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He awoke in a state of nauseating pain every morning, and always knocked on his night stand a total of 27 times before climbing out of bed. He wore only stripped shirts on his gangly frame and was rarely seen without mismatching socks hiked up to the knee over his favorite pair of light denim jeans. When the weather grew cold he simply exchanged his striped t-shirt to a striped turtle neck. He was a creature of habit as he grasped a single orange ribbon in his hands at all times. He knew he was lucky that no one bothered asking about it, for he had no answer.
When people ask me about him, mainly about what he was like, I always say the same thing. “His favorite lunch meat was turkey, he had a soft spot for clouds, and he was a wonderful dance partner.” The truth was that he rarely ate and he couldn’t have cared less about clouds. To put it in the simplest of terms he did not dance.
I suppose I concocted these innate lies because I am selfish. Not only am I selfish but I am protective and selfish, neither of which provide a healthy outlook on the situation. I now see that I am on the verge of creating more alibis’ than my skill permits me to cope with, so I have decided to enlighten the world in the true nature of him.
I have a theory that there are two types of non dancers. Those that choose not to dance for fear of looking ridiculous or juvenile, and those who know better than to dance because they’ve witnessed the barbaric tidal wave of laughter one too many a time. Maybe these separate species seem ultimately the same to you, but they are most certainly not. It’s all a matter of perspective. He, the one I spoke of earlier, was neither species. I found this peculiar, because I have rarely been wrong about this thesis. He fit in neither category, much to his style, because he knew not what dancing was. He was not ignorant nor was he delayed. He was simply sheltered and he preferred it that way. He did it to himself.
He had this way of walking that absolutely knocked me out with laughter. He had this bird like appearance with an equally awkward bird walk layered on top to create the funniest essence I ever encountered. It was like he shot up too fast to get used to his own height. He hated when I laughed about it so I always reluctantly held it in until I had a few moments alone. I’m sure I must have looked crazy to all the people around me; a random girl sitting all alone laughing her ass off at nothing. I didn’t care though, just like he never cared that people gave him awful rude glances, like he was some kind of monster, or a nasty gooey bug. He repulsed people and he knew it, he just didn’t understand why.
He would often greet people by saying, “On the matter of food digestion and eating in general I do not partake in this particular animalistic ritual because I can never remember to.” I always thought this was because he didn’t know any better, but truly he just liked to make others uncomfortable. His introduction was true though, he often forgot that the pain he felt in the mornings was often caused by his less than customary eating habits. Ms. Q was a different story.
Every day at precisely 1:45 p.m. Ms. Q would sit down for lunch. She packed three deviled eggs, a pastrami sandwich on rye, a flask of tequila, and a small can of store brand cola every day. She never had the appetite for the last deviled egg and consequently chucked it in the bin by the door marked “EXIT” at exactly 2:15 as she shuffled clumsily straightening her appearance. There was something about Ms. Q that irked me, and I sat in silent protest as I watched her every day.
Back to him… Bill he was called, but I called him Billiam. Billiam had only two real relationships with actual existing people. There was I, his loyal companion, and there was Ms. Q, his mother. She never physically harmed Billiam, but still something about her tensed every muscle in my body. I knew the things she told him late at night when I wasn’t there to shield his fragile mind. I knew the terrible feelings she forced into Billiams head when her veins were full of whiskey and wine. I knew why Billiam was afraid of the smell of alcohol, the smell that danced on his mothers breath when she told him he was the devils boy and not her own. Billiam did not love his mother like most sons do. He didn’t feel obligated to feel love for her either. Billiam loved me. I was his number one. I was his best friend.
Though Billiam only really knew two real people he wasn’t made aware of it. Out of his brilliant mind came a rough total of 792 people, not including their various pets and dead relatives. I say rough total because there’s no telling how many people he “failed to mention.” This was a phrase Billiam used often, much to my amusement. “You failed to mention the height of this particular set of stairs…. or how you say stair case mademoiselle,” or “Mademoiselle, you failed to mention that we’d be walking such a far distance!” Billiam put on his best French accent daily as if it were a part of his wardrobe. Billiam was convinced he was French.
