wordless ode on the cracked bricks leading to my school. I glance over and see a group of children on the playground stop their gallivanting to stare at me. I don’t grow wary or break my stride though. They can’t help it. I remember I used to feel so violated, so cheap. I shrank away from their ravaging eyes. But now I’m accustomed, and these are only children. They can’t help it that their awe, the purest by far, is the most palpable.
I walk on, striding left, right; the pace of apathy, the poise of grandeur. The school crawls into my view and I stare it down, never letting it leave my sight. Not even when classmates filter in around me. I’ve been told high school can escape you; slip by in just a second. I don’t plan on letting my final years of school evade me, not when I’ve worked so hard at existing. My classmates swell and shrink converging into groups, but I am one. I’ve grown familiar to the admiring glares from boys and the timid, feverish looks from girls.
My feet waltz me around a mass of shuffling and loitering feet, to my locker. I put away my belongings, and fight the urge not to take haven there as wall. It would be too easy to climb in, and nestle up beneath my wool pea coat. I’d slumber through the day, and escape the monotony boring down on me like an on-coming train. At dusk I’d emerge from that slotted metal cavern, and fly with the bats. I’m accepted, one of them, my velvet wings feel the night air’s caress. This is belonging, wings are for the sky and soaring, feet are for not the ground, but solidity and walking. I’ve never once felt grounded, and my feet have never been satisfied with walking.
A warning bell tolls above me and I am torn from my private illusion. Turning, I notice for the first time a girl standing at my elbow. I have no idea how long she’s been there watching me watch the un-altering blank wall inside my locker. She purses her glazed lips, then relaxes them. Her eyes swarm me, striking everywhere but my face. I can see she’s about to speak, and that this shadow of a girl will speak no utterance I haven’t already endured. So I turn quickly. A clean getaway from the stalker straight to the train tracks where a rope waits to bind me. The teacher shuts the door once I enter the classroom.
Attendance is called I look up from my book in time to mutter “present” when the teacher calls my name. The boy in front of me turns to face me. I notice he doesn’t quite meet my eyes. Maybe he’s afraid his friends will think he’s in love with me if he looks to long or hard. It wouldn’t be the first time someone fell for my eyes.
“Hey,” he murmurs as if he were accusing an old friend. “I saw you talking to Erika.”
“Who?” I ask more than a little annoyed already.
“You know, that fiery girl standing next to your locker this morning.”
I continued to look perplexed though I’m pretty sure I know who he means.
“The girl with red hair, kinda short. I just saw you talking to her man.”
After I say nothing he turns away in disgust. I really don’t give a damn about what anyone in this school thinks of me. Besides, it’s my last year it’d be useless to learn their names now, or try to please them.
Lunch is as always a tedious affair. I prefer solitude for many reasons, but the most essential is reading. It’s much easier to digest the words of Poe without fellow students asking what the score was at last night’s football game. That is why I’m not especially friendly when a girl plops down right next to me. The entire table is empty, plenty of room for an unwanted person to sit unobtrusive. I look over expecting some sort of acknowledgement, but she doesn’t even glance my way. She sits not staring, but looking forward pleasantly. It’s the kind of behavior you’d expect from someone sitting at a full table of people who is just enjoying the friendly atmosphere. This surprises me because I don’t believe I’ve been particularly friendly to anyone my whole school career. I study her closer and decide she could almost be beautiful if I weren’t so biased. On complete impulse I ask “What’s your name?”It comes out in an awkward rush, and I feel suddenly uncertain.
She stares back at me with eyes like crashing waves, and dejectedly asks “What’s your name?”
I feel angry now. I asked the question first. Is she mocking my interest? “What’s your name?” This time I put a little more force behind it.
A look of embarrassment and terror spread across her reddening face before she answers in the same way. “What’s your-” she stops her question mid sentence by clasping a hand over her mouth. To my astonishment she hops up from the bench and dashes lithely from the cafeteria. All the more unexpected I find myself feeling disappointed in her abrupt departure.
The next day I am careful to sit in the same place during lunch. I thought about her all this morning as my mind swam its way through classes. Would she sit by me again? Would I attempt to talk to her again? Would she tell me her name? Why did I care? That’s when I notice her, upon questioning my sudden concern. She’s standing front and center in the cafeteria searching. The reason I know she’s searching is she’s actually holding her hand to her brow, and moving her head back and forth scanning the sea of faces for familiarity, like a sailor searching for the shore. She notices me looking at her, and immediately heads for my table.
She gets within five feet of me, and I ask “What were you looking for?”
To my horror she turns on her heel. I hear her faintly murmur something, before she begins stomping off in the other direction. Frustration and anger bubble to my lips. “Please wait! Won’t you sit down?”
