Upon reflection of the meeting at Elizabeth's house, I began to
question my own sanity due to my almost-kind-of acceptance to her
proposal. In short, I flipped shit out. I had five theories
prepared for why I had hopped on board to her little mystery
adventure cruise, and none of them settled my stomach.
The first was that I hadn't really thought things through and
simply said yes in way of giving her an answer.
The second was that like her, I too was crazy.
The third was that my subconscious mind didn't take her seriously
and my agreement had sprung up purely to humour the poor thing.
The fourth was that I was being a typical teenage boy who wanted
to get into the pretty girl's knickers.
The final theory was that I really did want to go.
Maybe they all made some sort of sense, but the fifth one struck
a chord. It seemed so out of reach and pointless dwelling upon
it, really, as there was no way it would ever happen- things like
that didn't happen, particularly not to me. I was horrifically
average, and certainly not fit for midnight adventures like the
ones Elizabeth had in mind. In some ways it was as if she wanted
to grab me by the scruff of the neck and pull me into her little
dream world so she could have a friend who didn't tell her nasty
prophecies or make her hit.
Maybe I really did want to go.
I spent the next couple of days falling in and out of love with
the idea of running away and making something of myself.
Elizabeth, she was an enigma, cryptic and ferociously
unpredictable, and so it was difficult to place my thumb upon a
certain decision- and everso, the throbbing ache that told me to
go go go was there. I imagined it always would be there, if I
were to let it linger.
I had formed this funny little friendship with Stephen in the
month-and-sixteen-day period after the school shooting, or 'DOD'
as Elizabeth had so named it. We hated each other, truthfully,
but our parents went way back, and due to the absence of our real
friends we had been sort of bullied into one another's company.
Conversation wasn't actually as painful as I had imagined,
although sensitive topics were always dangerous (I was yet to
forget his tearful tendencies) and the music he listened to was
quite frankly, shit. On top of that, he felt the excessive need
to blare it out from his garage speakers all day and everyday,
despite my constant complaints.
"Would you turn that off?"
Stephen was now jumping up and down rather aggressively, jutting
his head back and forth in enthusiasm to the lyrics that sounded
as if somebody had fallen asleep face first on a keyboard. He
looked like he was having some sort of minor epileptic fit, minus
the projectile vomiting.
"What?" he said, the largest grin on his face as the heavy
heartbeat of the music continued.
"I'm trying to study," I said, maintaining my patience with him.
It was like training a puppy not to dirty the carpet at times,
"The noise is a bit.. well, noisy."
"You're such a bore, mate," he laughed, but turned it down a
touch and sat at the foot of the bench where I was attempting to
revise trigonometry, "Accept the break from school. Nobody else
is doing any work."
"Exactly. What else am I going to spend the time doing? Eating?
Playing on my Xbox? Sitting here with you, listening to your
awful chart music?"
"Alright," he said a little defensively, his face hardening,
"Nobody's asking you to be here."
"I know. Sorry. I'm just a bit fed up of this.. this."
"Life. Existence. Just sitting here, doing the same thing, day
in, day out. It's utterly depressing and mind numbing," I mused.
"Woah," he said with a small laugh, and I frowned calmly, "It's
not that bad. We finish our exams in July, that's worth looking
"If they even find us a college to sit them at. That's not the
"Then what is the point?" he jested. The way he goofily smiled at
the things he didn't understand may have been endearing, once,
when I still felt bad that he had cried at the shootout, but the
habit was beginning to grate. He seemed to pick up on my petulant
intolerance, however, as he notched the pumping beat of the music
down to a faint buzz.
"I don't want to spend my life in school. Sitting exams. Getting
results. Going to interviews. Having every single thing
judged upon the grades I got when I was sixteen, seventeen. It
"But you're like, super smart. Annoyingly smart."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I snapped, realising that I had tangled
myself within a slight existential crisis. Damn Elizabeth. She
was such a child at times, and like my apparent intelligence,
"I'm failing five of my eight subjects," Stephen said in a voice
that was to begin with, lighthearted and assertive, but trailed
off in a slightly pathetic tone, "You're fine, dude."
"Don't call me dude, Stephen."
"Sorry," he shrugged, "But you're fine. Like you said, we haven't
even got a school to go to right now. And I know I gave you shit
in the past, but you're actually pretty cool, for a nerd."
"Thanks, I think."
