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Something Like a Smile

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I sat across from him, picking at my nails. The smoke from his cigarette wafted towards me and I thought of those pictures you see at school; tarred lungs and yellowed teeth. At this moment I was probably developing some crap that would kill me later on. But who cares anyway. I’ve probably poisoned my body with more substances in my 15 years than most people do in a lifetime. All my life drugs have been a kind of comfort. Something consistent in my life of unexpected fear and worry. When everything else was falling apart I could always rely on drugs to perk me up, for a while at least, something to numb the pain. They’ve surrounded me. In a weird way they bring us together. Whether it’s with my mates, my siblings, or my dad or my mum.
The scrapyard was pretty much deserted today. I guessed the others were at school or off somewhere doing whatever it is they do. It was just me and Sam. Opposite me, he sat peeling dried paint of an old boat. It was funny how we’d ever become friends. He was intelligent, funny, good-looking and pretty rich. He, like the teachers always said, could’ve had a bright future, if only he stopped drifting astray. By drifting astray they basically meant hanging out with me. And to be fair I could see their point. I was pretty messed up.

From his first day at our school he was bullied. He tried too hard in class and wore his uniform the way you’re meant too. I don’t know why, but from the moment I saw him I liked him. I wanted to defend him, take him under my wing. So that’s what I did. I taught him my bad habits and made him what he is today. I am both proud and ashamed.

Depression is such a dumb concept. I’ve dipped my toe into the waters of chronic sadness a few times and always felt the same. I always feel ashamed. Those kids in Africa like you see on TV, they look so happy when they get something like clean water or a coat. And I’m here depressed with my X box and chicken nuggets. And it’s always the little things that would get me. Not things like Dad and Mum or my inevitable unemployed future, but things like a girl suddenly ignoring me, or a dumb racial slur in a playground, or a mate suddenly betraying me. And now this. Now Sam. It was the first time I’d heard him speak like this. It wasn’t like him. He was the sane one. The one who kept to tobacco and nothing stronger, the one who kept smiling no matter, the one who was there for me, not the other way round. Here he was, speaking about self-harm (which I’ve never understood) and worse. Harming someone else. More than harming, more than one person. Apparently some white guys had mugged him and threatened him, saying crap like “go back to your own country”. I think that had really broken him. He’d always taken things like this before. Gritted his teeth and ignored it. But not this time. This had pushed him over the edge.

He spoke about killing them all. He spoke about watching them run through the corridors and screaming. He spoke about the power he would feel. He wouldn’t be powerless anymore. He wouldn’t have to be passive as the big kids hurt him. It doesn’t matter how big you are if you have an assault rifle. It doesn’t matter what colour skin you have or what religion you belong to or where you were born. And in a way that made me sick to my stomach, I agreed. I knew what he was saying was mad. I’ve seen the news stories about people who do that. And that wasn’t me, was it? Could I do that?

He looked me straight in the eyes, and formed something like a smile.

“We’re not going anywhere anyway,” he said calmly, “You have heard the teachers. Why grow old with nothing and die a nobody. We can go out with a bang. Write our names in the history books.”

I nodded. What had I got to lose? It was crazy, I knew that. It was wrong. But it would be the ultimate high. The ultimate revenge. The ultimate death.

I looked at him. And I think I was slightly in love with Sam. He gave me another nearly smile and stood up.

“We have friends with guns, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, course we do.”

So, with something like a smile, we went off to buy some guns.

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