Episode 3: Remember the Mission
I’d already slid from my seat as the final bell rang. I could hear it coming from a mile and thirty minutes away. The countdown had officially begun halfway into Miss Holloway’s stuffy lecture on ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
That was about the time I started convincing myself that being around a butt-ton of other high schoolers tends to bring out the negatively charged emissions in anyone. I could feel their energy swiping this way and that, draining into the various devices they secretly never put down.
Passing notes is one thing, but electronic logs of every conversation you’ve ever had… Too much baggage for my liking.
That’s the thing about humans though… they don’t know how to let anything go. Pack rats, and most of them can hide and disguise the disorder in the form of a small, cluttered electronic device of some kind… Like a million articles of clothing stuffed beneath a bed and under dressers, and storage compartments. just because others can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and influence…
I had to get somewhere quiet, I had to find sanctuary outside of these tiny things and their tiny ideas. It was suffocating. Only here would they be allowed to take something as beautiful as a fictionalized story and turn it into ‘a lesson’ to be picked apart and analyzed through such a slender scope.
“Did you see what happened in the quad over lunch??” An excited voice flung itself from the door, escaping into the hallway with me and the mouth it had come from. We were neck and neck for who could disappear more quickly. The conversation confirmed my assessment in time for me to block out the big event being spoken about with my noise canceling headphones.
I appreciate how well they work for a moment and smile into the blurring noise flowing around me. I hit play and suddenly no one could touch me. My bubble extended all around me in every direction.
I felt invincible, li…
“What are you listening too?” The voice came with a jerking motion as a hand pulled the muff of protection from my ear. A combination that almost turned my eyes a glowing hot red intent on burning through whoever had just ruined my makeshift sanctuary.
“I’m sorry, have you met me?” I turned and spit fire at the pretty, now terrified face of a girl, just a little taller than me. For a moment, she blinked at my hostility before a sly gotcha smile replaced the surprise.
“Oh, your one of those people, really particular about your things… Don’t like to be touched much?” She looked up slightly as if trying to think of the right word to define my ailment. Completely unaware that I wasn’t interested in what she had to say anyway. It wouldn’t define me.
She gently let go of my music muff and pulled her hands away and up as if to suggest she meant no harm. She had stung my curiosity with her bold approach so I pulled my headphones down around my neck.
“Assburgers! That’s what it’s called.” She snapped her fingers brightly while murdering the word she actually meant to say.
I smiled at the irony her innocent ignorance. It was like, the idea had just popped into her head and she had accepted it as the right thing to say.
Humans have so many names for feelings that shouldn’t last long enough to be properly defined… they also tend to form identifying labels toward things that are merely there to be grown not stifled in terminology.
My eyes widened at the idea, as it was followed by another…
They must be rubbing off on me since I still have the urge to see this precious little thing melt for touching my music…
I’d made offenders dance in circles until their deathbed for less…
Maybe I was beginning to soften in their presence as well. I glared at the girl.
“I don’t have whatever it is you just suggested. And I am not interested in girls if that is your next question. Not that I should have to specify anyway.” I lifted my headphones back to their proper place and turned back toward my locker. I watched the escape route plotting itself out behind my eyes.
I would head directly to the back doors and make my way toward the abandoned park, my abandoned park, where I would spend the next few hours just listening to the birds and the breeze. A butterfly of excitement rose up from my belly.
“Hey! I know you are new here, and I never see you hanging out with anyone… I thought maybe you could use a friend?” The stifled voice muffled up from behind me, reminding me I hadn’t hit play. A fatal mistake when it came to blending and pretending not to notice anyone around me. I opened my locker without turning back around, I didn’t want her to see the disappointment shining my expression as the butterflies shifted into a groan of compliance.
“No, but thank you, I prefer it that way.” The girl danced around a posse of people rushing together toward the double doors.
“No one likes to be alone,” She countered as if speaking more for herself than for me or anyone else.
She didn’t like to be alone. “If that is you trying to be tough, you don’t have to be, I am offering to be your friend, that’s all.”
Her wide eyes looked hopefully at me. I imagined the doe eyes I’d thrown a punch for at my last school.
It only leads to trouble.
My inner spirit reaffirmed, reminding me of my current duty. If I was going to save all of them I had to stop focusing on just some or a few of them…
My heartstrings pulled toward her so strongly they would require immediate severance if I hoped to make it out of this situation unattached.
“Look just because you need friends and don’t like being alone does not mean that everyone else is so weak.” I rolled my eyes as a little knife stabbed me in the heart.
The other thing about humans is their innocent desire to be a part of something.
I added this to my list of positive qualities to pass on to the guardians awaiting my analysis. It seemed a small trait when sized up against the issue found in their ability to be convinced something wrong was right by entities outside of their understanding.
They could be easily baited by the hounds of chaos and most were too lazy to really fight against or for something more worthwhile than the obvious options.
