I’m dead; I know this may seem like bullshit, a dead person writing a story, but I swear that it’s true. I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle the stress. Does that make me a loser to just give up like that? Some may think that. Those people who spit on and laugh at the deceased are dead, anyways.
“There’s Anastasia Greyshaw! She couldn’t handle the stress! What a stupid girl, she was only fourteen. I’m thirty two and I have a full time job! I wish Anastasia would’ve lived to understand the stress of working ten hours a day for a shitty company that sucks out the souls of its employees. Yeah, Anastasia, you just couldn’t handle high school.”
That’s what I imagine those phallic faces say about me as they stand over my grave. Yeah, I couldn’t handle high school and I couldn’t handle the expectations of every one. I’m supposed to be so smart, but really, I’m not. I’m not the next Albert Einstein. Nobody is.
So, how the hell is a dead person writing a story? Can spirits pick up a pen? Obviously not, use your common sense. I’m in the body of my brother, Adam, writing my story about the weird journey that I have faced. I thought that life was stressful, but so is death. I thought the afterlife was supposed to be so peaceful and I’d be on a giant hammock in the sky, being mellow with God. Well…nope. There are a lot of concepts not taught in life, and this is one of them. Then again, how is anybody supposed to know what the afterlife is like? If anyone knew what it was like, they’d want to live forever. They’d embrace vampirism if it existed, which it doesn’t. Welcome to the afterlife: it’s just as bad as living!
Back to Adam. “Oh, it’s so mean to possess your own brother!” you might say. Well, you really didn’t know him. He was a bastard and he still is. He’s older than me by four years, so that makes him the big 1-8; the age where you’re an adult but you’re still a teenager. You get this mindset that you’re better than everyone because you’re considered an adult now and you’re out of high school (or you should be) and you get to do whatever the hell you want now. You can enlist in the army, go buy a pack of cigarettes, look at X-rated films, or visit the pornographic websites that ask “Are you eighteen or over?” You know that you’ve pressed yes anyways even though you weren’t eighteen at the time but now that you’re eighteen, you feel a sense of importance whenever you click that ‘yes’. Whatever. Of course, being fourteen, I haven’t experienced this firsthand, but I have experienced it secondhand with Adam, and of course when I died, my first thought was: Well, I better go haunt Adam. Because he’s eighteen? No, because he’s a dick. Adam used to hit me, laugh at my depression, and say it was dumb and that everyone gets stressed with school but they get over it.
“If I did it, Anastasia, so can you. Now quit being such a mopey cunt!” Slap! It wasn’t as painful physically as it was mentally and emotionally because Adam is, or I guess, because I’m dead, was my brother, and brothers and sisters are supposed to love each other, despite arguments over what channel will be watched on the television, or who gets the last of the cereal, but I just didn’t feel that with Adam. Adam hated me and somehow my parents were as ignorant as a person asking a deaf person if they’d like to hear this cool, new band, so of course my parents had no idea. “They’re just kids! Just being kid-like. How’d you get that black eye, Anastasia? From Adam? It must have been an accident!”
“Yeah…” Adam would agree, “An accident.” A grimace from me: Yeah, just an accident. I suppose this is a sidetracked way of carrying on with the story, but the point is: Adam is a feminine product that flushes out vaginal orifices. I think seeing Adam’s face when he saw me after I had died would have given me a reason to live...if I hadn’t of been dead already. The conversation went something like this:
“What the fuck? Anastasia? Pretty gross what you did, I mean, I knew you were depressed, but slitting your wrists and cutting your face like that?” Note that this wasn’t said in as calm a manner as it may seem, there was a lot of screaming on his part.
“OoooOoooOooh,” I moaned, trying to sound ghostly. “Adaaaaaaam. You are a dooooooOOOoooOooouuuuche.”
“I like you better dead.”
If I had a heart, that probably would have hurt, but I’m just an entity now. I can think and I can feel faintly for some reason, I think because I am so used to thinking and feeling that my ghostly form has picked up on it from routine. I have a ghost heart and brain--- invisible and wavering. I have no idea of what I actually look like in Casper form; I tried to look in the mirror but I just saw a bunch of light. I doubt that’s what Adam saw because I couldn’t even see my face, but Adam seemed to recognize me. Theory: Maybe ghosts see themselves in their true forms but when ghost appear to humans, ghosts appear in a more humanly form? So, after that statement Adam made, I was like:
“I plan on haunting you forever, because you are a dick. Why’d you have to hit me anyways? I mean, I pretty much did nothing to you. I just lived in the same house as you. I’ve been through a lot of shit since I died, you probably wouldn’t believe it, but being dead is harder than being alive.”
“That makes no sense. I hit you because you irritated me and that’s how I deal with things that irritate me.”
I hated it when he called me Ana. I hated it when anyone called me Ana. It’s Anastasia. Don’t be lazy, pronounce the whole thing.
“Well jeez. I would have thought that my death would have affected you in some way but I guess I was wrong. I guess you’ll always be this way. Side note: if you hit anything that irritates you, do you hit teachers who assign you too much homework? Do you flip over the disabled in wheelchairs who aren’t going as fast as you’d like them to? Or do I have the honor of being the only thing that irritates you?”
He just shook his head and said, “Just go away. Why’d you even have to come back? Christ, even in the afterlife you’re annoying.”
That’s when I did it. I said, “Adam, you’ll regret saying that,” and then I hopped right into his body, the vessel. It’s much like putting on a shoe, except it’s a shoe for the whole body. It felt weird but now I can tell the story of life after death. I’m kind of sorry, Adam, but you better not throw this story away after I’m done writing it after I have left your body, or I will possess you again and drive a knife into your skull.