The 'shit in the past' that Stephen had given me was actually
rather understated. He had made my life hell, to an extent,
although of course I was an asshole about the situation and had
pretended not to care- like I had better things to worry about,
rather than my games console and whether Benjy got fed and
walked. Despite the reputation that he had manifested, he wasn't
actually that bad a guy when you stripped back his gang of thugs
and the cigarettes he sucked the life out of before kicking at
old ladies and their dogs. It wasn't really bullying,
they picked on everybody, but being an insufferable know-it-all
like myself, they had persisted with the deteoriation of my
wellbeing a little further. Their comments about the way my arms
were too long for my body and how I would always put my hand up
first in Maths lessons weren't anything extraordinarily cruel or
vulgar, but their nit-picking combined with the added stress of
GCSEs had taken it out of me a little. They stopped soon after my
mother had caught wind of the situation and his friends had
fallen away, leaving him to sulk in the back of our car as we
drove him to school in deathly silence.
"It's kind of strange, isn't it," I said slowly, my eyes creasing
in thought, "That 24 people are just.. dead. They don't have to
care about grades anymore. Why should I have to?"
"Uh, because you are alive?"
I shrugged. "I just want to live, I suppose. When I was younger I
used to think that people died like batteries do, kind of
flickering on and off until they're eventually completely drained
and won't power anything, no matter how long you leave them to
settle. They're just empty. For old people and ill people that's
true, but the people who were killed, they didn't even getting a
'draining' period. They just went. Don't you think that's
"I've never really thought about it," Stephen said with a nervous
kind of laugh, "But yeah, it kind of sucks. A lot of them were
"They were all young," I corrected him matter-of-factly, "The
oldest was 34; that's still young. I don't want to just go like
"Bang," I ended softly, and Stephen got up and retrieved a couple
of cans of beer from the mini fridge. I shook my head as he
offered me one, and he shrugged again and cracked one open for
himself (I noticed that he spent a lot of time shrugging and
standing and smiling).
"How can you even drink that stuff?" I commented in utter
distaste as he glugged down at least a third of the can in one
very long sip. Of course, I said it as if I would never buy drink
as cheap as Strongbow, but the taste of alchohol in any form gave
me the shudders. I had been drunk only once, on New Year's, when
my Dad had forced a few Smirnoffs into my system and watched the
He shrugged again and downed another third (a little ran down the
corner of his sallow mouth which caused me to turn my nose up in
real distaste), "It tastes nice."
"You can't actually think that."
He laughed out loud, "You talk a good game about not caring,
Oliver, but you won't even get drunk with me. Lame."
"Actually," I began bitterly, perturbed that he was still
laughing through sips at my sour expression, "I think it tastes
cheap and gross and therefore I'd never put that rubbish in my
body. I don't want to get drunk. Happy?"
"You're so highly strung." I was quite impressed he knew the
definition of 'highly strung', given his school records that had
been discussed through whispers on the phone to my mother.
"I am not!" I said defensively, although it was hard to argue
"Man, you're highly strung. Here's the deal; you have two
expressions. One of them is looking slightly scared and the other
is an outright scowl. You're highly strung."
"I now see why I proved to be a good target for bullies," I
muttered, but he nudged my foot with a shoulder as if to
half-heartedly apologise on account of his criticism. I didn't
need his sympathy, or anybody's for that matter. It was me with
the open opportunity to go galavanting whilst he hung around in
his garage listening to crappy dubstep (even if that opportunity
had been extended by a fifteen year old girl with schizophrenia
who probably didn't know left from right).
I left Stephen's garage soon after he had finished his second
beer, and began the brisk walk home with my headphones tightly
packed into my ears. The paths were a little foreign for five or
so minutes into the journey, but after turning the corner that
housed The Daily Star (a newsagents that was beginning to look
painfully ran down) I knew my way. It surprised me that, in
mid-March, there were still piles of snow on the streets,
although they looked a little sad- the grey ice was now bleeding
down into the pavement just as winter was bleeding into spring.
Hopefully the new season would bring change to more than just the
Stephen was certainly happy, which I respected, but he was also
ignorant. He wasn't going anywhere. He would probably grow up
listening to the same songs on the same old stereo and start an
apprenticeship in the garage like his father had. If he had any
children, which given his sexual history had high potential,
they'd do the same. Soon enough the same vicious cycle would form
and his outsides may be happy, but nobody would remember him.
Nobody remembers the boy who worked in mechanics and had sex more
than once with more than one sexual partner.
I was the same, really, although unlike him, I had the embryonic
chance to change my fate.
"Alright, love?" my mother greeted me as it peaked 4:30 and I had
"Great, thanks," I said with a smile much like Stephen's, my
confidence suddenly swelling.
If you've woken up by then, find me and we'll talk.
It appeared I had finally woken up.