His appearance is perfection. He is a varsity baseball player and has the perfect physique. It is as though his biceps are purposely formed on every shirt he wears. No girl fantasizes about him like they fantasize about the other guys. The other guys fit their descriptions of what is “normal.” He doesn’t. He is socially awkward and keeps to his own little group of friends. All of them are labeled “losers.” I don’t want to be seen talking with him. That would be, as the common high school cliché goes, social suicide.
One night, I am sitting at my computer and see that he is also online–of course, he added me as a friend on a social networking site. I would never do that. Ever. Anyway, I start talking with him. Eventually, our conversation begins to get interesting.
“I keep my friends in striations,” he says.
“Yeah, you know there’s the sun. Then the planets go out in striations, but the first striation is always empty. And girls never get past the fifth unless I have some romantic interest in them.”
“You LOL too much,” he responds.
“I like to laugh, is there a problem with that?”
“Oh, no. Of course not.”
The conversation goes on for at least three more hours. The way I imagine him, he is a robot sitting in front of his computer with no sign of wear from the clock that reads 2AM. He is always in control of his behavior and words. Nothing can penetrate him and neither does he allow anything to come near him. I try to end the conversation with a “good night.”
“There’s no need to be so formal,” he replies.
“Well, I’ll be formal and you can say bye however you like.”
The next day, I am walking to school as usual when I come by the house on the corner. The blue paint is peeling, the screen door holding on to the hinges for dear life, and a few of the tiles that are supposed to be on the roof now lay in a pile in the front yard. I slowly walk along the sidewalk trying to get a glimpse of the darkness inside. A light turns on.
“Why did you turn on the light?” a frail woman in worn out pajamas yells. I can only see her greying hair and wrinkly arm clutching a wooden cane. “We don’t have enough to pay for the bills yet!”
“Who do you think you are to talk to me like that?” yells a deep voice, “It’s not like you’re the one paying the bills. I’m the one who is working to support this family! I am the one who is taking care of that grandchild of yours!”
“He’s your sister’s son!”
“Well, he’s not my son!”
My pace begins to quicken as the yells become muffled sounds in the background. I know who lives there. I can’t believe he was able to sit on the computer and talk with me for hours while all of this is going on in his house. I hurry to school so that I am not late. I know he’s always on time to class. Maybe it’s to avoid the sight of the crumbling house by getting out at dawn.
In school, there is not a hint of recognition in his eyes as I walk into class and take a seat across from him. Occasionally, however, there are short glances toward my direction. I quickly look away if he sees me staring. No one thinks it is polite to stare regardless of the reason.
During lunch he sits with his friends in the corner of a circular room. The way I imagine it, the corner exists in his mind. He is a complicated person with a complex personality, I don’t think anyone knows what is going on in his mind, not even his friends. I want to know what is going on in his mind, but I do not ask. How does his uncle treat him? Why does he live with his grandmother? Where is his mother? I get up and go to class. The thoughts are left like unwanted orphans.
A few months have passed since the last time I talked to the socially awkward guy. I still see him, I still pass by his house, I still notice his lack of attention. I don’t say anything. He seems really controlled for a guy going through so much. I don’t give it much thought.
A month has gone by. As I am sitting in math class, the usual voice comes on overhead.
“Good morning everyone,” the coordinator of student activities says, “I would like everyone to please have a moment of silence for the recent death of a student.”
My heart begins to beat loudly into my ears as I frantically look around. He’s not in class. Everyone is looking at each other. They search for the possible secrets that someone’s eyes may hide. No one says a word for the whole minute.
“Thank you. Please rise for the pledge of allegiance,” the voice continues.
For the first time, my legs are too weak to hold me up. I stay seated. More students than usual get up to say the pledge. I was always the one who got up no matter what. Not today. I can’t.
After class, I hear everyone talking about him. It is as though he was her best friend or his lunch buddy. They all pretend like they care when they didn’t look twice at him during his life. He was the awkward guy, no one cared about him. He was reserved despite his strength. He was reserved despite his hardships. He was reserved despite them and their jokes.
“I think he was having family problems or something. I don’t know. It’s really sad,” says a girl trying to get the attention of a guy who is also on the baseball team.
“Yeah, it is really sad,” he replies.
I don’t say anything. The story isn’t for me to tell. I didn’t know him.