I wake up to the sound of my alarm just like any other day of the year. Except today is special, today is my 17th birthday. I wake up and stare at the ceiling for what seems like an eternity. I try to picture the ridges on my ceiling as snow-capped mountains I will one day explore. Frigid ice caps that only a few are brave enough to climb for fear of freezing to death. Maybe one day I could have been a great explorer. I could have been in the history books as the youngest man to climb Mount Everest or to have discovered some unexplored island where all the dinosaurs live. And just as my daydreams start to get good my second alarm goes off, my daydream alarm, which throws me back into reality. The reality where I’m not an explorer, but instead I’m a high school recluse.
I never understood why people receive gifts for their birthdays. In fact, I don’t see why people make very big deals in general about birthdays. There are only 365 days in a year and over 7 billion people in the world. A person shares the same day they were born with roughly twenty million other people. Yet, we praise people for doing absolutely nothing to come into this world. In fact, you actually do worse than nothing coming into this world. You scream and cry and inflict pain on your procreator for extensive amounts of time, and yet your family and friends celebrate those moments for the rest of your life as if you’re some champion, some conqueror of worlds for being pushed into their lives.
If it were up to me, I would say you should have to give back on your day of birth. One day a year, at least, for a chance to repay the people in your life that have had to put up with you. A day to show the people in your life that you were born to better the world we live in. Maybe life wouldn’t suck as much if people did this. Maybe I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if the world we lived in actually gave a rip for me. But it’s too late for that because it’s my birthday, and I’m giving the world what it has asked for since the dawn of my very existence. Today I’m going to better the world in a way that I have deemed worthy on a grand scale.
I wish myself a happy birthday because like any other day, my parents had to get up early for work so I am home alone. This is the hospitality I am greeted with every morning. I don’t see my parents much anymore. Most of our communication is now through notes left on the fridge or texts sent from mostly dormant phones. Most of them telling me what chores need to be done, none of which contain any sort of “happy birthdays”. Today’s message was “Don’t be late for school again,” both over text and a note left on the fridge. But this does not faze me. I did not expect anything from them. How could you expect something from people who barely exist, or barely know you do?
My morning routine is different this morning than most mornings. For one, I am ironing my favorite pair of cargo pants. It’s my birthday, and I want to go out with a bang, so, why not look at least as fancy as I can. They are black cargo pants with about a million pockets. The pockets are extremely hard to iron since there are so many of them, but I wouldn’t want to wear pants with any less. The pockets are my favorite part of the pants. See, in normal pants, you can’t carry as much as you can in cargo pants. I think a lot of people discredit the usefulness of cargo pants. I use certain pockets for certain things: one is used for pencils and pens, one is for trash if I’m not next to a trash can, of course, one is used for my phone, and one is used for random stuff I find throughout the day that I think is worth keeping. I don’t really use the back pockets for much other than my wallet and random, slim assortments.
It is also a different morning because I am using my favorite shampoo and body wash. I have to use it sparingly because the company that sold it went out of business and no other shampoo/body wash smells quite the same. Granted, I have 13 bottles of each because when I heard the news about the company’s failure to stay alive I stocked up on all the department store had. I still have to use it sparingly. But since today is a special occasion, and after today I won’t have much use for these cleaners, I don’t try to ration them as much as I usually would.
By the time I am done with my shower my pants have cooled off from their extensive ironing. It has started to rain outside like I was hoping it would. Usually, I ride the bus to school. I sit in the front to avoid being irritated by the “cool kids” in the back. Today, however, I will be walking to school. I usually do when it rains, or on any day I don’t feel like starting off my day surrounded by underdeveloped hormonal high schoolers, especially on days when it rains.
The bus pulls up to my driveway and honks, but I stick my head out the window and yell to Mr. Macrellin, “Sorry Mr. Mac, but you won’t get to enjoy my presence today! It’s my birthday!” Mr. Macrellin, on cue, rolls his eyes and his chest rises and falls which means he has sighed a sigh of disgust. He sighs a lot. It’s his trademark. If we were to play a game of charades and someone had to act out Mr. Macrellin, they would more than like roll their eyes and sigh obnoxiously loud. Mr. Mac isn’t a bad guy, he just doesn’t like people. I guess I understand where he is coming from since I don’t like people either, but I at least try to hide it. I guess I’m not too good at hiding it since people don’t like me, but they seem to enjoy showing their dislikes more than Mr. Mac does. But today is the day I give them all what they want, and maybe then they will be happy. But not before I pick out a shirt.
