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“You validate people’s lives by your attention.” - Unknown
I look at her fingers gripping my shirt and the book; her revealed skin seems engrossing. My eyes trace the marks, as her eyes seem to scream the words I know all too well.
“I just want someone to care.”
May pulls the head phones closer, letting the metallic rock pour into her brain. Luke sits a few seats behind her, watching the passing scenery. The two cannot be more different.
Luke has a clear tan face, fine lines create his cheek bones, his straight nose, and those tight pink lips. His hair is a smooth brown, playfully brushed over his chocolate eyes. Luke’s bag takes up the seat, filled with sports equipment and secretly stashing all his library books.
May sits in a fetal position in the bus seat, her knees pushes against her body. They hide her heart, her face, and her being from everyone. Her black hoodie shields her dirty blonde hair from the sun and sky. Her black nails pull the sleeves down further, pulling them over her fingertips. Her skinny jeans cling to her small frame, jingling with the chains hooked on. She lunges forward, catching her messenger bag from flying across the floor.
They get up in unison, to no one’s attention. Off the bus they go, departing their separate ways. Luke is off to the locker rooms and May trudges towards the parking lot. So different…yet so similar are their scars.
“Dude, why didn’t you catch that ball?” His voice is irritating, but I have to make eye-contact.
I pant slightly. Straightening myself up to them, I throw a small grin.
“Maybe you should throw it better?” I laugh it off, enticing some of the other guys to laugh. Ok…pressure is off.
Ryan looks at them with a hard glare, and they shut up immediately. Why not just suck his junk while you’re at it? I think irately.
Ryan eyes me, gesturing to the board. His name is over mine, written under “Captain”. He seems to feel the anger flash over my eyes and chuckles. “Just get it together. We don’t want to lose the last game cause of you.”
I hear him mumble “a**hole” under his breath, so he stays to watch if I lose it. He is always picking on me, being the “alpha-male”, pushing me to just punch his ugly, cocky face in. But I have more brain cells than him, so I know better.
I give him one last stare down as he trudges off to the showers. I want to hurt something, anything, so I run out the backdoor to the parking lot.
The first bell chimes so loudly over my head, but I don’t care. Sliding the volume louder on my iPod, I watch the murky morning sky over the school’s field. The screaming and deep drumming of the music pulsates under my shirt, under my skin.
I lick my dry lips and let out a sigh. “No. I am better than this.” But the pressure builds.
I can hear their voices in my head, questioning and accusing me. They are always waiting for an answer that they do not want or care for. It’s ironic how stupid they can be. “We understand you. We love you. We want to help…”
Lies only come from their mouths, which is whenever they notice I exist. I look at my sleeves; my skin is slightly visible under the black and red. But what I want is more red.
Knowing too well that now is not the time to punish myself, I curse myself and quickly get up. Turning the corner, I see him. He seems to stare at his arms intently, as if in a trance. I try to look past my bangs and make-up to see closer, but he catches me.
Crap! Did she see? I think as I swiftly pull the sleeves down my arms. I cannot tell if she is looking at me or not, because her hair hides her face and eyes. The silence lingers for a few seconds, and I get up. She simply walks past me without a second glance or at least I do not think she glanced. From head to toe, she wears black. The only other color comes from her hidden blonde hair and what little skin I can see. Not that I care. I pull at the door, swearing at the possibility she saw.
He’s in my homeroom? Since when? I observe him from the corner of my eye, slightly pulling back my hair to see. So I wasn’t mistaken when I saw him. But…why would he…
From what I know, the guy is a star on the football team, has a girlfriend, money and friends. I stop myself. Who am I to judge? Not everyone is who they claim to be, and frankly, I don’t care.
Damn, she’s in my homeroom! How the hell do I not see her? She sits near the window, probably my favorite seat. I cannot tell if she notices me, because she looks like her head’s not even in the classroom. Ms. Briggs asks her a question as if in response.
She seems to look at the window for a few more second before answering nonchalantly. It is first period AP Calc, and this girl seems to have it all together. I am barely making it in this class, but this emo-Goth girl can ace it? I pause.
What am I doing? I am not one to be judging. I look over at her. With her clothes and attitude, it seems only logical to assume she is just rebelling or a slacker. Her fingers curl over her sleeves, as I unconsciously do it myself.
Maybe I am just seeing things. I quicken my pace down the corridor, as kids move aside like I’m Moses and they’re the Red Sea. I like the way I have some kind of authority over them, even if it caused by fear and misconceptions. I swear, half of them think I am in a cult and smoke pot. The cult thing is totally bogus, the pot…eh, I tried and didn’t like. I found my own escape…
The grip on my shoulder bag tightens, as if I just said everything in my head out loud. I look up, but once again no one cares or notices. How many more hints do I have to give these people?
