Looking Behind

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
My walk to the bus, on a cold PA morning.

Submitted: February 20, 2008

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Submitted: February 20, 2008

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Looking Behind

By Landon "Victor" W. Gray

Quickly and quietly he rolled out of bed. Looking at the ground a few feet below, he knew it was a long jump. Not to long, not near enough to cause damage, but enough to send the shock through your legs. Maybe it would help wake him up, which he certainly needed. He slept in a modified closet, configured to be a bunk bed which in theory is a fantastic idea, and really it was. The only problems were that it had a tendency to become stifling hot when the doors where shut and the jump to the ground was sometimes rough on the seventh graders legs. Gritting his teeth and bending his knees, he jumped landing in a roll that at this point had been perfected for absorbing shock. He learned how to land the fall from watching a show on paratroopers on the History Channel.

Getting to his feet and taking one long last look at his bed and thinking how much he wished he didn’t have to deal with the hell that was school that day, he frowned. He noticed the light coming from the window behind him was gray as it reflected off the wall. And though he was praying that he was wrong, although he knew he was right. The same old gray overcast with light flurries. He resented it, not just the weather (although that was a major part). He hated the place, he hated the air, the view from his window. He hated the way his parents fighting kept him up at night. He hated most all the people because most people there seemed crazy. He hated the neighborhood he lived in, its wealth reflected on by its insincerity. Everything seemed fake, made up to look pleasant, instead of being pleasant in nature.

The name of his sub-division was fake. ‘Kings Glen,’ a name fit for royalty to make potential buyers feel good about purchasing a home there. The houses were fake. The ever-smiling faces were fake. It was a totally unreal place to be for a kid from a small town in Ohio.

He turned back around, walked out of the door of his room, his ‘safe zone,’ and down the hall to the left, right into the brown and yellow bathroom. The shower always seemed to portray the image of being absolutely filthy, mostly because of its dark brown color. Any residue or dried soap showed on the tub. He reluctantly stepped in, and began his morning routine.

In the morning, you seem to run off some sort of reserve energy. From the moment you put your feet on the floor to the time when you find yourself behind a little square desk, you are running on some sort of auto pilot system. Movements are automatic, emotionless. Your body does everything it needs, your mind is just along for the ride, spectating.

He was no exception. He watched as he saw hands put shampoo in his hair. He stared blankly as the hands rubbed it in, and then washed it all out. He started to get out of the shower, and saw hands grab a towel and wrapped it around a cold body. After a moment of drying off and pulling on the clothes of the day, he continued with his routine. ‘Brush teeth, wash hands, comb hair-ah not today, doesn’t look like it needs it, put on deodorant, check to make sure Paul woke up, breakfast, shoes, backpack, and out, be sure to look backwards.’ His routine was uniform every morning. He had the time each task took calculated, and adjusted for whenever he woke up. This morning he had woken at 6:32 AM, so he’d need to shave some time off breakfast to make up for the two minute difference. After getting out of the shower, he made sure his brother had awoken and had left; his brother’s bus left even earlier than his. When he got downstairs he looked at the microwave clock. It was 6:47 and he was running late. He looked at today’s selection, Cap’n Crunch or Frosted Mini Wheats. He took the Mini Wheats and filled a bowl. The milk in the fridge had expired, so he would need to put the cereal in a bag and eat it on the bus.

He would have plenty of time to eat too. He smiled in quiet anger. In the beginning of the year, his bus stop was at least fair. He was picked up early, but was the first to be dropped off after school. Now here in November, he was getting screwed out of two hours daily. He would be picked up at 7:13, always the first man to step on the bus. He would then ride the bus for an hour listening to kids yap about everyone else and why they where a dick or a slut or loser. He would ride quietly, trying to sleep sometimes, but mostly stayed to himself. After school was no different, if not worse. He would be awake and unable to sleep, forced to listen to kids yap about everyone else and why they were a slut or dick or loser. He would be forced to reluctantly listen to them even when he tried to sleep until his hour long bus ride was over, and he would be dropped off at 3:55, the very last to step off the bus and onto ‘free soil.’

