Breaking His Silence
By. Susan Reed
Dave is a troubled young man starting his first day of high school. He is a shy, quiet boy who finds it difficult to trust anyone. Can anyone break through to him?
The boy woke and readied himself for another grueling year at school. He threw on a pair of faded jeans with his favorite Ramones shirt and a long black shirt underneath. A young man not wanting to conform to society’s standards, he didn’t care what his peers thought of him. Or teachers. Or people as a whole. People always seemed to let him down.
He walked down the stairs and tried to stay as quiet as humanly possible. He planned it to slip on his midnight blue converse shoes, grab his threadbare book bag, and steal a pack of Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts before darting out of his house. He didn’t want to disturb his mother because he loved her and she needed rest. He didn’t want to breathe wrong when he walked in front of his father, passed out in the living room, because he feared him.
Today was his first day of High School and the summer heat pounded on him in August as it did last month. Summers in Atlanta were always scorching.
If he were celebrating his birthday like any normal fourteen year old, he would be welcomed home with a small party and ice cream. However, his birthday would go unnoticed just like so many other things. He took a bite of his Pop tart, savoring the taste, and glanced at one of the scars on his arm for a brief moment before pulling the shirt down to cover it.
He tossed the wrapper in the trash bin when he noticed a group of kids he hadn’t seen all summer. If he never saw them again, it’d be too soon.
“Oh, look. It’s Dave. I ain’t seen him all summer. Aw, he’s pouting. Poor little baby, you come to school all by your wittle self?”
Dave rolled his eyes and pulled his bag closer to his body. He sped up his pace and kept his eyes forward.
“Hey! Asshole! My friend is talking to you,” said one of the larger football players and rushed to stand in front of him.
Dave sighed and looked up at him, following with his eyes, then to the boy’s chest, and then back again. He narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw. He said nothing but hoped that if he stared the boy down, he’d back off.
“Jamie. He’s not worth our time. Let the sissy go,” the boy’s friend said. Jamie looked down at Dave and snarled before he pushed him on the back.
“Get outta here!”
Dave’s heart raced as he finished his walk to school. He wished that he could have just one good day.
He pulled out his class schedule. All he wanted was to go directly to his first period and not hang out in the hallway any longer than necessary. He’d rather get the entire day over with. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a TARDIS or any other means of time travel so he would just have to deal with the burden of reality. He allowed himself a brief moment to smile when he saw that his first class was History. He had taken the necessary exams to become placed in the Advanced course.
Thank God for small favors.
He arrived to class first and chose the seat in the front row. He laid out all of his materials and crossed his leg, turning to the first chapter, and skimmed over what he assumed his first class would probably be over. Before he turned the next page, Jamie and his cronies made their appearance. How in the hell did they get in this class?
They took the seat behind him. Dave looked to the ceiling and groaned. He figured they would. They really should back off.
Dave felt the warmth rush to his cheeks when they started their laughter and heard paper crumpling behind him. He counted to himself, knowing what was to come.
The spit wad hit him on the back of the neck.
The boys gave each other high fives and started making loud baboon noises. Dave turned around and saw the teacher finally arriving to class. Mrs. Smith’s heels echoed with each stride towards the group.
“Is there a problem here?”
The boys started to settle down and shook their heads. Jamie spoke for them, “No. Nothing wrong, Mrs. Smith.”
Of course, like any teacher should, she had her doubts. She looked down at Dave and pointed to Jamie’s group.
“Is that true Dave? Are these boys harassing you?”
Dave looked up at her and then at them. The same group of boys that have been a thorn in his side since he could remember. He was about to open his mouth before thoughts of doubt crept into his mind.
Maybe this time was different? Maybe she really did care? Of course she doesn’t. Why would she?
He blinked his eyes and pulled back his raven hair, shaking his head ‘no’.
He turned his back to all of them and opened to Chapter 1 of the American Pageant.
He came here to learn and that’s what he would do. When it came to being bullied, he learned long ago school was not a place you should tell a teacher.
He tried once, when he was in third grade, and was immediately ostracized. Jamie had tried to cheat off his paper and he thought telling was the right thing to do. After all, he did the work. Why should Jamie benefit?
When he refused, he was rewarded with a mauling during recess and was told not to tell. He didn’t listen and went straight to his teacher.
Mr. Beauregard didn’t place a second thought in doing more than scold him. He made if very clear that no one liked tattle tales. It didn’t matter that Jamie and his life-long friends, gave Dave a black eye and swollen lip. No, life was never that simple.