“Sit down?” She asks after turning back to face me.
“Yes.” She scoots onto the seat facing me today, and looks me in the eyes.
“How are you?” I ask to break the silence.
“How are you?” She quips back seeming somehow smug at my choice of words. Her elusive speech suddenly reminds her of me, and I feel a jolt like fingers stumbling upon an unknown outlet.
“Just fine.” I reply, then nod in her direction.
“Just fine.”
“Good.” I say pleased that we are finally conversing, and she echoes my response again. All the sudden I feel suddenly shy. I have her sitting down like I wanted, but now that the standard pleasantries are over I have no clue what to say. I’ve never craved a peer’s company before. She starts to hum a tune. I immediately pick it up and weave a harmony into her melody. This seams to please her, and we go on like this until the bell rings. I say goodbye and so does she. I can’t help but hope I’ve started a ritual.
The next couple days pass similarly. I’ve found myself actually caring about her; even trying to impress her. She isn’t like other girls. She doesn’t chatter on about unimportant things, and she seems to have a genuine interest in me. It hurts and disturbs me that I have yet to learn her name. I’ve learned to stop asking; I only get the same question back from her. She could be annoyed that I refuse to reveal my name as well, but I’m pretty sure she’s mocking me by asking. Everyone in this school knows my name. People seem to cling to it as if them knowing the most basic facts about me may somehow make them beautiful. Yes, I believe she already knows my name, and this is just another battle of wills I will surely win.
Today I walk into school and she’s already at my locker. We bask in the silence before the inescapable dull roar of thundering adolescence. I’ve taken to writing her notes before I go to bed, then giving them to her next day. As I handed her today’s letter a herd of students rumble past. I swear every pair of eyes bore into us; most faces flushing green with envy at the sight of me not alienating her like I have so many others. I stare them all down protectively, and suddenly feel fear for the girl I have come to know. I begin to wonder how far some people’s envy could push them. Would it possess them to harm an innocent girl? Friendship has so many complications I had never imagined.
I ponder this for the rest of the day, even up till I close my eyes before sleep. Sleep is a disturbing affair tonight. Faces blur before my eyes in dreams. Each is watching, speaking, trying to convey some thrilling event. I can scarcely hear them, but I can tell from their hazy expressions they are happy. Then, abruptly, the specters become impatient. They swarm and ooze toward me jostling me nearly to the point of falling. Pulling with scorching fingers I feel them tear and burn my flawless skin. It is then that I finally break from my nightmare’s hot clutches. I find it much harder to sleep from then on. My stomach tumbles, but its attempts to escape are as fruitless as my mind’s. Something has gone terribly wrong. Every aspect of my being is trying to warn me, but in this sleepless limbo my objectives all seem cloaked.
I am walking. Today my shoes squelch in the muddy yards; a strategic short cut to my school. I glance over and see no one stop to stare at me. I move silently in the gloom of dawn. I envision ravaging eyes everywhere. I shrink somehow not accustomed.
I walk on, striding left, right; the pace of fear, the poise of disparity. The school crawls into my view and look down now. Not even when classmates filter in around me do I look up. I’ve been told high school can escape you; now wouldn’t that be a blessing. My classmates swell and shrink converging into groups, but I am one. I don’t notice the admiring glares from boys and the timid, feverish looks from girls.
I head straight for my locker no thought of sleep or bats or belonging. Where is she? My heart is beating quick, landing heavily against my ribs. My nose is running in a constant stream, and my eyes, they sore and ache as if pin pricked. I feel utterly deranged, completely ugly for the first time in my life. The bell rings above me and I recognize its urgency. I lumber into home room a dull roar buzzing in my ears over a subconscious mantra.
I am sitting now. I tap the boy’s shoulder in front of me. His eyes meet mine then instantly grow cold at the sight of me; hideous, bloodshot, decrepit, repulsive. I read all these impressions of me from a flickering lack of composure.
“Hey,” I ask. “Who’s that girl I always talk to?”
“Who?” he ask with excessive indifference.
“The girl I always talk to. She was at my locker yesterday.”
He continues to look confused, and I know he is screwing with me because I was such a prick to him before about answering his question. But he finally replies.
“How can you not know her name? You two were dating weren’t you? Well its not really any of my business. I heard she isn’t here today. I heard she may never come back. She was at Erika’s party last night, and the rumor is she took a dive. But who knows? There were a lot of people there doing meth, a lot of first timers, though I’d heard Echo was no novice. Narcissus, I just can’t believe I’m the one telling you about Echo. Of everyone you seemed to be the one who knew her best.”

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