He put the cereal into the bag, and reached for his lunch in the fridge, placing a frozen ‘Capri Sun’ drink in with it. The lunch hadn’t changed in years. The theory was that lunch meat will go bad in the time between being taken out of the fridge and eaten at lunch. To remedy the situation, his mom made him place a frozen solid drink in his lunch to keep the meat cold, and then by the time it was lunch time the drink would be thawed. In reality, the drink was still a solid cube of ice at lunch, and the weight of the drink crushed the sandwich into a flat, moist piece of bread, meat, and mayo.

He could now see the extent of the evening’s snowfall outside the window; he could see where fresh snow had fallen on the grill on the patio. There was more than he thought, about a foot and a half out there. His heart swelled, eyes became as big as dinner plates, and a shot of adrenaline rushed through his veins. There was a chance-a small chance, but a chance none the less. As he ran to his computer he was doing calculations of exactly how much snowfall was needed and what the chances were that this was enough. The bus system was often halted from snow, for it was a relatively wide school district. But his heart sank; the white glow of the screen illuminated the saddened expressions on his face. The site read “Snowfall was salted by road crews at 4:30AM EST, school is in session today for the Council Rock School District.”

Looking at the screen, then back at the snow, then back at the screen, he was in disbelief. ‘There’s no way’ he thought. His one shot at escape this morning was over. His joy turned to sorrow. He would face those people again. He would fight the battle in his head that told him to just run. Run out and away. Push the double doors open and take off, down by the football field, then to the left into the woods. Then he would wait, and when the buses came at the end of the day he’d just hop on, act as though nothing happened, go home, and face his parent’s wrath for skipping school. That was the battle he fought everyday, and it was real.

He found his ‘Ozark Trail’ backpack laying just where he had dumped it off the previous afternoon; right by the door. But there was only one shoe on the floor, when there should’ve been two. He looked under the couch where it might’ve slid in, and found nothing. He looked by the front door. Panic flooded his mind, if he missed the bus he would need to ask one of his parents to give him a ride, who always asked him the same thing; ‘Why did you have to ask me?’ They took it as a personal sign of ‘I like the other parent better so I don’t want to wake them.’

Then he remembered, under the computer where he spent all his afternoons, if he wasn’t playing Xbox. Looking next to the modem which rested on the floor, he found it. The time was 7:02, and he was a minute late leaving the house. He noticed on his way out the door his that left strap was loose on his backpack, and adjusted accordingly.

His foot punctured the tranquil layer of the snow, and as he walked he kicked up the powdery substance into little piles. He was about 15 meters away from his house when he had his reoccurring terror set it. Had he pulled the door shut all the way? If he hadn’t, had his dog ‘Gracie’ run outside? Looking backwards his heart was beating very quickly. He could feel it as he ran back to the door, and opened it. Inside the foyer he was relieved, Staring back at him with confusion with puppy eyes and a little smile he saw her, his pride and joy. His friend that was so important to him. The one friend he had that knew him best. The one friend that he knew would stand with him no matter where he moved to, and would always want to curl up and sleep in his lap no matter who had decided to pick on him that day. Gracie was his world, his rock; the little dog brought him out of so many depressing days, and hard times. She understood him, she knew when to be happy, when to be there to cheer him up, and when to beg for food, which happened to be all the time.

He gave her one last pat on the head, and watched to make sure he shut the door all the way until he heard the familiar ‘click.’ He was glad she was safe. He never worried about his cat, Thomas. That gray and white juggernaut of a cat could find his way around anywhere, and was a hunter from birth. But Gracie was small and fragile, and her feet got cold after only a few minutes in the snow causing her to cry.

A quickened pace was now necessary, the time it took to check for the dog might’ve made all the difference between riding the bus for an hour with those people, or facing the long walk home to his parents. He moved quickly, not a run though. He was in no way an athlete, unless you count Halo or Call of Duty a sport. He was not a people-person, at least not there in Newtown Pennsylvania. The people there were different. Much more into rap and hip-hop, much more liberal, and mostly just into everything he wasn’t interested in. He found the History Channel and reasons why the ‘trickle down theory’ worked interesting. He listened to bands like Primus and Led Zeppelin. He hadn’t heard of the term ‘MC’ or the artist known as ‘Tupac.’ He hated them. Shear resentment was all he felt when he looked at the kids there. He hated how they dressed, with chains and big jewellery. He hated the way they talked about other people without even giving anyone a chance. But most of all, he hated the way they weren’t-nor could ever be the same as his friends back home. He hated the thought of growing up, and going to the high school that looked more like a prison and missing out on making friends back in Oakwood. He hated the idea of not walking the streets of Oakwood with his friends on a summer day, contemplating what to do with the evening. He hated the idea that he would never again feel accepted by everyone, that he would never again be a man that everyone would say ‘yeah, he’s a friend of mine.’ It kept him up at night, his rage mixed with sorrow, and no one to talk him out of it. He had accepted the fact he was alone in this hole, this fake place, full of fake kindness and fake caring. He hated everything and he hated everyone.

