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Catatonia

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He never considered himself brave or confident, really. Any distinguishable features he may have possessed were lost among his awkward sense of ordinary, a mediocrity he subconsciously sensed. He was, simply put, the kind of person you associated with the color gray, or quite possibly, no color at all. He was the type of person who was always there, but never really there. He had a name. To most though, it wasn’t a factor in his identity.

The lecture continued on. The students in front of him were on their phones, paying no attention to the lesson on the Indian Caste System. She sat in the front row, comfortably resting on her synthetic wooden throne and thinking nothing of a world besides her own. Her friend tapped her on the shoulder, likely to relay some incident holding no relevance to him. She swiveled in her seat to hear her friend’s news and caught him staring. She met his gaze questioningly, accusingly, her steely blue eyes narrowing against his dull, colorless ones and he quickly returned to the unknown scribbles that consumed his desk. He considered his desk to be marred; undeserved vulgarities covered the surface, gum coated the underside—past owners’ attempts at immortality, he supposed, proof that they had in fact existed. He left the desk alone, respecting its veteran surface yet still transfixed by its scars. He wasn’t there by choice—this was his assigned place, the far left corner of the room next to the heater that breathed cold air. It was a lonely place. The student next to him slept soundly, and much like her, the student was also oblivious—unaware that something existed beyond his current state. There was nothing pleasant surrounding the abused desk in the back corner, as the neighboring window offered no solace of sunshine, the view blocked by dusty blinds no one bothered to clean. The seating chart, said to be random, was actually an underhanded trick of fate. The quiet were placed in the back, forgotten, while the more outgoing students securely sat in places near the front. “If I sat in the front,” he thought, “maybe I would raise my hand to answer a question, or to make a joke.” He returned his gaze to his maltreated desk, wondering why nobody seemed to care it was in such an awful state. “If this desk was in the front,” he thought, “surely it would get more attention. Surely someone would take the time to fix what the others have done.” The bell rang, waking him from his reverie.
He drifted through the halls, an apparition of a student. His face remained grave throughout school days, his eyes suggesting an incomprehensible darkness. He never interacted with his peers, and only spoke on the rare occasion a teacher called on him. Some supposed he had a disorder, his shyness a result of some chemical imbalance of the brain; others didn’t suppose at all. No one knew the reason behind his abnormal, queer personality. They had bullied him in middle school—that is, before they realized he wasn’t worth their insults, his responses being nothing more than a wounded, silent, stare back at them. They tried making fun of his skin, for its ghostly pallor was frighteningly odd to the ignorant 6th grader. “You look like a freak,” they taunted, “Nobody likes you,” they sneered. Few people remembered the short-lived friendship he had in the 5th grade. Every Tuesday afternoon he went home with a blonde-haired boy from the grade below, an arrangement that lasted a month before blonde-boy stopped coming to school, presumably because the whole family relocated. After his friend left him, the reclusive tendencies emerged, permanently labeling him as the silent, withdrawn one. He grew paler than his natural coloring should have allowed, prompting the bullying. He retreated deeper into his introverted world where time was inexplicably irrelevant. He was in limbo, unsure whether he should be considered alive when the world elicited him no reaction.
The days bled together and without him acknowledging it, years passed. On his first day of high school, the weather was overcast. Fog consumed the area, and on his way to school that morning, he seemed to blend in with the elements. He enjoyed that walk and marked the day in his memory before once again returning to his habitual state of catatonic disregard.
Four years later, the final school bell rang signifying the end. Students filed out of the school, he included. He said no good-byes, as usual, and made his way across the populated parking lot to his rusty, broken-down station wagon, what his parents referred to as his “beloved, death-trap of a car.” That car was his favorite possession. He saved up the money—no one was quite sure how—and bought her a few days after his 16th birthday. Today, the key rested in the ignition as he looked into the parking lot. The faces meant nothing to him. His peers, his classmates—when had they ever taken the time to talk to him. The rational part of him, buried deep down as it was, knew it was his fault. He never let them in. His cryptic demeanor, his resistance to any type of attention— that was his social entombment. It didn’t matter to him though. After all, graduation was in seventeen days. “Soon,” he thought, “soon it will all be over.” He pulled out of the parking lot, westbound, and experienced a rare moment of contentment as his favorite song came on the radio.
The phone rang in Mr. Thorn’s office, piercing the quiet, sterile atmosphere. An eager secretary answered the phone in a chirpy voice. Her face dropped, changing from false enthusiasm to somber dread. “Please hold,” she said, as she transferred the call to line two. Mr. Thorn answered the phone in his personal office. An impersonal, distant voice spoke on the other line. “Mr. Thorn? I’m extremely sorry to tell you this. Your son was in an accident. He was dead before we arrived at the scene and there was nothing we could do.” There was no response. “Mr. Thorn?” The sun sunk below the horizon, to the west of the office building. Mr. Thorn sat with his head buried in his hands, trying to remember the last time he had seen his son alive.




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