It’s a hard decision, especially since all of my shirts are my favorite. If I could wear them all, I would. But since that isn’t a plausible option, I do the classic eenie-meanie-mynie-moe. I land on a black shirt that depicts an astronaut standing on the moon waving at the earth. I like to imagine that he is waving goodbye to the earth. That he is starting a new life free of human beings. If you think about it, living on the moon wouldn’t be too bad. Sure eventually you’d run out of breathable air, but you wouldn’t be surrounded by all the negativity people can bring into your life. You’d be able to see the most beautiful side of the earth, the one that’s separate from the earth itself. So thank you fate, for choosing such a marvelous shirt for me to wear today!
I skip breakfast because it takes a little longer to walk to school. I could eat breakfast and walk at the same time, but I really want to take it all in since it’ll be the last time I walk to school, and especially since it is such a beautiful morning. It’s rainy but not a total downpour. I like it when it rains because I love the smell of wet pavement. It reminds me a lot of my childhood when I played in the rain with my best friend, Josiah.
Josiah and I use to be really close. We would spend entire weekends at each other’s houses and have competitions to see who could stay up the longest. He would always fall asleep first and then claim he was pretending to sleep so that I would actually fall asleep and he could win. The prize was usually the biggest chocolate chip pancake his mother made the next morning. His mom made the best chocolate chip pancakes. Sometimes she would make different shapes out of the chocolate chips. My favorite were the smiley faces she made. She would always say, “Please don’t eat me! I’m just a poor defenseless pancake!” And after she was done with her terrible excuse for a pancake monolog, Josiah and I would devour all the pancake people we could manage.
Josiah’s dad was pretty awesome as well. He was the picture perfect image of what a totally chill dad should be. He had this red Lazy Boy chair he would sit in every morning while smoking his pipe. Josiah’s mom would usually nag him to open a window so the house didn’t smell like smoke. He read the newspaper out loud while we ate breakfast. My favorite stories were the ones that involved cops doing cop stuff. I never really retained any of the actual stories he read, I just liked to hear about justice being upheld. I guess I just really like to hear about how things are the way they are supposed to be.
Josiah’s dad would also say things that sounded really wise, but we never really knew what he was saying. He would say things like, “Life has wings, but you control how fast it flies,” and “Don’t be oblivious to life, or you won’t truly be living.” I still don’t really know what he meant. I guess you can’t really call what I’ve been doing “living.” I’ve just kind of been existing. I guess my life’s wings have been clipped and I’ve been completely oblivious to it.
Josiah and I stopped hanging out at the end of 8th-grade year. It all started the day we went to on our class’s field trip. That whole day it rained but we were going to the science museum so it didn’t really matter. We were going on the field trip as a reward from the school for “graduating.” They said that the most important thing the world has to offer is the people in it and that we are one day going to be offering the world what we have been taught. I didn’t really care about what they said that morning. I was just excited to stand inside the hula hoop that has soap all over it and have Josiah pull the rope that makes the bubble go all the way to the top. The whole ride there that’s all Josiah and I talked about. He said it was impossible but I ensured him that it was a feat that only two best friends could accomplish. When we got there we raced straight to the bubble hula-hoop. I know it wasn’t as many times as it seemed, but it seemed like we stood there for hours pulling that rope hundreds of times. But then, the impossible happened. Josiah was getting a call from his dad so he had to step out of the hula hoop, but I was bound and determined to make the bubble wall reach the very top. I wiggled the hula hoop a little bit in the soap to get it good and soapy. Then, planted my feet in my best I-can-do-this-because-I-am-the-bubble-master stance, and slowly pulled the rope to the very top. Inch by inch the hula hoop rose dragging a cylindrical bubble wall behind it. It slowly crept up to my knees and then above them. It rose to my belly button.Then to my chest, and eventually it was at my nose. The bubble started to become concave so I took a deep breath and sucked in my stomach. I pulled the rope further and further until the bubble was above my head, and then, at last, the moment I had waited for all of 8th grade for, I felt the hula hoop hit the top.