I was really never depressed, but isn’t that how it all starts? “I used to be so happy! I used to piss happiness. I used to breathe out unicorn magic!” I mean, nobody is born depressed. We all cry when we’re born, but not out of depression. You would never see a new born screeching, “I am done with this world!” and lunging forward into a knife. Those kids who swallow bleach when they’re younger, they don’t do that out of depression; they do that because they’re curious and don’t know what the hell Clorox is. It looks just like water except for the fact that the smell of it alerts the nose like a dog’s warning barks that the mailman is approaching.
I was a pretty dapper example of today’s youth when I was in eighth grade, but then the nerves hit me, “Oh god. I’m starting high school.” My thoughts went exactly to Hollywood movies- you know the ones, with bullies and all of the high school clichés. That was my idea of high school. It was pretty great at times, you know, as great as high school can be, until the homework started up. There was so much work and not twenty-four hours in a day could ever be enough to get everything done. I eventually got so far behind that even completing one assignment wouldn’t get me anywhere because the teacher wouldn’t even accept it, “It’s so late that you’ll get no credit for it,” and yet the teachers still wanted me to do all of the late assignments, so in doing the late assignments, I got farther behind on the new assignments, and where is the logic in that?
I was just your average teenager, well, so was Peter Parker but he turned out to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but I swear I’m no mutant. I was a normal, unemployed, comic-reading, hormonal, menstruating teenager. I didn’t believe in God, really, but I did believe in an afterlife.
I guess you’d want to know about my beginning, before I killed myself. I’ll go back to when I was happy, when I was in eighth grade. I know that people say that middle school is the worst, but not for me. The work load was lighter, yet heavier than seventh grade because they were “preparing you for high school.” I had a few friends then, five that I called my closest. There was Anna, sickly, pale, and fragile. I protected her, although I don’t know from what, since people were always nice to her. There was Kristen, one of my closest friends; I had known her for six years. There was Brittany, extremely beautiful and well developed for a thirteen-year-old, and she knew it. Then there was Kimberly who I knew was a tease, although she refused to do anything with a guy; she wouldn’t even hold hands with one. Finally, there was Bobby, my closest guy friend. He was very kind. He was like the brother that Adam never was. He played football, although nobody took football seriously in middle school, but he had big plans for high school. As for me, well, I was just an average thirteen-year old. I considered myself awkward, but anyone does at that age.
It was kind of funny how different I was from my closest friends. I was into old films. I liked silent films. Acting is terrible nowadays. I admired the actresses and actors of the twenties and thirties who could act without saying a single word—that was true acting. My friends would always roll their eyes at this. Bobby would always say, “Come on, Anastasia, those movies are so boring,” he would put the emphasis on boring, so he made sure that I knew it was very boring. I scoffed at this, “Come on, Bobby, your favorite movie is Transformers, you’re not one to talk.” He would always reply with, “It’s the action in a movie that makes it great.” I loved reading comic books as well, appreciating the superheroes with human qualities, not Superman, but ones that I could relate to. Kimberly would always pull me aside, eyes bright with good intentions and say, “Anastasia, comics are for weirdos.”
Yet, despite all of our differences, we were the best of friends. It was kind of tragic in a way, though, that I had nobody to talk to about comics and old movies. My friends would listen, but they didn’t understand. Nor did they understand my passion for piano playing. Some days they would want to hang out, and I would say, “Oh, sorry, I can’t, I need to practice piano today.” None of them were musical, so they never understood. They just took that as me ditching them, and they would be so cold about it, yet they always enjoyed hearing me play piano when they could, and complain about how they weren’t talented and couldn’t play piano. The irony.
Our favorite spot to hang out in was this abandoned sewage tunnel. Gross, I know, but we were young. We liked adventures. We usually made up stories there.
“Did you guys ever hear about the guy who was killed down here?” began Kimberly in a hushed tone. We were all staring at her in wonderment, shaking our heads. “Well, he was an outlaw, you see, not like, you know, the wild wild west sort, but he killed his own wife.” She scanned our faces, “He lived out here in these woods. You can even see some of his clothes still hanging on the trees. That’s how he lived. He would hunt animals, even cats. He lived in this very tunnel until one day the police finally found him. They shot him right on the spot. Some say that you can still hear him walking these tunnels.” We suddenly heard splashing sounds coming from the tunnel, the sound was inching closer and closer and we began screaming, pushing one another out of the way to save ourselves. Bobby ran out of the tunnel, splashing water everywhere and laughing. We all yelled at Bobby and he said, “Hey! Kimberly made me do it. Blame her. It was her joke!” and then we all yelled at Kimberly who said, in her defense, “I was just trying to have some fun.”
When I wasn’t hanging out at the tunnel with my team of misfits, I was hanging out at Persdale’s locally owned comic book shop, Metropolis, named after Superman’s home, not the 1927 silent film. I wasn’t the type who would stay there from day to night playing games. I would mostly come there just to browse the selection of comics and visit the store’s cat, an overweight ginger tabby named Mr. Sardonicus. Bookstores aren’t bookstores without cats, in my opinion. Mr. Sardonicus’ favorite places to sleep were on the owner’s laptop, to his dismay, and the spot beneath your feet, to your dismay. Mr. Sardonicus was used to people tripping over him; he might have even liked it. Who knows? I can’t put myself into the mind of a cat.
“Mr. Sardonicus,” said the owner, David Vincent lovingly, “has had a long day,” he explained to me earnestly, “of sitting around all day, eating and sleeping.”
I nodded sympathetically, “What a hard life.” Mr. Sardonicus purred in agreement, bowed his head, and went back to sleep.
“Can I help you with anything?” David asked me. David was a beautiful man. He had long, curly black hair, a short beard extending to his cheeks, and the start of a mustache. He kind of reminded me of Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride minus the mustache. He was in his late twenties. Some days I wished I was older so he would notice me in the way that I wanted him to, as of right now, I was just the little sister that he never had. I shrugged, “Just browsing, I guess.” I picked up a copy of Age of Ultron. “Look at her. Why can’t I be Angela?”
