Grad mass.

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short account of how one young boy processes failure and the impending pressures of life.

A boy of 18 walked from the pub towards his school with mischievous intent. It was late, the night was black and windy with shots of rain blowing sideways through the arcs of light created by the tall streetlamps. He walked with two friends on the night of their graduation mass towards what was soon to no longer be their school. They had all received exam results that day and were expected to go on to college or find a job to start. This boy had only managed to secure a miserable score, he was angry with life and with himself.

“I’m going to break that bitches window” he said. Not really knowing what he was going to do.

The others laughed nervously. But followed out of friendship and love. They didn’t share the boy’s intentions, but they felt bad for him. He came from a more difficult family. It was a broken family, one that loved alcohol more than theirs, one that had allowed him to run a little wild in recent years. Onwards they went, over the old football pitch and climbed the wall into the school grounds. The “bitch”, referred to, was the boy’s art teacher. For the past two years she had managed to suck any sense of creativity or enjoyment out of a subject which he loved and cared for. In this moment she came to represent everything bad in an education system he felt had failed him. He was hurting deeply inside, his pride was wounded because he fancied himself to be smart, but obviously not smart enough to get a half decent score in the leaving certificate. He was young enough to feel lost in the face of a wide-open world, young enough to misdirect passion into mindless destruction, both towards himself and the people around him.

Onwards they drunkenly marched, the laughter and jokes becoming less frequent now that the possibility was more real. They were at the side of the school where people went to smoke cigarettes and flirt with each other during the day. The ground was covered with fag butts, behind the wall separating the school from an old soccer pitch the ground was littered with joint butts and used condoms. It was probably the wilder of the three schools within the town.

The wind picked up and created a howling sound through the front gates. All around them trees swayed back and forth deeply into the night, all adding to the sense of abandon and chaos permeating between the three boys. They were there, young and idealistic, trying to desperately vent a feeling they couldn’t really grasp. Anger, sadness, loss, hope, it was all mixed together with a lifetime of forced obedience and a feeling that he had really nothing to show for it. The boy looked around for something to smash the window with, anything, at the opposite end of the carpark was a drainage ditch which he walked towards. Inside he could make out an assortment of rocks and rubble that had been dumped out of sight. Without thinking too much he slid down the ditches steep bank and into its mud beneath. The bottom was six inches full of water, muck and shit. The putrid smell hit his senses and made him immediately sorry he was there. It only made him angrier. His two friends stood above a little shocked and nervous. They hadn’t seen him like this before. He picked up a big square concrete block and walked towards the bank but slipped with its weight and became further covered in rank mud. Breathing heavily and gritting his teeth against more humiliation and stupidity, he steadied himself on his hands and knees and rose to a standing position. He picked up the block once again and walked slowly towards a less steep bank of the ditch. The anger and youthful rebelliousness had festered in the ditch and became something uglier, another embarrassment had turned it into something more like rage.

Up he came, carefully balancing his weight against the rock he carried in front of him. The boys looked with a little bit of pity. “Hey maybe we should just go now, you’re drowned”

“Yeah forget it man, its getting a bit silly now.”

The game had lost its momentum for them, it was still raining hard, the wind was tearing through the night like a train. “No” he said. “Go if you want”. The window was right there, the window he had looked out of in quiet suffering these past years. The window that would provide some satisfaction on a day that’d had none. He positioned himself in front of it holding the block in both hands. Vaguely he was aware that this was a moment he might regret, that he still had a choice to go home and swallow his pride. No, the sadness was too much, the darkness and need for retaliation had to be recognized. He moved all his body forward and threw the block towards the window, it crashed against the glass and rebounded onto the ground without making much of a mark. He looked in disbelief. The others laughed. The glass was reinforced, toughened double glazing. Hot tears were behind the boy’s eyes, he bent and picked up the block slowly again with a methodical desperation. The window pane was chipped and cracked, but it remained whole. This time he hurled the block from a more overhead angle, projecting it from his right shoulder with venom. The weight was again absorbed and rebounded by the glass to the wet cold ground. The sound both attempts had made were fierce and visceral, complimenting the wildness in the air. Both his friends now were worried, and a dog started barking somewhere across the field.  

Behind them was the main road which ran directly in front of the school and joined two large housing estates, they were in a dangerous position if a car came along and its occupants decided to glance inwards. This kind of thing would demand severe punishment. Perhaps a court appearance, certainly a serious fine, and of course worse, the dreaded blackening of their names which was the guaranteed inevitable in a small Irish town. The network of gossip ran fast and strong in places of a certain size and disposition.