You see the world differently through a bubble wall. Everything looks foggy and there are a million different colored blotches all over the bubble; like an oil spill in a gas station parking lot. Everything looks a little more beautiful through a bubble, especially a bubble you have waited all year to make. Everything is also a little more serene like the whole world is at peace. I let out a huge Mr. Mac sigh, and my stomach touched the bubble wall causing the whole thing to collapse, leaving nothing behind but soap residue on my clothes. And although the moment inside the bubble was brief, it was a beatific moment. And I had to tell Josiah about it.
I looked around for Josiah but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I thought maybe he wandered off to some other exhibit. It would be like him to give up on something so easily. He usually did give up on our who-can-stay-up-the-longest competitions; so I wasn’t surprised when he gave up on the bubble. It wasn’t until I couldn’t find him in any of the other exhibits that I started to worry. But you have to know that Josiah was a reasonably smart kid, so I didn’t worry too much. His dad probably came and picked him up, or maybe he was waiting on the bus. When he wasn’t on the bus I decided to go with the former.
The field trip was on a Monday so I didn’t expect to see Josiah again until Tuesday. To my surprise, he didn’t show up for the rest of the week. On Thursday I was pulled into the student councilor’s office. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I was doing and how I was handling the “situation.” I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. That’s when she told me about how Josiah’s mom died in a car accident. She was driving just fine, but the man that hit her had apparently been intoxicated. He was in a coma, but Josiah’s mom died on impact. At first, I thought she was lying, but when she started crying I knew that she wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat there and watched our counselor cry and apologize for crying. The rest of the day was a blur, the whole week was actually. Her funeral was Friday after school, so my parents and I attended. That was the first time I had seen Josiah since Monday. He looked like he had been crying all week. His eyes were red and puffy and he kept sniffling which usually annoys me, but his mom was lying in a casket not too far away so I didn’t tell him to stop. We didn’t say much but halfway through the service, he ran to the bathroom crying so I went after him. He was standing over a sink he had turned on. He looked in the mirror at me and then turned around to actually face me. I had words on the tip of my tongue but before I could figure out which words they were he put his arms around me and started crying. I embraced him and let him cry because God knows I didn’t have the right words to say and it just felt like the right thing to do. I just wish I had someone now to let me cry on them.
I also like it when it rains because it brings out the worms. Most people don’t like worms, but I feel like I can relate to them so it’s nice to have their company. I mean, they love to take walks on rainy days, they don’t bother anyone, they keep to themselves, but still, people end up hating them. I don’t even think God likes worms because he created birds to eat them. If you think about it, he allows it to rain to draw out of the worms, and then when the rain stops the birds come and eat up all the worms. It’s a sad cycle of life, but the worms are really the ones at fault. You’d think they would learn by now not to fall for this cruel prank played on them by nature.
The walk to school takes about 25 minutes. The walk with breakfast takes 15. I’m glad I didn’t bring breakfast. Although if I brought breakfast I would not be late for school. I am ten minutes late when I arrive, but I don’t really care. I don’t really want to spend my last day on earth at school, but I don’t want to spend it alone at home either.
When I enter my first-period class, my teacher, Mrs. Heckle, stops mid-sentence to look up from her book, British Literature 101. She peers at me over the top of her glasses that seem to be defying gravity the way they sit on her nose. She closes her book, thumb in page, and in her most demeaning voice asks, “Garrison Montgomery, why are you late…again?”
“It’s my birthday,” I say with a wide grin.
“So, because you were born today you’re better than everyone else here?” She said while smirking as if she had won a playground argument. But this was no playground.
Before she could open her book I interjected with, “ma’am, I think we are on the same page.”
“How can we be on the same page? You don’t even have your book open.” This got a few chuckles from the class.
“Ma’am, what I mean is, I don’t think birthdays are all that special either. I mean, tons of other people were born on this day too, and new people are probably being born as we speak…”
“Sit down Garrison!”
“But wait! What I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry for inconveniencing you since you are obviously better than all of us since you are the teacher. And more importantly you…” At this point in our discussion, she began to glare at me more intensely than before letting me know that I should shut up and sit down, which I did.
As I sit down I hear the class murmur about how I’m a “freak” or “such and idiot.” I know what they all say. I hear it every single day in this prison of an institution. They all hate me, and I haven’t done a single thing to any of them, but they still do.
I don’t like Mrs. Heckle. Her lessons are boring and she picks on me during class. Every time she makes us read aloud in class I am always the one she picks to read. I don’t like reading aloud because everyone else talks while I read and Mrs. Heckle doesn’t tell them to stop. I also have no clue what I’m reading. She makes us read archaic stories about outdated ways of living. I think the only reason she understands what the stories are saying is because she was alive when they were written.