“Well,” David began, “For one, you are not a fictional character, secondly, you are not an angel, no offense, and finally, you are not a bounty hunter.”
“I could be a bounty hunter for all you know,” I complained. “They’re making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie and they’ve casted someone to play her. That means that it’s possible for someone to be her.”
“There’s a difference between being her and pretending to be her. Actors and actresses just pretend. If you want to pretend to be her, be my guest. Besides, Angela’s not going to be in the movie.”
“Really? I guess the Internet lied to me, wouldn’t be the first time. I’d just need some long red hair and a Madonna-like gold bra, and wait,” I looked closely at the picture, “Is she even wearing underwear? Is she just wearing a giant belt over her womanly triangle?”
David squinted at the comic, “Huh,” he began, “It would appear that way.”
I shook my head in disgust, “What is up with these illustrators making women look like this? Like, we can’t have a woman villain or superhero with a full body suit?”
“Hey, man, I just sell the comics. I don’t create them. Why don’t you ask one of the illustrators?”
“If I asked, they probably wouldn’t answer.”
“Still want to be Angela now?” he asked.
“Eh,” was my only reply. She was sexy after all, but looks aren’t everything. I haven’t read any of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics so for all I know, she could be an asshole. I don’t want to be a sexy asshole.
“So, are you finally done with eighth grade?” he asked.
“Yeah, I finished like, ten days ago.”
“Well, congratulations Anastasia! Excited about high school?”
“Not really,” I nervously exclaimed.
“It’s really not that bad as people say it is. You’ll be fine. How is Anna?” David knew all about Anna. He knew about all of my friends although they never set foot in his shop.
“Not doing so good, David. I don’t think she’ll be able to go to school anymore.”
“Is there no chance of remission?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, feeling my lips tremble. I bit my tongue hard to prevent the tears from coming.
“What about your other friends?”
“Kristen is moving to Stamson and the rest are going to Persdale High with me.”
“Well, Kristen has it worse than you. Moving to a different school is always worse, because you don’t know anyone. You’ll have a group of friends already, you guys will each make new friends, and your circle of friends will expand.” I nodded. I understood, but I didn’t feel reassured.
“If you ever feel bad, just come here and talk to me. Metropolis is your home, superwoman.”
I laughed, “If only you were my brother and not Adam.” I halfway meant that statement.
“Yeah, that guy is pretty much a jerk. But hey, he’ll move out soon, right? Is he planning on going to college?”
“Yeah, but he’ll probably go to a community college or something and stay at home just to spite me. I think it’s me that needs to get out of the house. Maybe I should get a job or something. Are you hiring?”
He smiled sadly, “You’re too young to work here. We’re not hiring at the moment, but even if we were, we only hire sixteen and up. You’re turning fourteen this year, right? So you could always apply here two years from now.”
“Yeah, I turn fourteen on July 9th” I mentioned, disheartened.
“Listen, life’s got its rough spots. It was not easy starting my own comic book shop. Some days, I thought I would never get through it. There’s so much money involved and so much marketing, you know, just trying to find customers and building it all up. There were days when I thought it would never work out, that I should just give up, but I didn’t give up, and now I’ve got a pretty damn successful shop. Well, I guess what I’m trying to get around to say is: don’t give up on anything. Kristen is moving away, Anna’s not doing so well, and you’ve got to live with Adam. Life seems pretty bad, but just because Kristen is moving away, it doesn’t mean that you’ll stop contact with her, just because Anna’s not doing so well, it doesn’t meant that she won’t get better, and just because you’re living with Adam, doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it. If you ever get tired of him, just leave the house, come here, or go to the library, or hell, even go to McDonalds; it’s open twenty four hours. Life will get better if you let it.”
“Ugh. McDonalds? They always play smooth jazz there. Makes me want to kill someone. Anyways, I think I’m gonna buy this,” I told David, handing him issue number ten of Age of Ultron. It’s not that I was trying to ignore everything that he said. I just had no reply for it.
“Did you see our issues of Kick-Ass 3? There are six different covers and they spell out “Evil prevails when good men do nothing---justice forever. It is pretty cool.”
“I came in here last week and bought one,” I stated, cracking a smile.
“Oh man, I have terrible memory. Well, your total is $4.05 with tax.” I handed him the money. He bid me farewell, and reluctantly, I turned to go.
“Bye, David. Bye, Mr. Sardonicus.” Mr. Sardonicus stirred from slumber at the sound of his name being called. He recognized the source of the sound and blinked at me before laying his head back down. I started the long walk back home, wishing that I was old enough to have a license and a car.
Kristen and I hung out a few times before she made her move on July 20th. She suggested a rousing game of laser tag, but I told her I could think of better things to do than chase strangers in the dark with fake guns. I suggested a picnic in the park—I’d bring my record player and we would have a swell time, but she said that she had better things to do than get grass on her butt and get stung by bees. We settled on going to the movies. We wasted our money on a bad, generic 3D action movie. We both pondered which was worse: the generic horror movie, or the generic action movie? We decided the correct answer was the generic love story. Please, Mr. Darcy will never exist. Who actually says “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”? I bet people in the 17th century never even said shit like that. Although I’ve never received a proposal of love, I assume that it goes like this, “Uh, I love you, I think. You’re pretty great. Yeah.” If anything, true love is the ability to fart in front of your significant other. Jane Austen got it all wrong, then again, she never was married, but then again, I’m not married either. This would be the point where I insert a mental shrug.