Summers with Billiam were never dull. We spent each day at the creek by his house, always starting within seeing distance because that is what his mother requested. No matter what Ms. Q wanted from us we always ended up 2 miles away from the house at our favorite spot. We called it Fort Dewy, because the night we found it we were in so much amazement we snuck our blankets and pillows outside to sleep there under the stars. When we awoke our things were blanketed in a thin sheet of dew. “Everyone knows that most forts are named after people or places,” Billiam had said as he looked around at the lightly watered camp site. Billiam wanted to name it after his favorite superhero basket man… as you can imagine he had invented the hero himself. I wanted to name our place Beijing because it sounded so foreign and majestic. Billiam didn’t much care for my name and I certainly wasn’t about to name our spot after a make believe man that defeated crime with nothing more than a basket. In the end we both coincided on adding a y to the end of dew, the end result being “Dewy.” This was perfect because Dewy was in fact a name.
I can still remember how beautiful fort Dewy was. All it may have seemed like was a bend in the creek with a deep long bank. But it was so much more. A canopy of leaves protected us and when the moonlight shone though it was a cloud away from heaven. As I said before Billiam wasn’t much for clouds so I'm sure figuratively he didn’t really notice. It was a clichéd understatement to say Billiam marched to the beat of a different drummer. Billiam cared for clichés as much as he cared for clouds, so we never said that.
Billiam and I remained friends our entire lives. As he reached High school he realized he was more than just unique. He wanted so much for me to help him, so like any good friend would do I tried. I reminded him to eat when he awoke with pain and nausea. I helped him with homework but I could not get rid of his imaginary links he called friends. Billiam was home schooled. I of course went to public school because though Billiam and I shared a bond rarely seen between friends, we were not related. It would have made no sense for me to be home schooled. I was gone much of the day living my life. I could no longer ride my bike to his house and rescue him from the world he knew like I did as a child. As junior year rolled around I began dating and my school work tripled. I took three college level courses and I could no longer balance everything on the tip of my nose like a circus seal as I had done for years and years prior. My visits with Billiam lessened to once a week for an hour and a half.
This is when all went wrong. Billiam's mother committed suicide in a hotel just six miles away from her house. When his mother died it left him free of burden, but he sadly had to fend for himself much of the time. Billiam was a bastard child so there was no “Billiam’s Dad.” Billiam was smart but completely incapable of taking care of himself. The state didn’t know this secret because Billiam was a good actor. I insisted on becoming Billiam’s mother of sorts and lost my boyfriend because of it. Billiam was worth such an insignificant loss, after all my boyfriend was insensitive and egomaniacal. When I think about it closely I have no idea why I was with that boy anyway.
I once heard that being a mother is the hardest job in the world; well let me tell you being Billiam's mother easily met that description. First I had to wake him up every morning so he wouldn’t get his nights and days mixed up, then I had to remind him to eat three times a day just so he could have a healthy eating cycle. I had to do all his laundry and I had to remind him to change clothes every day. I had to run his bath water for him so he could take a bath daily and I had to cook for him all the time. Last but not least Billiam hated going to sleep so I spent hours trying to get him to calm down and rest. I write all these things as if I am angry I had to do them, but I am not. The truth is I'm so lucky I got to be Billiam’s mother for a while. It was hard work and it demanded all of my time and effort, but it was worth it. He was worth it.
One day I was cleaning out Fort Dewy because it had succumbed to the irrational disorganization that is Billiam. I noticed a build up of papers in the corner of our tree house; we had built the tree house years ago once we realized we would ultimately return to the spot for years to come. I climbed the tree and hoisted myself into the surprisingly well built hovel. I began sifting through papers not reading any for fear they were Billiam’s private journal, which he had informed me he hid with fevering accuracy. I kept to my practice of straightening the papers without reading them until I came to a scrap of paper stained with what appeared to be candle wax. It was different from the other papers and I could hardly keep myself from reading any longer. I bent over the paper as if to shield the trees from my terrible crime. It read:
“My body crumbled and tensed into an ungodly cast of the satanic suffering that consumed me, stabbing at my rib cage and causing beautiful, delicate, green bile to erupt from my weak pale lips as I grunted and cried in agony. I grew hot and wet from the strain of the situation”
I felt my lips part as a siren went off in my head. Alarm crept in to my comparatively untroubled utopian world. I knew of Billiam’s hardships but never had I experienced the memories of his pain from his own point of view. I didn’t know such words could come from him. The diary was written like a true writer. It sounded like the writings of an educated scholar, relaying the pain of hunger to an audience of young intellectuals all thinking they knew what pain truly was. My heart shattered that day. I cried for hours over the pages that I had previously been so diligently stacking. With renewed strength I finished the job I had set out to do, and put Billiam’s diary in an apple carton. As I expected Billiam greeted me with anger and distrust when he saw me with his precious hoard. When I told him I only straightened them out and made a point of not reading them he allowed suspicion to slink across his face for a fraction of a second before smiling with conviction and accepting the apple carton full of papers. I never told him I read that sickly piece of paper.