Today she doesn’t have us read. Instead, she tortures us with one of her famous lectures. I doodle in my journal the whole time. I like to think that something like the holocaust will happen here in the U.S. and I’ll die and one day someone will find my journal of doodles and put them in a book. I have written that out in greater detail in the front of my journal just in case that actually happens. More than likely it won’t, but a boy can dream. Today I am drawing an old man wearing a birthday hat. I’m guessing he is close to sixty. He is balding but so it is with old age. He also has a melancholy look on his face like he’s happy that it’s his birthday but he knows he’s just one year closer to the end. I think a little bit of myself wishes it was a picture of me, but I don’t see how that’s possible since I won’t be here much longer.
I stare into his pencil drawn eyes and see a little hope of a future to come, but quickly chase away the thoughts. I can’t keep telling myself that things are going to get better. I have been telling myself that lie for three years now and things have only gotten worse. I can’t keep living like this, and I won’t.
The rest of the day goes on just like any other day. I slide my way through the halls going mostly unnoticed except for a few sarcastic remarks like “nice pants, loser,” or “happy birthday, dweeb.” Who even says “dweeb” anymore? No one, except maybe dweebs.
When lunch time comes I’m starving. Maybe I should have eaten breakfast to lessen the repercussions of the day. Mrs. Heckle wouldn’t have been so mad and maybe a couple fewer people would have put me on their hate list for the day. I also wouldn’t be so hungry. It feels like my stomach is eating itself.
I don’t eat lunch at a table, I don’t even eat it in the cafeteria. I take my lunch as far away from the cafeteria as possible and eat it in the west wing bathroom. It’s not the most pleasant place but it is the most private. I sit in one of the stalls playing music on my phone and try to digest any of the toxic waste the lunch ladies serve us. I like it in here because no one else comes all the way here during lunch. There are at least three other bathrooms between this one and the cafeteria so I’m usually safe. On occasion, there is a wanderer who finds his way into my porcelain domain, but no one ever stays too long when they realize Garry Montgomery is lurking nearby. I’m usually late to fourth period because I spend too long in here, but I’d rather be here than class.
Just as I finish my first taco I have the sudden urge to relieve myself. Being the suitor that I am, I realize that it would not be very wholesome of me to use my own toilet, so I use the nearest urinal. Our urinals are the basin ones that look kind of like a mini toilet. When I start to finish up I hear the door crack open. I stiffen up and stare straight at the wall. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stick up. Hopefully, they will go away if I just stay like this. But they don’t.
“Hey, Gary. I heard it’s your birthday.” I know that voice. It’s Kendall Rothesburg, he’s a jerk. And where Kendall is his lap dog is sure to follow.
“And we have a present for you.” Yep, the dog himself, Bill Kaiser.
These guys have been giving me crap since high school started. One time they pinned me to the cafeteria wall and filled all of my pockets with pudding. I don’t know why they do what they do. I don’t remember ever doing anything to them, but I don’t think they really need a reason. It’s just who they are.
“You finished?” Kendall asks motioning to the urinal I am currently “occupying.”
“Yeah, did you want to…?” And before I can finish my sentence Kendall has grabbed my arms and pinned me against the urinal. I can feel the crotch of my pants begin to dampen from the water in the urinal basin.
“Aww, did little Gary wet himself?” mocked Bill.
“No.” I retorted. I knew it wouldn’t gain me anything, but I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of being silent.
This didn’t please them in the least. I felt Kendall push me closer and then he gave Bill a nod. I knew what was coming, I was being flushed. Bill stepped up to the urinal and flushed it repeatedly. My pants were now completely soaked in the front, but this was not a job well done; not yet. They took my arms and dragged me into one of the stalls. “Happy birthday, Gary,” Bill said as they both dunked my head into the bowl of the toilet. They then proceeded to flush my head and laugh the whole time. “Wow, what shampoo do you use? You smell like an old man, Gary. I think you need another flush.” So they dunked my head into the toilet once more. And that’s where they left me, pants soaked, hair soaked, and all dignity torn from me. Happy birthday, Gary. I was left kneeling at my altar of shame.