We walked around the mall for a while after that, pretending to shoot people and trying to barrel roll. I couldn’t believe that in just a few days, I wouldn’t be doing this with her again. I know that I had Kimberly, Bobby, Brittany, and Anna, but Kristen was my other half. My soul sister. I hung out with Bobby sometimes, but he mostly just wanted to talk about football, a subject on which I knew nothing of, or even cared about. Brittany would want to discuss guys, which is something that I know many teenage girls discuss, but one that I wasn’t too interested in. Kimberly would always complain about her parents being too strict, a topic that got very annoying in a short amount of time, and Anna was always very quiet and moody, but she had a good reason to be, I’ve heard that chemo can be a bitch. I remember how distraught she was when she lost all of her hair. It was her trademark. Anna had had waist length white blonde hair which she would always style in interesting and unique up-dos. When it was all gone, she hadn’t talked for days. She wore a hat to school, but the teachers made her take it off, despite her condition, and she was stared at all day, like an animal in a zoo. She had been so embarrassed.
The last day that Bobby, Anna, Kristen, Kimberly, Brittany, and I were all together was on July 18th, two days before Kristen left. Since Anna wasn’t doing too well, we decided to meet at Anna’s house. Anna looked dead, though none of us mentioned it. We all did our best to bring her spirits up. I brought over my VHS of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, her favorite Disney movie. Kristen brought a collection of campfire scary stories, although we weren’t even close to a campfire. Brittany brought a mix CD which included one of Anna’s favorite songs, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money In My Hand” by Primitive Radio Gods. Kimberly brought a case of Frostie root beer, the best root beer, in her opinion, since 1939, and Bobby brought over Munchkin, a game that he and I could agree on.
“Today is a day for celebration,” Bobby began in booming tones, “Our dear friend Kristen is moving away to Stamson.” We all booed in chorus and Kristen said, “It’s not my fault!” Bobby cut her off, “Today shall not be a day for arguing. Today shall be a day of tomfoolery!” We all yelled and whooped. Anna even smiled weakly. “You guys are all dumb,” she remarked. We all pouted, looking at her with hurtful glances. She rolled her eyes, “Well, I want a root beer and I think we should watch Snow White first and with no interruptions,” she glanced at Brittany, who retaliated, “sometimes I just need to make a comment about the movie.”
It was August 25th. The first day of high school. Every one told me, “Don’t be nervous, it’ll be fine,” but nobody knows if it’s all going to be fine, and not being nervous is easier said than done. I woke up in the morning at six, wishing that I could just go back to sleep. Adam threw a shoe in my face, “Hey! Get your ass out of bed!” he yelled.
I stumbled my way into the kitchen and poured myself a bowl of Lucky Charms, because nothing starts off the day like ten grams of sugar. My parents insisted that I was still too young for coffee, so I had a nice supply of energy drinks, which they seemed to believe was a better substitute. I ate slowly, every crunch bringing me closer to school. “I wish today would be as charming as this bowl of cereal,” I muttered to myself.
I showered, threw on a pair of worn jeans and a shirt that said, “What Would Dean Moriarty Do?” I don’t know why I wore it, it’s not like anybody would ever get it. I had an obsession. I was obsessed with the last lines of books. My favorite being, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and my least favorite being, “Daily He announces more distinctly,--‘Surely I come quickly’ and hourly I more eagerly respond—‘Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!’” from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The last lines are the most important parts of the book for me. Nobody else would understand that. Nobody reads anymore.
At seven, Adam shouted for me to come downstairs. He was all excitement—it was his final year of high school. I was all dread—it was my first year of high school.
“Alright, do you have all of your shit together? It’s time to leave.”
“What? Already? I thought school doesn’t start until seven thirty. It will only take us five minutes to drive there.”
“Idiot, the first thirty minutes before school are precious. Everyone gets to school early.”
I ran back upstairs to get my bag. I didn’t know whether Bobby, Brittany, or Kimberly would get to school early, so I brought a copy of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes with me to pass the time.
On the drive to school, I was bowing my head, drifting off to sleep and my stomach was gurgling with nervousness and the overload of sugar from my breakfast. Adam noticed I was drifting off to sleep and put on a heavy metal CD. I was blasted awake. “Good morning,” he grinned. I sunk my head into the window, my head vibrating as the car rolled along the street. He suddenly slammed on the brakes, causing me to lean forward and then backward, slamming my head back on the window. I rubbed my head and glared at him. “Sorry, there was a rabbit in the road.” He continued driving, pounding his hands on the steering wheel. “So, Ana, I want you to know that freshman and seniors do not sit together and do not walk together, so do not think about trying to find me at school. I am not hanging out with you.”
“So what do you do during the half hour before school starts?”
“You just walk around.”
“Like in a circle?”
“Well, it’s more like a square. But yeah, you just walk around the hallways.”
“Sounds like fun,” I lied. He pulled me into the school parking lot, got his things out of the car, and just like that, he left me there, sitting in the car. I knew I was not supposed to catch up with him. I sat there for a while before I realized that I should just get it over with and walk inside.
I spotted Kimberly who approached me, “Jeez, it’s like a jungle in here.” I yawned; it was meant to be an agreement. “So do you want to work out with me in the gym after school?” she asked me.
“You might as well be asking me if I’d rather get punched in the throat with a brick. No thanks.”
Kimberly whined, “But Anastasia, have you never heard of the freshman fifteen? I don’t want to gain fifteen pounds.”
“Well, then don’t eat fifteen pounds worth of food. I am pretty sure the freshman fifteen rule only applies to college.”
“All the popular girls are skinny.”
“Yeah, in TV shows. I am proud of not being skinny. I like my belly fat.”
“You’re not even fat, Anastasia.”
“I never said that I was, I’m just not skinny and I don’t care and neither should you. What, don’t you weigh like ninety pounds anyways, Kim?” Kimberly only muttered something about how I didn’t understand. I guess I didn’t understand.
