A kid is rescued from an otherwise fatal attack at a gig by a fellow delinquent. Please read author's note.
I examined the dry blood that was caked to my swollen lips. That guy beat me pretty good last night. He turned my lips purple, to match my hair he had told me, and they throbbed every time I spoke. He could have done worse, but he ran off when he saw a police cruiser idling across the street. He left me there, blood running down my chin and a sob buried in my throat. After a bit of standing around, I walked home and went straight to bed.
Now I stood in my room, staring at myself in the mirror that hung above my dresser. My lips covered in blood, my eyelids smeared in eyeliner, and the rest of me slick with sweat.
What would my classmates think? It's none of their business, but they're bound to gawk at me. I decided to push these worries until they hit the back of my skull and try to make myself decent for the day. I searched through my dresser and finally found a black shirt . I grabbed a pair of jeans that I found crumpled into a ball on the floor and headed for the bathroom down the hall.
I slipped out of the shower, dried myself off, and then got dressed. I wiped the steam off the mirror with my wrinkled fingertips. I inspected the young man trapped within the glass.
The lines of My Chemical Romance's “The End” played in my head. If you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, you can find out first hand what it's like to be me...
Without breaking eye contact with myself, I reached out for my comb. I made my hair neat before shaking my head wildly and dousing myself in hairspray. Seeing that I only had five minutes until my bus came, I began brushing my teeth madly. I stormed out of the bathroom and flew down the stairs. I passed my mother in the kitchen without a word.
“Good morning, Josh”, she said to me as I lifted my backpack onto my shoulders.
“Hey”, I mumbled. I didn't really care to talk with my mom. She never made my mornings any better and I was almost late.
I reached out for the doorknob, but before my hands made contact with the cool metal, my mother spoke up and said, “T.G.I.F, honey.”
I gave gave her a puzzled look that faded into a glare.
“What?” I asked with annoyance.
“'Thank God It's Friday', Josh. Come on, get with it.”
I didn't want to “get with it”. I wanted to get away from it. Far away.
I left the house without saying goodbye.
I stepped down the few small steps that led off the porch and onto the path that wriggled between the patches of dead flowers that stuck up here and there. The morning breeze nipped at my nose and ears. Dead October leaves danced around my feet as each of my footsteps echoed off the neighboring houses. I reached the end off the driveway and stood by myself on the sidewalk, waiting for the bus to arrive.
Seconds later, the yellow school bus turned the corner and began roaring down the street. It came to a halt right in front of me and it drew its slim door back like a curtain. The horrifying laughter and shouts of kids ages five to fifteen drifted through the high doorway and I could feel my stomach clench in regret. I should have stayed home. I hung my head as I stepped inside.
The stench of vomit and lunch meat stung my nostrils. I took a seat behind some fifth graders who had their noses pressed against the screens of their PSPs. The second I sat down, the eighth and ninth graders seemed to settle down a bit. I was in the tenth grade and the oldest one on the bus, so I guess they found me intimidating. Or maybe it was just my appearance and the vibe I sent off.
I could hear the ninth grade girls shooting their mouths off in the sits next to me. They were talking about my hair.
“Purple is gross.”
“Is it wet or just greasy?”
They had no idea I was eavesdropping. I even heard one of the girls in the trio tell the others, “Don't worry. He can't hear us.”
Oh yes, I can honey. I can hear you. Loud and clear.
I sighed and leaned against the window. The glass cooled my temple and my temper. I watched the trees and signs flicker by as I tried to block out the noises that surrounded me.
I kept thinking to myself, “You can do this. You can make it through the day. It's Friday, soon to be Friday night...”
Almost every night I go down town to one of the concert halls or clubs that allow all ages and just watch the local bands perform. Usually they were small crowds. Twenty-five to forty kids show up to watch a thirty minute show, nothin' big. But tonight a small band from the States is coming all the way out here to play a gig. They're not a popular band, but it's still a pretty big deal. I can't remember what they called themselves. It was something weird, like The Anti or something like that.
The bus rolled to a stop. I gazed out the windows on the other side of the bus and saw that we came to our destination. All the high school students fought to be the first ones into the aisle. I tried to get out but I was pushed and shoved back into my seat. I pulled myself back up and tried to squirm out again. I accidentally elbowed a very tall, lanky guy in the ribs and I immediately felt guilty, but before I gave myself the chance to apologize and possibly humiliate myself, I slid in front of him and into the stream of teenagers the poured out of the disgusting vehicle.
I took in the canvas-like sky before heading into the school. The orange sunrise was almost completely faded and the majority of the sky was a soft blue. I enjoyed the view until the crowd of students grew to an incredible number. My claustrophobia kicked in and I headed into the front doors. I gathered my things from my locker and headed to class.
