Thus begins the decline...
Chapter 5 - Smoking In the Boy's Room
A waxy lemon-yellow crayon ran over the thick paper, coloring in a circle in the corner of the page. The unnoticed pattern of the paper appeared clearly now in the bright shade. My brow could've been laced with a sweat by the way I frowned in complete concentration. What a nerd I was, putting in so much energy into a mere school project, worth not even an insignificant fraction of my grade. At age ten, I was a star student. Every single term and every single school year, my report-card was covered in jaw-dropping straight A's. Effort was something I put in naturally; I just didn't know how not to.
Mind you, I wasn't a dork, no way! Being tall for my age had its advantages. At my early age, I had signed up for basketball camp and found that I was exceptionally good at the sport. Strong, tall, athletic...girls loved me. Though I did not care much for most of them, their attention made my ego swell like a balloon. Of course, at that time, I believed that to be a good thing—no, a great thing. What more could I want? Friends. And...hey! I had them! Working some sort of charm that I didn't even know I possessed, I had somehow won over everybody in my class and everybody I ever met. My life was just... perfect. Nothing, in my imagination, could ruin it. It was with this comforting thought that I allowed myself to be so confident. I knew I was pretty good-looking, pretty popular, pretty much amazing.
I put down my crayon, finished with my anti littering poster, the last in my class to do so. Hopping off my chair, I strolled towards my teacher's desk. Miss Daisy was her name and she had platinum blonde tresses which fell to her shoulders.
“Oh, Frank, that's beautiful!” she cooed, admiring my poster with her eyes of brilliant blue.
“Thanks, Ms. Daisy,” I flashed her a sweet smile, “Umm...since everyone's done with their projects, do you think we could go outside for extra recess? I know we all worked really hard.”
My teacher looked contemplative, although I knew I had already won her over “Well, sure, Frank. What a great idea!”
I grinned once more as my classmates cheered. Miss Daisy proceeded to gather everyone into a single-file line. I, of course, was line leader. Weaving my way through familiar halls of my elementary school,I led the class towards an exit of the school. The moment we had stepped outside the building, the line dispersed and most of the kids jolted to the swings or the soccer field. If I had such a wish, I could've easily outran most of them. However, although I had been the one to suggest extra recess, I was not in the mood to run around and get sweaty. Thus, I trailed behind, assuming a well-paced walk, one that still overtook a few runners. The way I walked exuded confidence with each swagger, unaware of the pretty eyes watching me with admiration. My destination was decided and I was not one to become distracted by petty things along the way.
I passed several of my friends on the field and declined the various invitations for me to join their football game. The sport had a very manly countenance and as much as I tried to be the macho man, it had never appealed to me. Not only did it show strength, but it showed extreme conformity. I was popular, but there was no way I was going to become just another stupid jock. And so, I strolled on, reaching my point of interest—the big oak tree.
It was the midpoint between my school and the neighboring middle school. Sitting next to the thick trunk, I could watch the older kids; they got dismissed a while before we did. Now, it might seem strange to some that I had passed up hanging with the guys or flirting with the girls just to watch some teenagers walk around. But at that age, I couldn't wait to grow up. To stop being a kid and move onto more interesting matters. What I expected to find in middle school, I didn't know. It just had to be better than the stupid fifth grade where the craziest thing I could do was kiss a girl. To me, next year seemed to be that far away and magical time when my life would change. I could finally be free; maybe my mom would finally being so overprotective. It was my chance to try something reckless, make cooler and older friends, do god-knows-what! It excited me beyond belief. Yet, I had to hold myself back from simply running over to the other school to start all that now. I'd have to wait many months before I passed on into the walls of Core Creek Middle.
Sighing, I pulled at the grass beside me and stared at the front of the middle school. Cars were lined up—parents picking up their children after a busy day. My eyes slid over the crowd but stopped and froze on a particular boy. From where I was sitting, his face was not clear to me, but it didn't matter. He was carrying many books, too many books, under his arm. In the other, he clutched an instrument case while his messenger bag was precariously slipping off his shoulder. It was obvious, at least to me, that he had too many things. It was a boat waiting to be rocked; he inevitably dropped all his stuff. He must've been flustered as he bent down to pick up his books, while his peers laughed. Tough luck, man. But then something peculiar happened. The door in one of the cars swung open and a man rushed out. His father, I presumed. The dad was hasty to help his son gather all his things, carrying some so the kid could balance better. He patted his son on the back and his mouth moved. I imagined him saying something like, “You okay, son?” with a reassuring smile on his face. And that was it, they continued on their way.
Anybody's first instinct would have been to think about how embarrassing that was to have your parent jump out and make you look like even more of a dork. Strangely, mine was to feel incredibly sad. I wasn't sure why. It was an emotion that I rarely experienced. My stomach sank. Uneasily, I stood up and brushed off my jeans. I sprinted as fast as I could to where Miss Daisy sat on a bench.
I cleared my throat, “M-m-may I go to the bathroom?”
She frowned at me for a moment, “Um, sure Frank. Are you okay, dear?”