None of my friends were in my homeroom. I was in room B118 with Mr. Moran. I made the mistake of pronouncing it as “moron” and he cleared his throat and said, “Actually, Ms. Greyshaw, it’s pronounced more-anne.” I apologized for such a stupid mistake. Today was not off to a good start. Why couldn’t my teacher have a normal last name like Johnson? Everyone in the homeroom, after my mistake, began laughing, repeating “Mr. Moron,” looking at me, and laughing even harder. I knew that my face was red. Someone had even commented, “She’s so scared. Look at that freshman faggot.” There was nothing that I hated more than when people referred to me in the third person when I was in the same room, especially when I was being referred to as “that freshman faggot.” I turned and said, “Hi, I’m right here. You don’t have to refer to me as ‘that freshman faggot.’ My name’s Anastasia.” The girl looked at me. She had way too much makeup on. She looked like an anorexic raccoon, and said “Okay, Fagstasia.” Hilarious. She should have her own comedy show. All of her friends laughed as if it were the most riotous thing that anybody had ever said. I settled closer into the table, wrapping my arms around my body, wanting to just disappear from the room.
My schedule for the day was:
First period Classical Piano: 7:50-8:40
Second period English Composition and 20th Century American Literature: 8:45-9:35
Third period Algebra I: 9:40-10:30
Fourth period American History: 10:35-11:25
Fifth period Spectrum of Science: 12:05-1:00
Sixth period Gym: 1:05-2:00
Seventh period French from 2:00-2:55.
The classes were fun, but the people were not.
Classical Piano was my favorite class, by far. I had taught myself piano and I could easily make my way through the given piano book in the class. My teacher, Mrs. Ripley, decided that I could bring my own pieces in to practice, as long as I would play the assigned songs in the book during recital. The kids in the class didn’t seem to appreciate my talents, passing them off as just me being better than them.
We went over the syllabus in my English Composition class next. I would be reading Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, and Flowers for Algernon. I inwardly groaned as I saw “speech” listed as one of the items on the syllabus. My teacher, Mr. Alexander asked anyone if they had read any of the books. A few people raised their hands, some of them had read Lord of the Flies and some had read Flowers for Algernon. Mr. Alexander commented on Flowers for Algernon, which lay on my desk, and asked me why I didn’t raise my hand, as participation is a big part of his class. I only shrugged, a round of sniggers issued from my classmates, and then he asked if I had read any of the books. I told him that I had read all of the books on the syllabus, and the classmates that had raised their hands glared at me, as if I was trying to one-up them. Mr. Alexander said he would find extra books for me so I would be challenged.
It was no secret that I did not excel in math. My class had people in that were quite advanced in math, which made me feel like an idiot. Mr. Dylan said that this class would involve a lot of partner work and I sighed. That means communication with other humans. Mr. Dylan made fun of students, jokingly of course, not meant to harm, but that was something that I could not handle. He soon realized that I was not the type of person that would take his jokes lightheartedly. Our seating chart was very different from my other classes. Instead of sitting alphabetically, we had to sit by our date of births. He did not call out which order we were to sit, we had to discover on our own. I was too shy to talk to the people and for most of the time, I remained standing, looking lost while the other students talked to teach other and figured out soon where they were supposed to sit. I was the only one left standing and Mr. Dylan said, “Well, it looks like Ms. Greyshaw here doesn’t know her own birthday!” Everyone laughed and I blushed furiously, fighting back my tears of embarrassment. I sat down in my seat, attempting to ignore the students staring at me and grinning, laughing at my stupidity.
I was ready to go home by fourth period. My history teacher was a lively, sporty guy by the name of Mr. Oglin. All of the girls in the class instantly had crushes on him. You could almost see the muscles in his butt through his pants. He went over the syllabus, explaining that we would learn about America from the 1900s to the 1970s. We would write essays every week over certain topics that he would assign. It seemed easy. He looked at my energy drink, which I had taken with me to school, and yelled at me. “You will never bring any kind of energy drink to this class again!” He addressed the rest of the class calmly, “It is bad for you.” He made me throw it away and I sauntered back to my desk, getting used to the feel of stares on my back. I was relieved when class was over and I could go to lunch.
I met Kimberly and Brittany easily. I asked where Bobby was and Brittany said, “With some guys he met, you know, other football players.” I just nodded. It would be us two. I asked Kimberly and Brittany if their day was going well. Kimberly said, “The people here are so nice, I’ve made at least six new friends today already. Only two of them are in this lunch. I’d said we’d eat with them. Is that okay?” I said that it was and that her friends were my friends. Brittany also mentioned that her day was going well and mentioned that she already had begun to like a guy named Tyler who was “so mysterious, he’s a poet or something.” When they asked about my day, I only shrugged and told them that it could have gone better. I ended up leaving lunch early to sit in the library. The new friends that Kimberly had made were not the type of people that I expected her to befriend. They wore brand name clothes, laughed obnoxiously, and were very judgmental.
Fifth period science class went better. Kimberly was in my class, so we became partners for the class for labs. Mrs. Carter, a round teacher who Kim and I had instantly nicknamed “The Pumpkin” seemed like a bitter old woman, so I felt doomed from the start. I knew she would be very strict and would get impatient with people like me who were interested in science, but could not understand it. Wavelengths and frequencies, man, they’re so complex.
Gym should not be allowed in school. I know the schools mean well, trying to get students to stay in shape, but having a gym class with boys and girls together? Not okay. The boys would always make comments about the girls and the girls would judge the other girls. The uniforms were shorts and a tank top in our school colors, white and purple. One girl in my class was incessantly singing “Welcome to the 60s” from the musical Hairspray, and I really almost killed her.
I was not delighted to know that our warm up in gym was twenty pushups, twenty sit ups, and one full minute of mountain climbers. After that, some of us were assigned to play basketball, and the other half were assigned to play badminton. I had hoped that I would be assigned the less competitive badminton, and of course, with my luck, I ended up playing basketball. Guys and girls played together, which made it worse. I missed every shot, wasn’t able to defend, and got hit in the face three times with the basketball which caused eruptions of laughter.