The clock hanging on the wall above the teachers head read 3:15. I kept looking at the stupid thing every other second and it just made the time go by slower, but I couldn't stop. Fifteen minutes until school was out. Freedom was right there but I couldn't have it yet.
I studied my classmates. I hated most of them. They're a bunch of conforming idiots, if you care to hear my honest opinion, except for that guy in the corner. His name is Jared. Me and him seemed to be a lot alike. He seems pretty shy and we wore similar clothes too, except he always wore ties. He had shoulder-length ebony hair that he tucked behind his ears a lot. I see him at shows sometimes We've never talked to each other before, but we didn't really need to. I think we both know we're on the same page. We're two creepy shy kids who no one likes, but we don't have beef with anyone.
Now it's 3:29, and the teacher is still making us right notes.
“Come on bell, ring”, I muttered under my breath.
“Come on, come on, come on.”
The bell gasped and shrieked along with the students.
I stuffed all my papers and books into my binder and rushed out of the class and into the artless hallways. I shuffled down the stairs, retrieved my bookbag from my locker, and practically sprinted out of the building.
The bus ride home was worse than the one in the morning. Some jerk in the front seat tried to throw a bottle of soda at his friend, but he threw it one seat too far and it hit me square in the chest. It rolled down my stomach and landed in my lap. I began choking because it had knocked the wind out of me and now there was a thin trail of pop down my shirt and a small pool of it in my lap. The guy who had thrown it was laughing like a lunatic. He even began snorting and every time he did so a bubble of snot would creep out of his nose. He was a pretty ugly kid. He had a square head and his cheeks were always rosy pink. He had short, dry, curly hair that was flat and matted against his scalp and there was a thick cluster of freckles right between his eyebrows.
Great, I thought. Now he's drooling.
The ugly kid wiped his face dry with the sleeve of his shirt and apologized.
“Sorry if I smudged your eyeliner, pretty boy!”
The bus stopped and I was glad to see it was time for me to get off. As I made my way down the aisle, I showed that kid my favorite finger and told him where he could stick that apology.
I threw my bag onto the counter and headed upstairs to put on a fresh shirt. Once I was all cleaned up, I went back into the kitchen and got the milk from the fridge. I chugged it straight from the carton. Normally, my mother would have scolded me for doing such a disgusting thing, but she was at work right now and wouldn't be back until 7:30, but I'd be long gone by then. That show tonight starts at 6:45. I still had two hours to kill and I was bored out of my mind. I twisted my back and could hear each individual bone of my spine crack. I left the half empty carton beside my backpack and went back outside.
I ran around in my yard and somersaulted onto my back. I bounced back up again and tried to do a cartwheel but failed horribly. I knew I was acting like a fool, but I didn't care. There was no one around to see me and I was enjoying myself. I think a lot of people probably act weird when they're by themselves.
I continued my not-so-graceful acrobatics until I ran into a tree. I scraped my forearm and skinned my elbow on the rough bark.
“Okay. I'm done”, I groaned to myself through roars of laughter. I trudged over to a pile of leaves and sat down. They crunched loudly under my weight. I pulled my knees to my chest and held my ankles with my bony hands. I glanced over my legs to look at my wrist watch.
“Holy crap!” I yelped when I saw it was already six o'clock. I got up and patted the pockets of my jeans to see if my money had fallen out or not. Once I was convinced my ten dollar bill was still with me, I brushed the grass and leaves off myself and began my long journey down town.
I always found downtown to be extremely depressing. People hanging around in alleyways. Some of them even living in those alleyways, working in those alleyways... It was really sad to think that we just let others stoop that low. That really killed my buzz, but I moved onward.
It was freezing out. I dug my hands deep in the pocket of my jeans and picked up the pass. I could feel my lips turning blue. The sky was a deep, deep blue, almost black, and the stars were beginning to poke through the blanket of clouds.
The fluorescent lights of the club's sign flickered on and off. The place was trashed and looked like a total dump, but I was still anxious to get inside and out of the cold. I walked inside and found a lonely guy wearing a jean jacket sitting at a table with a bucket of cash in front of him. I walked up to him and politely said hello.
“Ya know ya missed the first half of the show, righ'?”, he told me without making eye contact.
I looked at my watch. He was right, it was already quarter after seven.
“Crap. Uh-- oh, well, I guess I did. Here”, I said and threw my money into the bucket. He just mumbled a thanks and told me to go threw the doors at the back. I nodded and walked away.
The closer I got to the doors, the louder the muffled music got. Bright lights slipped under the doors. I went through the entrance and was immediately engulfed in the sweet smell of cigarettes and sweat. The room was full of jumping teenagers. I entered the sea of bodies. I slid against everyone until I was in the pit of the rats' nest. I whipped my head back and forth and flailed my arms with the music. We all bounced off each other and sang along to the songs we had heard before. The club was humid, loud, and crowded. The bass pulsed through my chest. The whole place was going wild and I loved it.