He was punished by standing in a corner as class continued while the teacher made a big show of him.
“Children! This is what happens with little tattle tales.”
As the memory flooded resurfaced, he gripped his number 2 pencil hard in his slender fingers and broke it in half. He closed his brown eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose for a moment. He couldn’t concentrate worth a damn on what Mrs. Smith was even lecturing about.
Such a wonderful day. Think I may know how Jamie got placed in AP History.
His hand trembled when he bent over to retrieve a new pencil from his bag. Trying to concentrate on the vocabulary terms needed for their quiz on Friday, he found it hard to focus on anything. Slumped over his notes, he lightly touched one of the scars on his arm before he started copying the words.
The bell startled him and brought him back to the real world.
The rest of the morning went by much faster and Dave’s stomach painfully grumbled. Lunch time finally. He opted for his food of choice. The Pizza Bar.
Standing in the long line, he crossed his arms over his thin frame and tapped his foot while he waited.
He hummed “I wanna be sedated” and picked up his tray. He grabbed his slice and paid the lunch lady. A summer of mowing lawns certainly came in handy for small pleasures.
He looked around the cafeteria and found an empty table. Heading over to take his place, the next moments went by so quick he didn’t realize what was happening. He fell on his face, pizza the only thing between him and the tile floor, and Jamie standing above him with one foot planted on the small of his back.
“Kiss my foot, worm.”
Dave shook his head and grunted. He would be damned if he kissed this idiot’s smelly sneaker. He tried to get up but more weight pushed down upon him. He balled his fist up and swore as soon as he had a chance, he was going to use it. He was fed up. Enough was enough. The other students surrounded them, cheering for the Goliath of a boy to beat him. Everyone loves a blood bath.
He heard teachers running to the scene through the mayhem and pulling the bigger boy off him. Dave jumped to his feet. He turned around – fist balled and ready to go. The principal tried to hold him back but Dave broke free and landed a punch square on Jamie’s jaw. He felt a smirk form on his lips, his heart pounding in his chest, and a fist connect with his right eye.
The four teachers finally broke the fight and stopped it just as quickly as it started.
As he sat outside the counselor’s office, he held the ice pack to his eye and wondered if things could ever be different. He was so tired. Tired of being afraid of everything. Of everyone. He stood up for himself, sure, but he had a long way to go. The black eye was definitely worth seeing the look of shock on Jamie’s face.
The counselor opened the door and motioned for Dave to enter the office.
“Good afternoon, Dave. Take a seat. Care to explain what happened in the cafeteria?”
Dave slumped in his chair and shrugged, holding the ice pack to his eye. He gazed at the guidance counselor for a brief moment and turned his attention to a loose thread on his jeans.
The man took a seat beside him and smiled before he spoke, “You know? It is all right to talk with me. My name is Dr. Anderson. I see that you have a birthday today.”
Dave nodded and cleared his throat.
“Well, happy birthday.”
Dave glanced at Dr. Anderson and furrowed his brow. He licked his lips and opened his mouth for a moment. He wanted to break his silence. But, after being quiet for so long, he just didn’t know if he should. Worrying that it might be a trick, he sighed.
“I see you like The Ramones. I’ve been to one of their concerts. It was years ago in the eighties. Long before you were born.”
Dave tilted his head and looked the older man in the eye. This grown up was different than the others. He wasn’t wearing wire rims. Instead, he had a pair of black and white checkered frames and he actually smiled. He had long, dark hair. To be honest, the man didn’t look one bit comfortable in his dress shirt and tie. If Dave had to guess, he’d image that Dr. Anderson would feel more comfortable wearing something like his own outfit. He cleared his throat and finally broke his silence.
“What was it like?”
“It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, Dave. It was sad when Joey passed away.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t even a year old. I like that song U2 did for him. In a little while.”
Mr. Anderson nodded and smiled sadly. “How’s your eye?”
“Hurts a bit.”
“It looks like it. Care to talk about what led to that fight?”
Dave bit his lip and nodded, “I want to but…I don’t know. And I got a hit on him, too.”
“That you did. Just take your time, Dave. It’s what I’m here for.”
“Thanks. Maybe in a little while.”
When Dave half-smiled at his counselor, he thought that things could be different. Maybe he could stop being so afraid. Standing up to Jamie. Mr. Anderson, an adult, that actually wants to listen.
Things would be different.
RIP Joey Ramone May 19, 1951 ~ April 15, 2001