Seventh period French was better because everyone looked like an idiot. None of us knew anything about French, so there was a sense of togetherness. This class, like algebra, was also very partner oriented. We picked a partner in the class for the year and we would do oral and writing exercises together and then, at the end of the year, perform a skit in front of the class. You can imagine that I was whooping with joy at the mention of the skit.
My partner was a short excitable girl named Chelsea. She had a very infectious laugh. If she laughed, you had to laugh along with her. She was very nice and I could tell that we would end up becoming friends. That was a little spark to my otherwise horrible day. Chelsea and I had something in common: we both liked to read, although she preferred current books by current authors while I preferred classic books by dead authors. Call me morbid.
Kimberly found me, “So you wanna do yoga with me?”
“Didn’t we already go over this? I already had gym today. I really don’t want to exercise anymore.” “Come on, please. No one else will do it with me. Bobby says yoga’s for girls, Anna’s too sick, and Brittany is going to Starbucks with some girls from her English class. The girls I met today are busy too. You’re my only hope.”
I rolled my eyes, “How long are we doing yoga for?”
“Maybe an hour,” she saw the look on my face and then added, “Okay, a half-hour then, jeez.”
“That is thirty minutes too much.” Kimberly rolled her eyes back at me. “Let’s go to the gym.” I muttered about how much fun we would have, sarcastically of course.
I don’t know why yoga is so popular. I pulled muscles I didn’t even know that I had. Kimberly decided to go online and print out a list of yoga moves, and then, playing the role of instructor, tried to teach these moves to both herself and myself.
“Go into mountain pose, reach above with your hands and bend your back.”
I almost laughed, “I don’t feel like a mountain, it’s not working.” Kimberly exhaled impatiently, “You’re not supposed to feel like a mountain, it’s just…yoga speech. Come on, concentrate.” I bowed my body and swept down with my arms stretched out. I felt like a graceful swan. I stood, with my waist bent forward and my legs straight and then I put both of my legs back, so I was in “plank position” as Kimberly would say. I began chaturanga. My arms shook and I said, “My arms feel like they’re going to fall off.” Kimberly rolled her eyes, she rolled her eyes so much that I was surprised that her eyes were still in her skull, and commanded me to go into up dog and then yelled at me because my stomach scraped the floor as I did so. She told me to go into down dog. I asked her why up dog was called up dog when your body is down on the floor and why down dog is called down dog when your body is up. She released herself from her down dog position and sat Indian style on the floor while explaining that “up dog is called up dog because you are pulling your body upwards even though you are somewhat down on the ground. Down dog is called down dog because you are pulling your body down even though your body is up in the air.”
“Do you want to go to Metropolis with me?” I asked her. She yelled “No,” and then I sighed and realized that I would have to suffer another fifteen minutes of yoga. She saw a move on her list called “The Wheel” and started to teach me how to do it, explaining it as a backwards pushup and I said, “Whoa there, cowboy. That’s enough. I don’t think this move is for someone like me. I think you have to be, like, advanced.” I think after today, Kimberly realized that I am not the type of person whom you exercise with. She muttered about how I’m not willing to learn new things. I watched as she stumbled out of “The Wheel” and I mentioned to her that, “At least I am smart enough to not injure myself.” She groaned as she complained that she might have pulled a back muscle. I smiled and sweetly said “But at least you tried something new.”
“How was school?” my mom called to me and Adam as we came in through the door. Adam grunted as a response and trudged to his room and slammed his door shut. I knew what he was going to do, which was masturbate over Allison, the girl he has had a crush on for three years. I was surprised that he could care more about anyone else other than himself, but it was apparent that this was possible.
Mom came in and looked upstairs, eyeing Adam’s shut door warily and turned to me with a wide smile as she asked how my day went. “Oh, it was great,” I responded, although it was far from it. Mom knew too. She gave me a questioning look but said nothing further. Just like mom. She cared, but not too much.
Dad was in the kitchen reading a newspaper, like all stereotypical dads do. He still hadn’t figured out how it was easier getting the news from the Internet. It was his belief that everything on the Internet was libelous but everything in newspapers was true. I would always question his logic and he would always scoff and say, “You just don’t understand, Ahn.” He always called me Ahn and he said it in a creepy Hannibal Lector kind of voice. I don’t think he was trying to be creepy, it was just his pronunciation and the nickname “Ahn” that put this thought into my mind.
“Go remind your brother that we’re going out tonight in celebration of your first day of high school,” mom told me. I almost asked her why she didn’t go up and remind him herself, but I knew she would just laugh and call me her “rebellious daughter.” I reluctantly climbed the stairs, telling myself that I would definitely regret reminding Adam of this.
“They always liked you better than me,” Adam said when I opened the door and reminded him. “They wouldn’t celebrate my last year of high school, but they’ll celebrate the first day of high school for you. Gotta love being the favorite child, right?” he asked me, giving me a playful slap on the cheek that was harder than it should have been. I rubbed my cheek, glaring at him. “I’m not their favorite child. They love you too. You just want to be the moody teenager who thinks nobody loves him. People would love you if you let them love you.”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child,” he said resentfully. I didn’t want to get hit again so I just said, “4:00” and retreated to my room. I had homework to do. Yeah, on the first day of school. Who is allowing this to happen? For classical piano, I, of course, had to practice piano. Although I was on an advanced level already, I still had to use the beginner’s piano book and learn how to play a condensed version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” for the recital on Friday. For English, Mr. Alexander assigned me As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, although I had to keep up with my class on The Great Gatsby. For Friday, I had to have read the first three chapters in both As I Lay Dying and The Great Gatsby. For Algebra, Mr. Dylan assigned the class thirty exercises, which he made sure were all even numbered problems so we could not look up the answers in the back of the book. For American History, Mr. Oglin assigned my class forty pages to read about World War I. For science, Mrs. Carter wants my class to read over our first lab which we would begin three days from now on Thursday. I had no homework for gym, although I would have been baffled if I had had homework. Finally, in French, Mrs. Michel assigned the class some written problems which we have to complete and have ready for tomorrow. I’m supposed to do this with Chelsea, but who am I kidding? I’ll do this all on my own and then Chelsea and I will lie and say that yes, we had completed this assignment together. We would make sure that all of our answers were identical.