I was jumping up and down, screaming, and losing my mind in the best way possible until a rough hand grabbed me by the hair and yanked hard. I fell backwards but they didn't let go. They dragged me across the grimy floor. The heels of my shoes scraped against the wood. I reached behind my head and began scratching at my attacker's thick wrist, but the shallow cuts didn't have any effect on his tight grip on my purple locks. I yelled and began thrashing around, but no one cared. They all pretended they didn't notice.
“Help me!” I tried to call out over the music but no heads turned.
The person ripped me from the crowd. They lifted me up and pushed me through the doors. I fell on the hard, cold floor. I groaned in pain. I got louder when I was kicked in the hip and pulled up by my shirt. I was thrown against the wall. My scalp throbbed and my whole side ached. I looked around the room frantically. The man who collected my money was no where to be seen.
“Hey, remember me?”
I looked at the guy through terrified eyes. It was the same guy who got me last night. His lip was curled into a snarl. His eyes were puffy and red and he reeked of liquor.
“I knew I'd find you in this dump, you little freak”, he growled.
He stepped forward and spit in my eye. It stung and made my face contort into a grimace of pain. I reached a hand to my face to wipe the loogie away but he grabbed my wrist and threw it to my side. His lips spread into an evil smirk.
“What's your favorite color, punk?” he asked me through clenched teeth. I was in too much pain to ask why he needed to know. I just furrowed my eyebrows and gave him an angry, puzzled look.
“Yellow?” he hissed. He punched me in the left side of my jaw. I threw my head back into the wall and ground my teeth together.
He grabbed my bangs and pulled my head forward, forcing me to look into his clouded, crazy eyes.
He let go of me but then his fist slammed into my eye. I cried out and closed my eyes as tight as I could. I could feel my eye swelling and it hurt so bad. I tried not to cry.
“Or black?” he growled loudly. He pushed me against the wall again. He stretched his arm back, making the veins pop out over the muscles, and then he flung it forward and punched me square in the mouth, just like he did the night before. He reopened my busted lip. Before I had time to cry out, he grabbed me by the cartilage of my ear slammed me into the floor. Now the tears came out, but I didn't care. He kicked me and told me to shut up. I screamed so loud it hurt my throat. My mind was running a million miles a minute. What did I do to deserve this? Why is he hurting me? Is he going to kill me?
I began to shake and whimper. I felt like a coward because I couldn't hit him back. I was never a violent person, but now I was too weak to even stand up. I thought that if I just kept taking the blows that he'd get bored and stop.
He kept kicking me, spitting on me, and screaming profanities at me. Some were threatening, some didn't make sense, and others were dirty. I think the dirty ones scared me the most. This guy was really pickled.
I'm going to die, I thought to myself.
All of a sudden, he stopped beating me. I heard people talking and then I heard a lot of shuffling and banging. My eyes burned from the tears and my lungs ached from all the screaming and yelling I had done, so I didn't try to figure out what was going on. I just rolled over, relieved that the torturing had stopped for now.
I heard someone scream.
Oh god, I thought, now he's hurting someone else and I have to lay hear and listen...
“Get out of here!”
I heard fast stomping, a table being toppled over, and a door opening and closing.
Then I heard someone approaching my limp body on the floor. My heart increased speed. That guy was going to finish me off. I was expecting the worse. As much as it hurt to do so, I curled up into a ball and squeezed my eyes shut. I could smell the puddle of saliva and blood that had accumulated beneath me. I shuddered when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“No, no, no. It's okay. Don't worry, I won't hurt you”, a soft voice spoke.
My muscles slowly relaxed and loss their tenseness. I almost didn't believe what I was hearing.
Has someone rescued me? Did someone actually care?
I rolled over and opened my good eye. At first my vision was blurry and it took my eye a while to adjust. Eventually, everything came into focus and I would have smiled, if not for the immense pain I felt, when I saw who was kneeling beside me. It was that shy, raven haired kid, Jared.
He reached out a pale hand and pushed my sweaty bangs out of my eyes.
“Hey, I think you're gonna be okay, kid. You might need stitches for that lip, but that's probably it”, he assured me after looking me up and down.
I tried to look at him and smile without looking too pathetic. He grinned back. I think I was more grateful then than I ever had been in my whole life. I remember the uncaring faces of the people back inside the club. I remember how they wouldn't even look at me. My cries for help just went through one ear and out the other and I felt scared and alone. But this guy in front of me just rescued me. I started sobbing right there in front of Jared. I was too overwhelmed and I felt really foolish about doing it, but he didn't make fun of me. He just kept his hand on my shoulder and told me I was going to be okay.
But then he did say something, and although it fit perfectly well with the scenario that we were in, I don't think he meant it literally. I think he meant that he understood what I had been going through for a long time. Maybe we knew each other more than we realized.
“Hey, I know what life's like bleeding on the floor.”