“People with Assburgers,” She began understandingly. “Sometimes say mean things but they don’t mean to be mean.”
“It’s Aspergers…” I mumbled, shutting my locker and turning toward the doors.
“So you do know what I am talking about!” She pranced triumphantly beside me.
“It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone, I know it’s a private thing. Until you are ready to talk about it.” Just when I thought she would be finished, she wasn’t. I kept walking and she kept talking and following.
“I had a friend who WAS a lesbian, well I guess she still is, but I haven’t talked to her much since the last time that I saw her. Which is also when she told me she was actually a lesbian.” I yearned for my music, I could hear the phantom of it echoing through my mind while I listened honorably for a good exit point without injuring her.
I was here to fix a problem by observing it, not add to it by polluting egos on my way through.
The realization struck me between the eyes. My escape would have to wait. I could spare my time to better hers. After all, she had found me… I tuned back in.
“… But I guess it doesn’t really matter, I should probably reach out so she doesn’t think I am just ignoring her because she is a lesbian…” I’d missed something important in what she said, so I rewound the scene in my mind and replayed.
“She said that if people had pressured her to come out she would have probably done it for the wrong reasons, for other people’s reasons, not hers, you know. I guess she felt like the pressure release was finally worth the friends she would lose over it or something.”
You know what else people find in their closets? Monsters.
I opened my eyes and looked at the girl keeping up with me. She looked at me and smiled hugely as our eyes intersected. I couldn’t do anything but smile back. She looked down at the headphones still pumping music from their resting point around my neck.
“What are you listening too?” She asked.
I wasn’t about to give away my tastes just yet, “What is your name?”
She stopped in her tracks long enough to extend a palm to her face. “Oh my gosh, Duh, sorry, I can’t believe I didn’t start with that.”
She rushed back into a fast walk to catch up with me once more.
“My name is Bailey, but my friends call me Bay.” She frowned slightly and continued quickly.
“My friends meaning my parents, I don’t know why I just told you that, because now you probably think I have no other friends than my parents…” Bailey paused, her cheeks reddened, and she looked straight ahead before continuing.
“I guess you wouldn’t be altogether wrong to think that either.” Her shoulders slumped and then stiffened as if accepting and then preparing for the inevitable rejection to come.
Humans have a seemingly natural ability to find, and quickly endear themselves to those who have the ability to help them, and often without their knowing it.
I could almost see that line of defense making an impact. I marked the importance of the mental note and smiled.
“Bailey, my name is Beckett.” I stuck my hand out to greet the open space between us. She looked down, blinked a few times and then beamed up at me greeting my hand with her own.
“You can call me Bay!” She sang out as we walked down the hall together, toward the light gleaming from the double steel doors looming ahead.
In a gesture of goodwill I took my most precious belonging lovingly from my neck and extended it toward the hand I’d just released. Bailey scooped the headphones with equal excitement. She placed them and listened for a moment through a growing smile.
“OH MY GOSH!” She flung her arms wide in time to thrust open one of the doors in front of us.
“I LOVE THIS SONG.” She yelled.
I laughed, the butterflies were back. It had been a while since I’d found someone as obsessive about music as myself.
“Hey,” I waved at her to take the headphones off, but before I continued my invitation, I thought better of it. There was no sense in being overly trusting. My secret place was still my own. Until I’d had spent more time with this human, we were simply companions and not friends. The joy I suddenly felt at connecting with Bailey was hard to fight against.
“It was nice meeting you Bailey. Bay,” I smiled acknowledging the budding familiarity.
“But there is somewhere I need to be.” She looked disappointed for only a second before brightening.
“Alright, Beck,” Apparently the nickname flopped because she added ‘ette’ abruptly afterward with a laugh. “Well, I will see you tomorrow then?”
“See you tomorrow.” I smiled and accepted the headphones she was handing back to me before we parted ways over the grey sidewalk.
“WAIT!” I had only made it to the end of the block when she called after me. I paused mid-step and one muff away from disappearing completely. This time I wasn’t so set on her melting, though the feeling did bubble up with my being kept from the serenity I so deeply needed.
I turned and waited for a moment, watching her at the other side of the block bouncing excitedly on her toes and waving her cellphone. “Do you want my number?!”
I smiled, “No point, I don’t have a phone.”
I wasn’t ready to submit myself to that prison of expectation. I’d seen what it could do to people, I imagined its effects would only be greater and more destructive for myself. My kind tends to obsess.
She didn’t answer right away, but I could see a realization spread over her face.
“Sorry, I forgot… It would probably only aggravate your condition…” She yell-whispered the last two words and waved energetically before disappearing around the corner.
I puzzled for only another moment and then burst into laughter. I’d forgotten…
So, to answer the question of ‘what people saw in me’
I could begin with
“a big personality, in a rebellious little, troubled package, complete with ‘assburgers’… I was building quite the repertoire of labels…