I looked at the clock and noted that it was 3:30. I hoped that I could knock out most of my homework in thirty minutes, although reading was more of a vacation to me than homework, but I dreaded doing the history reading and the algebra homework. I was glad that my dad was a genius in math otherwise I would probably need a tutor.
My parents took me and Adam to The Green Seagull, a three star seafood restaurant. I have never seen a green seagull before so I am unsure as to how the name was produced, and I am also unsure of why my parents took me here, as I hate seafood. Adam laughed about it all the way there. During the car ride, I sighed and whined about how I hated fish. My dad said, “But fish is good for you! Besides, they have crab and lobster too, not just fish.” I asked what the difference was, as they all tasted dirty and weird to me.
My dad suddenly stopped the car, which I told him was dangerous to do, since we were on a four lane highway. He pulled over to the side and turned around and dangerously asked me where I wanted to go since I was complaining so much. All eyes were on me. Adam looked amused. I said, “Listen, let’s just go to The Green Seagull. I just thought I would get to pick the place since we were celebrating my first day of high school.” My dad shook his head furiously and said, “No, you obviously don’t want to go there. So where would you like to go?” I hated being put on the spot and I was also the most indecisive person when it came to food, so I just shook my head and said miserably, “I don’t want to be a pain. I’ll just deal with it and eat seafood.” My dad smiled and said I was good for “taking one for the team.” I didn’t understand whether the dinner was actually for me or because my parents really wanted to go to The Green Seagull.
An hour later, I was full of fried cod and misery. I knew my stomach would hate me for this. I never got all of my homework done. I still had another half of my algebra homework and a few more pages left in history. I was tired, so I just went to bed. My teachers would have to deal with it.
I woke up early at five in the morning. I didn’t want to, but I woke nevertheless and couldn’t go back to sleep. I decided to crank the gears of my mind by practicing piano. I played the song La Dispute from the French film Amélie. That film is one of my favorites and is the reason why I want to learn French. My goal is to one day watch the movie without using subtitles. Hey, a girl can dream.
Next, I tried playing The Heart Asks for Pleasure First but for some reason, I could never get it right. I could play the beginning just fine, but when it gets to the middle, I fumbled. Both the left and right hand are playing something completely different at a fast tempo. I was using my brain so much to try and figure it out that I could almost feel steam leaking from every hole in my body. I banged on the piano with a proclamation of “Bah!” I would never learn that song. I just wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t Chopin. I decided to hastily finish my algebra homework. By the time I was finished, it was almost time for me to leave. I guess my history reading would have to wait. I could probably read it in homeroom before my classes started. No walking around before classes for me. Just call me Mrs. Loser.
“I can’t take you to school today,” Adam proclaimed as soon as I stepped one foot into the kitchen. I glanced outside; the weather made a monsoon look like a friendly mist. I sighed. Fantastic.
“Why can’t you take me to school?”
“I just can’t, Ana.” Wow, what a well-crafted reason.
“What am I supposed to do? The bus came thirty minutes ago.” He only shrugged and continued eating his stale raisin bran.
“You know, did I ever tell that you are the best brother ever? Really, you deserve a plaque or something.”
He didn’t respond, he just stared straight ahead, his cheeks full of cereal. I watched his jaw muscles contract with every crunch. I grabbed the umbrella. My anger went unnoticed, I knew it would. I grabbed my things and headed for school. I stood there for a minute, with my umbrella open, hearing the plinks and plops of the rain as it hit the umbrella. I watched raindrops run from the top to the edge, as if they were racing. I secretly cheered on the raindrop in the middle as it weaved its way at a high pace in its own special path. Every raindrop weaved its own path; they were all different. I imagined each raindrop having its own personality. The suicidal drop that would immediately plunge from the edge, splattering on the blacktop; the optimist who lingered on the edge, enjoying life before it was released onto the pavement, and the wallflowers who kept to the top of the umbrella, scared of what lay ahead.
Umbrellas really don’t help when the wind is blowing. I don’t care what anybody says. They don’t help. By the time I walked into the high school, I was soaking wet. Nothing sounded better than a hair dryer right then, so I could stick it up my pants leg and feel the heat radiate up my leg. Just the thought of it gave me goose bumps. Speaking of goose bumps, I hate the feel of them. It gives me the illusion that the hair on my legs is growing at a fast rate and will soon be Sasquatch hairy.
I saw Brittany with her name brand friends. I guess Kim wasn’t the only one who had name brand friends. She must have met them after lunch yesterday. Was I the only one who really didn’t make a whole lot of new friends? I waved frantically to grab her attention. She had it. She waved back weakly, almost looking unsure. Weird. Her name brand friends, I will call them Hollister and Aéropostle, looked back at me and winked. Brittany never looked back, walking in a hurry, to I don’t know where. I scratched my arm awkwardly, rubbed the spot, and shuffled onwards, down yonder to my classroom, as old time Southern folk would say.
