From… The Bones of Who We Are:
(YA Contemporary - Language Warning…)
I hate walking through the Quad. It’s a necessity twice a day unless I want to take the long way around the outside of the school. The deciding factor is always which one has the potential for more problems. Outside, I run the risk of an actual fight. In the Quad, I run the risk of mocking, maybe shit thrown at me, or something else to make me feel less than human. The first one means physical harm. The second one emotional and mental, but I can usually block it out with my headphones.
When I turn the corner from the stairwell into the opening of the Quad, it’s full. This time of the school day - lunch - it usually is. People are either in the cafeteria or there, especially as the weather turns rainy and cold. They sit on or around a myriad of red and black tables, congregate by the vending machines in red and black metal cages, and flirt with someone they crush on moving like honey bees from table to table. Some industrious students use the space to study, but not very often at lunch. It’s a space with very little adult supervision. This is for several reasons. First, the school office is across the way which adults must assume is a deterrent for teen bullshit (it isn’t) and, second, it’s lunch time. Teachers are either in the cafeteria, eating lunch with their work friends, or in their classrooms making space for those industrious students needing a place to escape the teen bullshit in the Quad.
I hesitate for a moment, consider walking around the outside or cutting through the offices, but then am annoyed for even thinking about it. I have every right to walk through the Quad. I shouldn’t have to feel worried to do it. But then that’s the problem of positivity, of allowing in layers of hope. It crumbles without a proper foundation, and just like I’d told Doc it would happen, the mouth of the escape route collapses burying me inside. It was, after all, only a matter of time.
I’m halfway across the space when I’m yanked backward. I keep my feet, but my hoodie cuts into my throat choking me. I rock backward and then forward.
“What the fuck!” I turn.
Tommy Pilner, his hands raised in mock surrender and smiling like he’s just caught a mouse, says, “Yo. Daniels. You don’t have to go all HAM, dude.”
I’ve known Tommy since coming to Cantos and he’s always been the same; he loves the Freak Challenge. He’s taken full advantage of the fact I don’t throw hands. Seth used to say his dad described Tommy as a younger version of his old man. I think: aren’t we all, which doesn’t bode well for any of us. “Fuck off,” I tell him, and turn away.
He grabs my hood again, but this time pulls with so much force I’m yanked off my feet. I slam against the floor on my back.
“Jesus, Daniels. What the fuck? You really should be more careful. You could get hurt.” Tommy laughs looking at his friends. “You all see him slip?”
They are laughing.
I’m on my feet.
Here’s another thing about hope - besides the risk of losing it - it begins to warm the cold and melt away the perceptions of what you’ve come to think you deserve into something more golden. You look outside the clear window, feel that sunshine, and think: Yeah. I could go out there and play. When the storm comes in, you remember what that sun felt like, and you want the fucking sun.
So, maybe I wouldn’t have a few weeks ago, but I take a step toward Tommy.
His smile falters.
The Bones of Who We Are… Coming October 2019