Well almost everyone. He had four people outside of the house he regarded as friends. One, a girl whom he met on the first day of living there named ‘Vicki’ and another down the road who was a retired Army Captain and Vietnam War veteran named David Christian. He had two friends named Stephan and Brendon. But even they couldn’t help him. Capt. Christian gave him a job working in his yard and thrilling war stories and they became good friends. Stephen and Brendon wouldn't wanted to discuss this stuff. Vicki would sometimes ask if there was anything wrong, but he’d never answer. He found two reasons for this; the first was that he saw projecting feelings to another was a sign of weakness. The other, was that his family needed to maintain an image of normalcy and to speak about the horrific things he had seen would compromise the way people looked at him. He was a ticking time bomb. He was cold and hard. He went to school and looked like stone. No one could make him happy, the only thing he ever seemed to be was pissed off or nothing at all. He would take ridicule not by retaliation but by just letting it sink in. The seventh grader never gave into letting people know what was going on in his head. He was a vault without a key.

He took the shortcut past Vicki’s house. In the middle of ‘Kings Glen’ there was a field named the ‘common area.’ It was about the size of two football fields, and had a massive crater that used to be a pond and it also sported a double tennis court. The snow had picked up, and he could see Vicki ahead of him by about 75 meters. He walked under a tree with low branches and he felt his head get caught up in a bunch of twigs. Finding this a strange occurrence, he reached up and felt his head. The water from his shower had frozen and turned to ice, and he wished he had a hat. Shrugging it off in his usual emotionless manner, he continued on. It was 7:09 when he got to the corner of ‘Kings Glen Rd.’ and ‘Taylorsville Rd.’

The usual grey Audi A4 was sitting right next to the sidewalk where the bus stop was. Inside the car were other kids who also got picked up by the bus there. And as usual, the passenger window rolled down and a smiling face he recognized as fellow student asked him if he wanted to sit in the warm car and wait for the bus. And as usual he denied the opportunity, and for several reasons. The first reason was that except for Vicki, he didn’t know them that well and would feel awkward sitting in there with nothing to say. Second, he had walked to school in much worse weather back in Oakwood and didn’t need to sit in a car like a pussy. He could take the weather. The third, was that he didn’t like them and didn’t need their shelter and aid.

So he stood in the cold, waiting, alone. He felt awkward standing out beside the car which he had just denied entry, But he had to follow his words and reasoning with resolve, so there he stood, 550 miles from home in the neighbourhood known as Kings Glen, in a place called Newtown, next to an Audi A4, in the snow, at 7:09 in the morning.

Finally, he saw it to his left, yellow lights flashing back and forth to the left and right. His angel of death, his one way trip to all the things he hated the most. The kids piled out of the car, and stood behind him, laughing and talking. Vicki came up and asked him how he was doing.

‘Fine, and you?’ He lied as he grabbed the handle next to the stairs that led up to the seats of bus number 96. He didn’t wait for the answer, merely nodding as she rattled her response. He climbed up and walked straight to the back, laying his backpack down on a seat, which he figured would remain his for another 25 minutes until the bus was so full he’d have to let someone take the seat next to him.

A smile started to form on his face. ‘25 minutes of peace, 25 minutes of my own little place in the back of the bus’ he thought as he slowly drifted off to sleep.

Three years later, this eleventh grader sees life through a different perspective. He sees the value in great friends, and knows the pain of losing them. He knows what it’s like to be cold and dead inside and also knows what it feels to be awoken and alive. He wonders if it was all just dream. When he sees the street signs in Oakwood it reminds him of how amazing it is that he is home. He still wonders if it was a miracle of God that he is back home. He wonders if anyone could ever experience the same thing he did back in Pennsylvania. He wonders if it made him wiser. He still has questions, and only time will give him the answers.

 

The End.


© Copyright 2017 Victor Gray. All rights reserved.

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