Read. Write. Repeat. Aspire to be a Janitor.
Draw a line. Now, draw another line. Were they parallel? Perpendicular? Did you make them touch or keep them separated? Did you even draw the lines? Find a piece of string and wrap it tightly around your finger. First, you will feel the pressure build. It will start to burn. Then- nothing.
I couldn’t remember why I went to my room. My legs were propped on my mattress and I was on the floor looking at the ceiling. My teacher always told me to draw lines. I never could. The green crayon was perfect. Why destroy a perfect crayon? It was fresh out of the box. Flat top, not pointy. I liked to keep things in their original condition. No wear, no tear.
There was a knock on my door. Without getting up, I turned my head to the door and said, “Come in.” It was my friend Louis. His arm was in a cast and he had a sharpie in his hand.
“Whatcha doing?” Louis asked when he sat down on my bed.
“I don’t remember. I came into my room to do something, but I forgot what it was.”
He held the marker out for me to grab. “I want you to sign my cast. You can write anything you want. Nothing dirty, of course. My mom will get mad.” I looked at the cast. There were hearts, names, and a scribbled out blob. “Ricky drew a penis. I had to scratch it out.”
I grabbed the pen and tried to write my name. It’s not easy to write on a cast when you are upside-down. “Whoa! What’s wrong with your finger?” Louis grabbed my left hand and pulled it closer to his face. “When did you wrap that string it? You’re going to make it fall off.”
“Only a couple of minutes.” It was purple. I unwrapped the knot. I wanted to see what it felt like. I bent the finger and it ached. I gave up on trying to sign the cast. “Can I write on it later?” Yeah, when you get up, I’ll let you try again. What are you doing on the floor, anyway?”
I was tracing patterns into the ceiling with my imagination. They made daytime constellations. “Just thinking. I don’t remember how I got down here, but I’m comfortable.” I tilted my head to look at the door again. Julie was there giggling at me. She was the worst. She always made fun of me. “Get out of here. I told my mom I didn’t want to see you anymore.”
She walked toward me looking down. “She likes me. She doesn’t believe you.”
“Mom! Get Julie out of my room,” I yelled at the door. “Mom?”
“Deal with it Abel. She’s not even here.” Julie sat down cross-legged by my head. “Do you know why nobody likes you? Because you’re stupid and smell weird. Nobody likes smelly people.”
“People like me.” I said closing my eyes wishing she would go away. “I have a lot of friends.”
“Louis. He’s my friend.”
“Louis doesn’t have any friends either. You’re the only one. You should get married if you like him so much.”
“Let me alone. I don’t like you. Get out of my room.”
“You can’t even draw lines. Teacher says you’re stupid, too.”
“She doesn’t say that.”
“Does too. She just doesn’t say it to you. You have to be the dumbest kid in school.”
I pulled my box of legos from under my bed. Still on my back, I opened the lid and started making a tower. It would be tall if I stood it up. Blue brick. Red brick. Green brick. Blue brick. Red brick. Green brick. I imagined little people looking out of the holes of the tower. There was a knock on my door. “Come in,” I shouted.
Louis walked in the door. “Whatcha doing?”
“I’m making a tower.”
Louis had a cast on his arm. “You want to sign it?” he asked holding a marker out for me. I grabbed it and took the cap off.
The teacher is always having me draw lines. I can’t ruin the crayons. The green crayon is fresh out of the box. She is always having me draw lines. Julie drew a line on my face. She took the marker from my hand and drew a line on my face. There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” I yelled.
If you take a piece of string and wrap it around your finger, the blood will build up and your finger will feel hot. It will feel like it will explode. Then, you don’t feel anything. I tried to draw lines. I couldn’t ruin the green crayon with its flat top. There was a knock on the door. Julie was standing in it laughing at me. “Julie, get out of here. I don’t like you.”
“I’m not Julie, Mr. Thomas. You have a visitor.” It was my teacher. My teacher brought my mom into the room.
“Mom, tell Julie to go away. She won’t leave me alone. She keeps making fun of me.”
“Shhh, Dad. It’s alright. It’s me, Sandra. Do you remember me?”
I didn’t want Julie to ruin my tower of legos.
“Mr. Thomas, why do you have marker on your face? Let’s get you off the floor.” The teacher put her hand around my arm and helped me onto the bed. “Here, I’m going to get a wet rag. Your daughter is here. She came to see you.”
“Do you want to sign my cast?” asked Louis.
“Mom, can I sign Louis’s cast?”
“I’m not your mother, dad. It’s me, Sandra.” She brushed my hair out of my face. I bent down to pick up my tower. “I’ll get it, Dad. Don’t worry about it. What were you building?”
“A tower. I don’t want Julie to break it.” I imagined little people peeking out through the cracks of the tower. “Julie said that the teacher thinks I’m stupid because I can’t draw lines.”
“That’s not true, you try your best every day Mr. Thomas,” Teacher said as she was trying to wipe the marker off my face. “How did you get marker on your face?”
The fabric of the rag was making my skin burn. “Julie marked on it. I was trying to sign Louis’s cast.”
Mom looked at me with sad eyes. “He’s getting worse.” She grabbed my hand and brought it up to her lips to kiss it.
“Mr. Thomas, you have to remember. Julie isn’t here. She can’t mark on your face if she’s not here.”
I leaned back on my bed. “Well where is she?”
Mom sighed. “Dad, she passed away. Mom- Julie died fifteen years ago. She isn’t here anymore.”
I grabbed a piece of string and started wrapping it around my finger. “No, no, Mr. Thomas. That will hurt you. Hand me the string.”
I looked at the tower sitting beside me on the bed. “I need to sign Louis’s cast. He broke his arm.”
Mom turned to Teacher. “Who is Louis?”
“We think it was a childhood friend. All he can tell us is that Louis broke his arm and that your father wants to sign the cast. He never does. The memory stops before he signs it.”
I wanted to draw a line. “Can I have the marker. I want to prove to you I’m not stupid.”
“Mr. Thomas, you’re not stupid. You don’t have to draw a line to prove that. But here, let’s try again.” She turned to Mom. “He can’t draw lines with the crayon. He doesn’t want to ruin the tip. He tries very hard with the marker. Here you go, Mr. Thomas,” handing me the marker and putting paper on the desk beside my bed.
I tried my hardest. I couldn’t draw a straight line. My had was shaking too much. I can’t sign Louis’s cast if I can’t draw a straight line. I don’t want to ruin the green crayon.
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