A month after Josiah’s mom died I had called him to see if he wanted to hang out. I went over to his house. He seemed a little distant as if he wasn’t all there, but all somewhere else. His face was also a little bruised but he said it was because he got hit in the head with a football. I asked him when he started playing, but he didn’t reply. I don’t remember what we did that day, it wasn’t very memorable. The only thing I do remember is that when I was leaving he told me that he didn’t think we could be friends anymore. I asked him why and all he said was that his dad thought I was weird and that not a lot of people wanted to be around me or us. I remember being furious with him. We didn’t need anyone else. I had no clue what he was talking about. Plus, we liked the same things, so if I’m weird than he is weird too. I didn’t need him anyway. I made the bubble reach the top all by myself. I didn’t need him then, and I don’t need him now. I don’t need anyone.
I get off my knees and stare at myself in the mirror. I see my damp cargo pants, my drenched hair, but what I really see is a mistake. A boy that wasn’t supposed to be. And a boy that will soon be no more. I look into my eyes and see the old man I drew in first period. I see how I want to grow old and live an adventurous life. I want to be liked and have friends. Go to parties or have actual birthday parties of my own. I just wish that was possible. Just as I start to cry, another person walks into the bathroom. It’s Josiah.
“Oh, sorry man,” he says as if he just walked in on a boy completely lost in his own shame.
“You’re fine,” although I wish he would just leave.
It took a long awkward silence but then he asked. “So, how’s life?”
“Good,” I lie. Couldn’t he see I was soaking wet? Or did he just assume weird Gary did this to himself?
“That’s good to hear man.” And then another awkward silence followed. I stare straight ahead into the mirror. He just stands in front of the door. I know he feels awkward like he doesn’t know what to say. I don’t know why he doesn’t just leave. But then he speaks up again, “hey, remember what my dad use to say? ‘Don’t be oblivious to life or you won’t be truly living’?”
“Yeah, he used to say it all of the time.”
“Well he doesn’t anymore,” he said sadly, “but I finally figured it out.”
I don’t know why he is telling me this. I know he doesn’t like me. Maybe he just feels bad for me because I’m soaked or because he knows I eat by myself in the bathroom every day. Either way, we just stand there in silence. He just stands and stares at my face in the mirror, I stare into my own eyes avoiding eye contact and hoping he leaves. But after a few moments of awkward silence that seems like an eternity, he clears his throat and begins to explain his father’s life-long mantra.
“I think he meant that you have to realize, at some point in time, that you aren’t really living. Like, not everyone has to. Some people just know how to live, I guess…”
“Are you saying I don’t know how to live?”
“No, man, I just suck at explaining things.” He then takes a deep breath, steps towards me, put his hand on my shoulder, and makes me look him in the eyes. “What I mean to say is I’m sorry. I was oblivious to life. Not just my own, but yours as well.”
He just kept looking at me with his hand on my shoulder. It was warm and I could feel the sweat of his palm start to dampen the shoulder of my shirt, but I knew what he was saying was sincere. “You just look miserable and I feel like it’s my fault.”
These last few words started to tick me off so I shrugged his hand off of my shoulder and took a step backward bumping into the sink. “Well, it is. You were my only friend and out of the blue, you stopped hanging out with me. I mean, I know your mom died and all but come on. I tried to be there for you.” I heard my voice catch in my throat so I took a second to collect myself before continuing. “You ruined my life, and all I did was try to make yours better.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, but I didn’t look away. I let Josiah see the glistening in my eyes of the tears that have waited years to flow. I hated him for what he had done, but I so badly wanted his friendship. I’m not sure if these were tears of anger or of sorrow, I just knew I wanted him to see them.
“When my mom died I needed someone to blame. Eventually, I started blaming you for my mom dying. I told myself that if I hadn’t been there with you making that stupid bubble my mom wouldn’t have died. That I could have saved her, somehow. When she died my dad became another person. At first, he blamed himself for what had happened. But then eventually he started finding other people to blame and then took it out on me. And so I also blamed you for him changing. And so I told you I didn’t think we should hang out because I didn’t want anything else to happen. I didn’t want me being with you to cause anything else to go wrong. I was oblivious to life. And I’m sorry.”
He was telling the truth. I could tell. But I had more questions and I wasn’t going to let them go unanswered. “So why now? Why not sooner? What’s so special about today that you had to tell me?”
He looked down as if he were searching for the word to say but couldn’t find them on the floor. He stuck his hand in his back pocket pulling out a tiny bottle wrapped in what looked like scrap paper ripped from a paper bag his dad had drunk from, with a tiny red ribbon tied poorly around the neck of the tiny bottle. “It’s your birthday.”