I see her in the hallway, causing the shift of crowded people like some kind of leader. However, her face is covered by hair and masked by the hoodie, giving away no indications of what she is thinking.
I do not want to admit it, but I kinda want to get in her head. It seems interesting, as if she is signaling me to talk to her, to challenge her. What the hell am I saying? She is doing no such thing.
It seems my mind went in one direction, as my body moved forward because we just collided.
My books fly everywhere, but what catches my eye before anything else is the rising of his jacket sleeve. Under the jacket and shirt, lie the scars. His are darker and neat. Lines and lines rise over his fair skin. They are long and thick marks as if made with a giant red sharpie.
It seems he catches my eye, because he pulls away so quickly it seems like he’s afraid or as if I have a disease. Pulling the bag back over his shoulder, he walks away.
Oh s***! Oh s***! I am panicking in the boys’ bathroom. It’s already late and I haven’t showed up for practice. Coach is going to kill, probably call up my Dad because I haven’t picked up his 15 calls. What am I going to do? She knows! She’ll probably say something to her friends. “The football player cuts himself like some weirdo.” Or something like that…
I put my head in my hands and slide down to the floor. I pull back my sleeves fully, revealing the ugly lines across my skin. They are etched in like tattoos and will never be removed, because I cut them up too many times to disappear. Maybe I didn’t want them to disappear, because if they did no one would know. Maybe I asked for it, asked for people to question, to stare, to wonder, so that they could ask me.
I think back as I glance at each cut. The deep, dark ones consisted of my Dad yelling. He never yells, only “questions and discusses”. The way he words things just laces it with disappointment and unobtainable goals. He asks for anything, expects everything, and considers all unsatisfactory.
The smaller, longer ones basically were my mom’s own nails digging into my skin. They are her judgment of everything and her acceptance of nothing. The way I am not her perfect son is visible through each glass she has before bed, not that her losing her job and remission into the cancer had anything to do with it.
The short jagged ones are for each tackle I endure on the team, each question I stare at until my head feels like exploding, each word of gossip sprayed at me, each b**** I dated, and every day I spend wondering if better would come along and tell me they cared. Everyone wants something from me, and it seems I can never fulfill their needs!
I hear the bang against the metal inside the boys’ bathroom. I knew he went in here, because I basically stalked him. Not to be creepy, though. I grip the books in my hand, the ones he couldn’t pick up in fear of revealing them; them being his souvenirs from his darker days. At least you seemed to have escaped…at least you got someone to listen.
I’ve seen him smiling and laughing, hanging with his buddies and many ex-girlfriends. I sigh slightly. Then again…we all hide something. Then we give hints, glances to few people. It is in hope that they will look further, examine closer. Maybe if they cared a little more, they would ask and I would explain.
I gather up my courage, as I push the door in.
How could I leave the damn door open? I pick up my bag, almost forgetting to pull down my sleeves but I stop as her words reach my ears.
“You don’t have to do that…” She pulls up one of her sleeves midway to reveal the intense cross hatching. They go in every direction, long and unique. It creates a scary yet alluring pattern on her arm. She looks up, handing me some books with the same cryptic arm.
“You dropped them. Um…they are good reads. No offense, but I didn’t think a jock could read such works.”
I am a bit stunned but clear my throat. “Well…my mom always loved Candide and The Giver is one of my all time favorites.”
She smiles, because I responded. I guess. “Ah, well…I only read Candide but it seems you have good taste. So…mind letting me borrow The Giver.”
I look at her, a bit astonishingly. “And why would you want my book?”
She fumbles and brushes the hair out of her eyes, “Um, I kinda read the first couple of pages. You write a lot of interesting side notes.”
It seems I am staring at her very blue eyes, so she tries to ease the tension. “I think we should get out of the bathroom soon.”
“No.” I say quickly. “Practice isn’t over…”
She smiles a little. “Well then, guess we’ll just have to sit here.”
“You don’t have to.” He says, as I go over my current scenario. It’s late. We’re in the boys’ bathroom, and we are conversing about books?
I chuckle and catch him glancing over at me then to my scars. I peek at his cuts, oddly wanting to know each story behind each engraving. “I kinda already locked the door. You know, um…just in case.”
It seems he catches my thought process or at least attempts to, but the corners of his mouth attempt a small empathetic smile. The distance has closed between us before I even realized. It may be a bit cliché, but I walk over and grab the book from his hand lightheartedly.
“You want to explain the first chapter to me…I am a little confused on the setting Jonas is in….”
I trail off because Luke looks at me intently. Like a scene from a movie, maybe that telepathic connection occurred. His thoughts furrow his nearly perfect brow and like a whisper, the question reaches me.
“Why do you do it?”
“Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.” - Leonard Cohen, The Favorite Game