Victor, a guy who I was pretty sure was death incarnate looked at me. His sunken eyes held a look of concern, but also held a look that only a night filled with insomnia could bring. He was my only friend in homeroom, or rather the only person that would talk to me. Apparently I just radiate weirdness. Anyway, Victor says to me, “You’re all wet,” and I respond with, “Yeah, that’s generally what happens when it rains. I’m pretty sure, at least.” Victor gives a crazed bob of the head that I took for a nod. I squinted my eyes, “I’m assuming that you slept well last night?” I asked him. Victor laughed, “Yeah, I slept for a good solid ten minutes before my mind decided that it would be great to think about various philosophical thoughts.” I raised my eyebrow, “Such as?” He turned around and reached into his plain green backpack and withdrew a piece of paper. He thrust it towards me saying, “This. I was up drawing it last night.” I barely glanced at it before observing, “I don’t have any idea of what I am looking at.” He snatched the paper out of my hand, “The future!” he exclaimed, eyes bugged like a cracked out grasshopper. “The future?” He nodded, “The future! What if in the future we all have slits in our heads, and we can insert CDs into them!” I only stared at him, unsure of whether or not this was a dream or if he was seriously this bizarre. “Victor, how is this philosophical?” He crumpled his drawing into a tight ball and threw it at my face. The sharp corners of the ball hit my cheek hard and I winced. “It’s deep thinking, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Well, I guess you could call it that. I’m not sure that it means that it’s philosophical.”
“Then what is the exact definition of philosophy?”
I exhaled a strained breath and looked at him pointedly, “I don’t know, Victor. Do you think Aristocrates would have talked about people with disc readers in their heads?”
“Well, there are two things I have to say to that. 1) I don’t know who the hell Aristocrates is and 2) I don’t think he would have known about disc readers back then. This is modern philosophy I am talking about.”
“Aristocrates the philosopher?” I exclaimed, puzzled.
“Are you thinking about Aristotle or…?” Victor asked, mirroring my puzzled expression.
My face burned red with my error, “You know what I mean…”
“Is Aristocrates Aristotle’s aristocratic brother or something?”
“I swear Aristocrates was a person!” I knew that I heard that name from somewhere.
“Sure, Anastasia. You keep telling yourself that.” I threw the crumpled paper back at his face. I was startled as the dismissal bell rang loud and clear.
“Good luck on this school day, Aristocrates,” were Victor’s parting words to me.
“Shut up,” was the only comeback that I could think of. I felt a shove from behind me. I turned around to see raccoon face and her posse looking amused.
“Wow, freshman. Got a boyfriend already? I would be impressed by your fast work, except that he looks like Marilyn Manson.” In a sitcom, this would be the part where the sign would light up, urging the live audience to laugh their hardest. In this situation, her posse was the live audience, and their laughter sounded just as forced.
“Marilyn Manson is an intelligent human being, although I can’t say the same for you.” I said, defiant to the end. Once again, my words seem to have no effect on raccoon face. I should probably figure out her real name. It doesn’t make me any better than her if I am calling her raccoon face. Her and her posse shoved their way past me.
I looked at Victor, whose face was burning, although from embarrassment or anger, I could not tell. “Wish I had that crumpled ball of paper right now. I would love to throw it at her right now,” he mumbled.
“Are you a freshman too?”
“No, I’m a sophomore. Sophie and I are in the same class. She’s been picking on me ever since last year. I don’t know why.”
“Ah, so raccoon face does have a name!”
I heard the beginnings of a laugh resonate in his throat, “Raccoon face?”
“Yeah! I have been secretly calling her that in my head. I never knew her name. Anyway, why don’t you say something to her about it?”
“Well, we all can’t be as brave as you, Anastasia.”
“Come on, Victor. You could kick her ass.”
“I don’t want to kick her ass. I just want her to leave me alone. Kicking her ass can’t be the only option.”
“Just a light slap, then?”
I heard that familiar gurgle of laughter and he just shrugged. “Why don’t you kick her ass?”
“Because I’m not as brave as you think. I don’t know, maybe Sophie is just scared like everyone else.”
“Scared of what?”
“I don’t know, of people, maybe. She hides it by being a raccoon faced bitch.”
“Why should we be scared of each other? We’re made of the same things.”
“Hey Victor, I think you just said something philosophical.”
Victor cracked a smile. I said, “Maybe we’re scared of each other because we don’t want to admit that we are all the same. We want to be so different from each other. We want to be significant. We don’t want to be a shell of bones, blood, muscle, and tissue, but isn’t that what we are?”
“We have thoughts. That’s what makes us different.”
“Are our thoughts our own? Aren’t we conditioned to think a certain way?”
“Jesus, Anastasia. Aren’t you like 13? Shouldn’t you be thinking of, like, nail polish or something?”
“Should I be offended by that? I’m 14, by the way, and I have better things to do with my time.”
“Were you conditioned to do better things with your time?”
“I was raised by open minded people. I think if I was raised by closed minded, I would probably be close minded. That kind of sucks to think about.”
The 5 minute warning bell rang. It warned us that we better get our asses to classes in 5 minutes. I waved to Victor. That would probably be the only intelligent conversation that I would have all day. I headed to piano class, feeling a strange mixture of drowning sadness and a rising feeling of change. I looked at the people around me. I thought about what I said, about everyone being the same. If this is what I really believe, then why did I feel so different from everyone? I thought about my friends, how I felt so different from them. I saw the girls in my class trying to look so desperately like the other girls in higher classes: the tight fitting name brand clothes, the globs of makeup, and the iron straightened hair, so chemical that I could almost smell the sizzle of the hairspray on their straighteners. I looked at myself. My hair, naturally straight and bright red, a natural, deep red, not like the strawberry blondes who call themselves redheads, because they’re not. I looked at my pale skin, my Goodwill clothes, and my light sweep of brown eye shadow. If I suddenly dyed my hair blonde, tanned my skin, put on more makeup, and spent $40 on a t-shirt, would that make me cool? Would I fit in? Was it worth it?