I kept thinking to myself, "Maybe if I throw myself out the window, I'll break just enough bones to get out of school for a few weeks. Provided I don't die horribly."
It was tempting. The windows were wide open, as usual. My high school's heating system had three settings: hot, really hot, and Satan's farts. Of course, rather than fix this problem, faculty felt it more necessary to use their budget to hire men who ate dog food for a living to come in and educate the kiddies about... something.
That was the only explanation I could come up with for the situation I was in. Instead of learning about Japan's industrialization period—hell, learning about anything, I was held captive in the world's worst comedy act. The other students watched, jaws hanging open, as the man in the front of the class held up a spoonful of kibble with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face. In a split-second, he popped the spoon into his mouth. Everyone started yelling and failing around as if he had just turned wine to gold.
The man—Ralph, as it said on his name tag, chewed for a solid minute, dragging it on as long as possible so the kids could yuk it up. He swallowed with a cartoonish gulp, patting his stomach as if he had just eaten the best meal of his life. A portly kid in the front row howled with laughter, slapping his desk so hard that it sent ripples up his flabby arm and into his pudding bowl of a face.
With a small hum, Ralph put a hand to his chin.
"Very dry," He said, an inquisitive look on his face. "It has a slight putty texture, contrasting with the crunch of the outer shell. There's a slight odor of chicken, too. Most exquisite!"
I need to get the hell out of here before I eat my own desk, I thought. My eyes shifted over to a man sitting at a desk in the upper corner of the room. His badge proudly read "LAYTON, C. - SPECIAL ED SPECIALIST." The wording's redundancy always drove me nuts. Glancing between Mr. Layton and Ralph, I learned over and quietly asked the former if I could leave to use the restroom.
"What's wrong, buddy? Don't like the show?" He asked, not exactly as quiet as I would have liked. While Ralph was busy getting something from his bag, the other kids all turned to watch me now. With these guys, everything was a spectacle.
I rubbed the bridge of my nose. "No, it's fine. I'm just..." My eyes moved to the left, catching sight of the open window right by my desk. "I'm just a little cold. I need to splash some water on my face."
"You know if you're cold, you can just sit closer to the others." He said with a big, cheeky grin.
I looked at the others halfway across the room. They were all staring and waiting expectantly for my answer. I looked back at Mr. Layton's smug face. Go on, it said. Go join the other school darlings and be laughed at by the rest of the student body. That's where you and your attitude belong.
It wouldn't have been surprising if, at any moment, they all started chanting "WE ACCEPT YOU, ONE OF US! GOOBLE GOBBLE, ONE OF US!"
I excused myself from the room.
Trudging down the hall dejectedly, I entered the bathroom I had become familiar with over the years. It was poorly lit, having only one working fluorescent light bulb flickering on and off. The whole room smelled like an unholy mix of crap and cheap cleaning products. Inside my favorite stall at the far end, which I quickly occupied, the walls were like my own personal news bulletin, with people always contributing their opinions in such colorful language.
This was my alternative to class.
I groaned, burying my face in my hands. "What am I doing here...?"
"I assume to take a shit." A voice from my left suddenly said.
My head jolted upright so fast it smacked against the back of the tiled wall.
"AH, FUCK!" I cried, clutching the back of my throbbing skull. I stooped over, seething with pain as I hissed, "You scared the fuckin' crap outta me!"
"Thank the lord you're on a toilet, then." The voice said. "Though it sounds to me that constipation is not your only problem today. Care to confess?"
"What are you, a priest?" I asked, still rubbing my head as I sat up.
I snorted, thinking, That's just great. Another comedian. Alright then, 'Father', I'll humor you.
"Yeah, I have a problem," I said. "My problem is that I'm stuck in the real life equivalent of Barney the Freaking Dinosaur. My problem is that the one person I should be turning to for help is a sociopathic know-it-all. My PROBLEM is that my only source of relief is hanging out in a bathroom where the varsity football team shits in the urinals for kicks, and now talking to random monks who do confessionals on piss-stained toilet seats!"
I rammed my foot into the back of the stall door. "My problem is that I'm too damn self-aware to be with these idiots, but too much of a head case to join the rest of society like a normal person. You happy now?"
There was a long pause between his answer before he finally said, "Okay. Your sins are forgiven."
"MY SINS?!" I yelled, sitting up. "What the hell are my sins??"
"Calling mentally disabled people 'idiots' for one." He noted. "Your insecurities have given you a sense of elitism among your peers. The truth is, kid, you're no better than anybody else."
I was flabbergasted. "Yeah, well," I sputtered furiously. "Screw you, Friar Schmuck! You have no idea what it's like!"
"Then tell me." He said, never once reacting or raising his voice. "Do people bully you?"
"God yes," I said, grimacing. "People take advantage of my anger all the time. I'm way too easy to irritate..."
"I can tell."
"OH SHUT UP!"
"Sorry, sorry." He said. "Believe me, I know what it's like to get picked on."
He went quiet. I thought for a moment, before asking him, "How do you deal with it?"
"Simple." He said. "I stopped giving a shit."
I frowned, relaxing my shoulders. "Of course. I haven't heard that from every friend, guidance counselor, and divorced dad before..."
"Well, they probably leave out one important detail," Friar said, suddenly sounding much more earnest than before. "And that's how much High School isn't going to affect your life in the long run. You said you have friends, kid? Hold on to those, and just bullshit your way through everything else. Because when this is all over, they're the only part that will have any importance to you."
Suddenly, I heard the door to the bathroom swing open. Someone with a slight southern drawl called out, "Y'done in there, Frankie? I need ya'll t'come on n' take a look at Martha, engine's acting up again."
I heard the Friar let out a deep belly laugh. "Crazy bastard, you couldn't wait until I was done taking a shit, could you?"
"Shucks Frankie, y'all know me." The second voice chuckled. "Can't leave a good car sittin' when I'm behind the wheel. I'll let ya finish your business, meet ya outside, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, get outta here…" The Friar's voice paused, before turning his attention back to me. "Sorry to cut this short, kid. My friend's a chronic racer who can't handle maintenance to save his life. You take care, and remember what I said!"
I sat there, listening to him grunt as he sat up from his seat and exited the booth. From the gap under my own stall door, I could see a pair of hairy sandaled feet step up to the sink as the water turned on. I could hear him humming a small hymn under his breath as he washed his hands. I continued to listen even as he stepped out of the bathroom, hearing his little song fade further and further, echoing down the long, lonely hallway. Then it was silent once more.
Alone again, I sat on that dirty toilet in a stunned silence, wondering what in the living hell had just happened. I tried to reason it all out, wracking my brain with questions and answers, trying to replay everything piece by piece. My thoughts were interrupted as the door swung open again, this time to a voice I recognized.
"Hey kiddo, you're taking a long time in there." I heard Mr. Layton say. "You feeling okay?"
"Uh..." I shook my head, regaining focus. "Yeah, much better. I was just a bit fatigued, but I'm fine now."
"Well hurry up, okay? Ralph's gonna tell us how they make cat food, and I don't think you wanna miss that!"
"Sure," I said. Then, before he could leave, I added, "Tell him to save some for me."
"ATTA BOY!" Layton said with a laugh. "I'll be absolutely sure! He'll love that, I tell ya!"
I waited quietly as he left, chuckling giddily to himself. I could tell he thought he had finally gotten to me.
But after a few seconds, I simply smiled and said to myself, "Who really gives a shit?"