My entire life, my beliefs and feelings have switched and conflicted. I was baptized as an infant, yet now I neither believe nor disbelieve in any religion. At the moment I simply agree with fact that I don’t know what created the universe and all it holds. As a child believed Scooby Doo was an actual crime fighting dog, now I understand he’s just a clever cartoon. I used to hate my father, now I pity him, and most importantly I forgive him. It’s astounding how as a person grows, their mind does too. Billiam’s mind was easily more complex and fascinating than mine, though I must say I’m sure my mind was much more disciplined. He was more creative than any man on the planet, and though I don’t personally know every man on the planet I’m most certainly sure that I am right when I say so.
Billiam was always so gentle and kind. When he would talk to his imaginary friends they would always compliment me in some way. Billiam knew how to make me feel special. One of Billiams imaginary friends named Cork was particularly fond of my long blonde hair. Billiam would make me sit still for hours so Cork could “play” with my hair. I never said a word about how uncomfortable I was sitting for so long, and I never told Billiam that Cork wasn’t real. Billiam was fond of Cork the most, probably because Billiam loved to read and Cork was a book binder. Every month Cork would bind Billiam another book filled with blank pages, and Billiam would drag it around everywhere until it wore out. The relationship was so sweet and wonderful that I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t real. I never told Billiam that any of his friends were imaginary for that very same reason. He was just so close to them.
One day Billiam asked me if I wanted to go swimming in the creek with him and Cork.
“No Billiam,” I said as I leafed through some papers I had laid out on the desk, “I really need to find a job. If I’m lucky I’ll find one by next Friday. We are really tight on money this month.”
To this Billiam had no reply. Money made no sense to him, he couldn’t see how paper could be worth more or equal to the material things around him. He understood trading, he used to trade me things all the time. We would trade shoes, shirts, bicycles, etc. From Billiams point of view he could trade his shoe for my shoe because they both served the same purpose; he didn’t understand that my shoe cost more than his shoe and that my shoe served several more purposes than his shoe did. Regardless, I always traded with him and I knew I could always trade back later. Billiam was always careful with his traded items so I didn’t have to worry about the well being of whatever I traded with him.
After a few hours of rifling through papers and searching for a job I decided to take a break. Usually I go and find a book from Billiam's book collection to read when I go on breaks, but on that particular day I decided to organize the heap of papers that Billiam brought in from Fort Dewy. Some of the papers were old comic book pages but others were old diary entries. Once again I came across a small fragment of paper that seemed to call out my name. Just as the first paper had been, this one was old and wrinkled. The ink was smeared a bit with water. Worst of all, the words were beginning to crawl towards my eyes. It read:
“I feel small and blank with nothing but a low fog filling the spaces my brain used to take. I am alone and broken. I am nothing.”
Once again my mouth flew open as I grasped for something to support me. My legs gave out and I hit the floor sobbing. I knew that feeling Billiam had felt when he wrote that slip of paper. I suffer from depression and know the feeling of blankness and fog. I know what it feels like to believe you are nothing. I lay on the floor crying for almost thirty minutes until I heard foot steps not 2 feet behind me. I shot up straight, brushing the hair from my face and tossing the paper into the pile once more but I was too late. Billiam had caught me.
“What did you read?”
My head was pounding as I searched for an answer.
“What did you read Lindsay? Did you read my journal?
He was rubbing his fingertips like he did when he would get emotional.
“Only one little slip of it…. But I’m so sorry I know I promised I never would but I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to organize and this piece of paper caught my attention…. I read it before my mind caught up to me.”
Billiam stopped and looked at me for a long time; he seemed to be assessing me and my actions in his head. Finally he turned his head and said:
“What do you think Cork? Should I forgive this scoundrel for her heinous crime?”
Though I knew Cork was fictional I played along and looked pleadingly at Corks supposed direction.
“Well fine then Cork… I shall decide on my own. Lindsay, I forgive you… but only because you seemed to sympathize with whatever I wrote on that paper.”
My heart started dancing all over the place as I jumped up and hugged him. I was so thankful. After that day I never organized paper again.