As I predicted, due to my lack of sleep, I performed less-than-satisfactory in every class, resting my eyes, failing to comprehend even the simplest instructions, and forgetting all my previously taught knowledge. By the time lunch rolled around I couldn’t wait for the first part of my day (school) to be over and my second part to start which consisted purely of learning things I was actually interested in by doing my own, pleasurable research. Fizzy and I always sat alone in a secluded corner of Westlake by a tall, oak tree. Today was no different, however I wasn’t hungry due to my earlier food indulgence during first period which, to Fizzy’s delight, allowed me to give her my complete, undivided attention as she complained about some kid that had ignored her completely today when she was talking to him and pondered what color to paint her nails next. When she asked my my opinion regarding her nails, I smiled slightly and plainly stated, “White.”
My last, but favorite period was science. Astrobiology, to be more precise. Fizzy shared every class with me except that science, and while this did cause me to miss her for this brief period, sometimes I was glad she was absent from this part of my day because it allowed me to focus on the subject without any distractions. Today, as I was attempting to reach a comfortable position in the tiny, plastic chairs that had been in use for decades, trying my very best to pay attention, I got the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Slowly, not to draw attention to myself, I swiveled around in my chair, my own sickly, grey eyes met Ian’s accusatory, brown ones. I quickly turned around again, not eager to draw Ian’s attention, especially after the incident on the bus earlier today, but I could still feel him burning holes in the back of my head throughout the entire class. As soon as the last bell of the day rang, signaling our release, I swiftly packed up my belongings and beelined for the door, eager to avoid any more confrontations with my ex-friend, however I wasn’t so lucky.
“Felix!” a booming voice that carried over the chaos of students socializing and rummaging shouted, so loud I knew it would be futile to pretend I hadn’t heard myself being so clearly addressed. I tried to force something that resembled a smile onto my face as I turned to face my addressor, but all I managed to achieve was a concerning grimace. There was Ian, walking straight towards me until he stood directly in front of me, the closest we had been in weeks.
“Can we talk?” He questioned me, cocking his head slightly to the left but not mustering up the courage to look me in my eyes. I had to suppose that maybe he did feel a slight twinge of regret for exhiling me so easily, judging by his sheepish body language.
“We don’t really have anything to talk about,” I uttered coldly, brushing a swallow strand of hair out of my eyes. Ian’s composed appearance faltered a bit as I caught a flash of hurt beneath his features but it faded away so quickly, I might have imagined it.
“Please, Felix,” he murmured, then almost as an afterthought he added, “I’m worried about you.” I looked up at his face, checking for signs of sincerity and was surprised to find that this time, he was staring at me as if I were a real person, with real emotions, like I was the same person he had used to call a friend. I sighed and, giving into my better impulses, I began walking towards a nearby bench, gesturing for Ian to follow me. He promptly accompanied, a look of relief on his face. I was about to open my mouth to ask what this was all about, but Ian beat me to it.
“Before I get into the more, uh, pressing issue, I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for dismissing you so easily after your incident. I know how hard it must have been to be abandoned by people you had thought to be loyal friends. I don’t blame you for being mad at me, at us, our actions were disgusting.”
I didn’t really know how to respond to this. He was right, of course. It was very hurtful to be brushed aside as an unstable individual by people that I thought supported me but I had gotten over it. Luckily, Ian didn’t give me an opportunity to speak my mind, seeing as he was already continuing.
“Um, anyways, I wanna share something with you but can you please promise me that you’ll listen to me before you, uh, freak out or anything?”
I processed this a bit before I responded. This was definitely not the direction I had expected this conversation to go in and strongly considered just standing up and departing our bizzare exchange, until curiosity got the better of me and I felt my head nodding in agreement. Ian offered me a small smile that I did not return, then proceeded.
“Okay, well you probably didn’t know this but my family actually has a history of mental illness. I don’t want to get into their conditions, it’s not really significant, but my point is that I’ve been present to their many mental breakdowns and I’m kind of adept at recognizing the symptoms,” he began slowly, taking care to choose his words carefully.
I was smart. I knew that I was smart. I also knew where this conversation was going. I didn’t like it.
“After your incident, I couldn’t help but recognize a certain familiarity in your actions that I knew only too well from countless, ruined family gatherings.”
No. Stop talking.
Ian sighed. “Not to seem like a stalker, but every since that day I’ve been observing you, watching to see if you exhibit any more of the, um, warning signs.” He stared at me straight in the eyes as if he were gazing straight past them and into my subconscious. I had gone rigid all over and felt as if someone had dropped a cold ice cube down the back of my shirt. Ian had paused and was staring at me as if he expected me to say something. What did he possibly expect me to say? How does someone respond to what I’ve just listened to?
Unfortunately, Ian took my silence as an invitation to go on. “Look, I have a lot of experience with this type of thing, and trust me, I know what happens when a mental disorder goes untreated. I could assist you in getting professional help, maybe seeing a therapist. It’s very beneficial, in fact I’ve seen lots of shrinks to cope with my family and they really do work..” Ian rambled on but quickly closed his mouth when I help up a hand to silence him.
“Is that what you think I am?” I said softly, “Some insane person that needs professional help?” I felt a fiery rage assembling inside me, causing my cheeks to flush a burning red. He looked panicked and began shaking his head, starting as if he were about to speak again but I didn’t let him. I had finally found my voice and I wasn’t going to lose it to shock again.
“How dare you overlook me for weeks, refusing to acknowledge my presence and then the first thing you say to me after you decide it’s time for my exchile to be over is proclaiming I’m psycho and comparing me to your nutter family.” Ian visibly recoiled but I did not care. Even though I was furious, the words left my mouth in a dull voice, with a disconnected tone. I calmly picked up my backpack and stood up. I was disappointed with myself for ever thinking that Ian could have had something useful to say in the first place.
“Felix,” he said weakly, “Please don’t leave, we should talk more about this. I’m just trying to help, I didn’t want to offend you.”
I merely shrugged. “Well,” I said flatly, “You did.”