He handed me the paper packaged. I untied the small ribbon and put it in my pocket, and then proceeded to unwrap a small opaque bottle filled with soapy liquid. Bubbles.
I clenched the bottle in my fist and my mouth stood agape as I stared through the little bottle of bubbles. Why now? Why today? Questions I really did not want to be answered, but I asked myself anyways.
“Hey, Garry, you okay?” Josiah asks and takes a step forward but stops short at the sound of the next few words I utter.
I do not know why I said them, nor where they came from. I just knew that after all of these years I wanted someone to hear them and that someone had to be Josiah. And having Josiah here alone, and having me here so vulnerable, I just let them go.
“I’m supposed to kill myself today.”
I know this caught him off guard. The expression on his face told me so. But what came next was a shock to me. Josiah hugged me, full force.
My hands fell to my side as I stood still staring past Josiah’s ear at the tiled bathroom wall behind him. But I did not focus on, nor take in, anything other than the fact that I don’t actually want to kill myself. I just wanted to feel this. I just wanted to feel real again.
My arms crept up, and I embraced Josiah. The fact that he knew today was my birthday and he remembered how much the bubble meant to me; it all felt real.
Then the bells rang, and Josiah and I knew it was time to go. He said he would “Catch me later” and then walked out of the bathroom. I turned and looked in the mirror at my soaked hair still dripping wet from the second bath given to me by my feral antagonists. But it no longer fazed me the way it did before. I didn’t like the way my hair was before, anyways. I ran my fingers through my bangs and slicked them back with my fingers.
I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked at the redness around my eyes from crying. I looked at the wet spots on my pants from the urinals water basin. I looked at my hands and then looked at the small bottle in my left hand. I turned it over in my hands a few times and felt the liquid shift with the way I moved the bottle. And then I spotted an embossed letter on one of the sides. It was a “G”. G, for Garrison. I smiled.
The rest of the day went something like the first half except a lot happier. I drew another picture of an old man except he was smiling, I knew now that I might have a shot at living to be him. I wrote my mom and dad a letter for my birthday telling them how much I love and appreciate them. Telling them that I miss them and that I wish we saw each other more often. I told them about how I was going to kill myself but then scratched that part out. I don’t want them to know about that just yet.
At the end of the school day, I stepped outside and the world around me seemed so much brighter. Not just because the clouds had cleared up a little from this morning, but just because my outlook had changed. I felt more positive.
As I walked toward the curb I took in everything I could. The kids playing soccer in the field. The kids getting on the busses. Kendall and Bill were off in a corner harassing a smaller student for his homework, or money, or just because they could. Josiah had offered me a ride home, but I told him I was fine walking. It was, after all, a very beautiful day.
I take one last glance at my high school. I told myself that although the majority of this place was terrible, there was still some good here. And that I would have missed it. I turn and step into the street breathing a sigh of relief. Knowing that this isn’t the last time I will step off this curb. And maybe next time I’ll have Josiah next to me. But for now, the small bottle of bubbles will do.
Halfway across the street, a flash of light hits me from my right peripheral. A loud burst of sound follows along with a long piercing screech. And before I can turn to see the oncoming vehicle, I am being knocked into the air by a forceful impact. Time slows as I fall onto the damp pavement.
First, my head hits the pavement and then a small plastic bottle. Everything happens in a matter of seconds, but when you’re the one it’s happening to it seems like an eternity. Time seems to slow down in the midst of a tragedy. A surge of pain bursts from my skull and shoots through my body. The uncapped bottle hits the ground and the contents spill onto the blacktop creating the rainbow oil spill effect once again. A few drops of the bubbly water land on my face, the same way that the bubbles at the museum did. The pavement smelled the way it did this morning, wet and hot the way it always does after it rains. Just the way I like. I smile knowing that if there was a tomorrow it would have been a good one. I would be sitting next to Josiah at lunch and not alone in a bathroom stall. I would take my seat in Mrs. Heckle’s class without any bickering. I might even have brought her an apple. I would wait for mom and dad to get home and hug and kiss them both and thank them for providing for me and for having jobs that pay the bills. I would smile the way I’m smiling now.
The smell of copper rises to my nose as my head begins to feel light. My whole body feels light like I’m floating. I’m smiling. I like smiling. And even as the world around me fades to black, I smile.