Currently oblivious to any of this, the boy looked both miserable and defiant. He had accepted the simultaneous pointlessness and need to complete this physical act of defiance, regardless of losing face in front of his friends. They recognized this and gave some words of encouragement. Again, he bent down and grabbed the block with both hands and raised it high over his head. He was tall for his age and stood at 6 feet. He walked backwards creating a longer distance between himself and the widow. Standing there in the windy rain, drenched and muddy with a concrete block held above his head he looked manic and sad, but he felt justified and good. And he was justified and good, there couldn’t be any real bad in him so young, just misguided energy.

He ran at the building, covering four large steps before arching his back and bringing his upper body forward like a catapult. The block flew out of his hands like a missile, and what seemed like an aching moment of repeated failure, turned to glorious success as the projection of all his fury, rage and sense of worthlessness worked together to cut into life. Spirit is life which itself cutteth into life.

The block had completed its purpose in grand style. The window was in smithereens and the block had smashed through completely, landing on one of the tables closest to the back wall. Coincidentally it was where the boy had sat during class, perplexed at how boring an art class could be. Now it was just a desk with no hold over him, a desk he had failed to glean anything of worth from, and perhaps this was the real crime which the boy sensed on an unconscious level. He had failed to succeed in a world that valued success. He doubted himself and his intellectual worth because of what others imposed as a standard. But now, for a few moments he had taken control again of a driverless train and retaliated at the only place that he knew. Now he was breathing with satisfied fury, feeling the dangerous possibilities of free will tingle in his hands.

Wondering at the meaning of it all they turned away from the window and walked towards home in reflective silence. They thought like kids that are young adults do, a little worried that they would get caught and not sure if they should say anything at all they simply said goodbye at the crossroads. The boy was finally alone with a mile or so to go to his bed. He didn’t really like being at home much, preferring to drink or party weekends away. But now he had to face himself and the solving darkness of bed. Emotion and confusion stirred in his stomach like a witch’s brew. The nights activities and atmosphere made it feel like a supernatural and special night. One where change could occur if the moment were right. To his right stretching into darkness was nothing but fields, and without thinking he climbed the wooden fence and walked through the high wet grass towards the light of the poacher’s moon. Tears were quietly streaming down his face. He walked and walked through the cloaked darkness, occasionally surveying his position when the clouds parted briefly. It was wild in here. The trees felt like angry giants mocking him for trespassing. This was the land of fairies and banshees, and on another night maybe he would have felt a pang of irrational fear, but now he simply walked silently and let the tears come. Badgers and rabbits heard him from a distance and scurried into hiding as he past.

These were his childhood fields, where he had spent years playing football, exploring new lands, foraging apples and lighting fires. As he walked in a trance like state the wind died down a little. The giants became less irate and relaxed as they watched this lonely figure walk sullenly towards nowhere in particular. The air lost its cold bite and the new silence brought with it an intense calm in the world. The boy was aware of this change in atmosphere and stopped to look around. He didn’t know where he was in the darkness. There were tree lines barely decipherable on the horizon and moody clouds passing quickly overhead. But it was achingly beautiful, and this made more tears come. Looking up now for a change he stood alone and lost in the world. Funny how there was such wind up high he thought and none here with me, and with that the clouds broke revealing the stars. He was miles from any house, the ether was crystal and completely devoid of any light pollution. He sharply inhaled in awe of the celestial beauty and stumbled backwards to fall flat onto the wet ancient ground. Those stars were immense and complex, they burned like beacons of hope and transfixed his attention, completely snapping his mind out of its trance. He thought of a quote he had read that week by Vincent Van Gogh, “Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all”. It was enchanting, he had forgotten that for a while and he felt ashamed and grateful. He felt alive and afraid, he realized he was afraid of what was next and with that he smiled. He lay there for quite a long-time marveling at the universe. Before standing he promised himself to never forget to try and look up, no matter what. He promised himself to hold tightly with both hands the truth, which was that life and the world is beautiful, and its beauty and complexity is constant and separate to his suffering and would always be there waiting for him to embrace again. He stood up, still completely wet but more alive than he had been in a long time, perhaps ever. The wind picked up and blew across his smiling face.



Submitted: February 25, 2018

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