I nodded and before she could inquire more, I bolted. I didn't slow my pace until I was safely inside the tiled walls of the boy's room. Standing in front of the sink, I splashed water on my face. What was wrong? Why did I suddenly feel like crap? My eyes bore into my reflection in the mirror. For a few seconds, I simply stared, my heart skipping beats. I tried to convince myself that it was just because I had been running, but I knew something had gone awry. Something in my head.
“Fuck...” I muttered, a word which hardly ever left my mouth nowadays.
My reflection blinked at me. Why did I look like that? I had suddenly come to the epiphany that I did not resemble my mother in any way, shape, or form. Where did I get my green eyes from? My pointed jaw? My dark, wavy hair? My father. I felt my breathing hitch. That was the problem. Seeing that boy's dad help him out had triggered a long train of questions that I had been itching to ask somebody for a long time. I'd never heard my mom talk about him and the one time I had asked, she had responded with short, vague answers. I didn't even know his name. What could it have been? Something common like Joe, Bill, Tom? Or was it something more exotic? Was he tall or short? Skinny or fat? Did he like Italian food or Indian? Why did he leave?Was he dead or was he still alive? Was he looking for me? Did he love my mom? Did he love me?
As I overwhelmed myself with such concerns, I heard the doorknob turn. Dang it. I quickly pushed my way into one of the stalls and locked it shut.
“I can't believe you did that!” I heard a voice say.
“Hey, you said you wanted a smoke, I got you one,” another voice said.
I had talked to basically every single kid in my grade and nobody had such deep voices. And why were they talking about cigarettes? You had to be eighteen to smoke! Why were there eighteen year-olds in an elementary school?
“Yeah, but I didn't ask you to steal 'em from a teacher!” the first boy exclaimed
“Well it's not like I could go to the store and by you one, the cops would nail me.” So he wasn't eighteen. “And she's not just a teacher, man, she's my mom! I just swiped it from her purse, I do it all the time.”
“Mrs. Culling is your mother? Dude, she's fucking hot!”
“Ay, back off,” a tinge of anger came out in his tone.
“Sorry man, but damn, I'd do her in a second!”
“No you wouldn't, you're a fag, remember?”
“Fuck you, that was one time!”
A brief struggle went on outside, but I had long since muted it out with my pounding heart. I had realized a little earlier that the boys outside did not belong to our school, nor were they legal adults. They had to be from either the middle school or the high school. And the craziest thing was that I swore I could recognize the way they spoke. That was impossible since I hardly ever even spoke to an older kid; all my friends were my age. Maybe they merely reminded me of somebody else. A thought then crossed my mind. What if...no, it couldn't be.
“You're such a pussy!” the second boy sneered, “You hit like a girl!”
“Shut the fuck up, Ash, I have more balls than you.”
Once I heard the name, I knew that my mind wouldn't rest until I made sure that it wasn't the Ash I knew. At the same time, the very possibility that it could be scared me half to death. The encounter I had with him a whole four years ago had not been forgotten, even though I had seen the boy only once or twice after that. He had been so cruel to me that one day, back when I was a puny, weak six year-old. I didn't want to go back and think about the events surrounding his meeting with me. All I knew was, I was fucking terrified of what would happen if I opened that door and saw his face. What if I had some sort of meltdown? Taking a deep breath, I made the decision to take that risk. I wasn't going to be a chicken. I shoved the stall door and stepped outside. Turning my head, I looked at the two boys. Although they had grown, I could clearly see that they were the same two boys that I had feared they were; Ash...and his blonde friend, whose name I did not know. They gazed at me with expressions of curiosity and superiority. Now that I had a better sense of age, I realized that they couldn't be more than a couple of years older than me. Suddenly, I didn't feel so terrified of them anymore. If needed, I could totally take them on; they weren't too buff or tall.
Then, Ash spoke, “Were you listening in on us, you stupid eavesdropping fuck?”
My boldness stuck with me and I huffed out my chest, “No, I was taking a piss, douchebag. What was all the noise you were making? Were you two faggots fucking around?”
I knew my fair share of insults by now and I was quite proud at the gruffness I managed to muster up in my tone. Ash blinked at me for a few seconds, and for a moment, I was certain that he would punch me. However, his friend started cracking up and soon, a smile twitched at Ash's own lips. I frowned, confused. What was so funny?
“How old are you, kid? Six?” Ash laughed, “You know a lotta shitty words, for such a little dude.”
I scoffed at the irony since he had been the one who taught me those words in the first place. Nonetheless, I did not mention anything about our prior meetings. He didn't recognize me as the little scared boy whose childhood he had intentionally scarred. I had no reason to remind him.
“I'm ten, get it right, dumbass.” I had to admit, there was a certain thrill to using so many cuss words in so little time.
“Hey, calm down, man. Didn't know,” pausing for a moment, he sized me up. Apparently, I didn't look like too much of a dork; he was pleased.“You want a smoke?” he reached into his pocket and pulled ot a box of Marlboro's, holding it out for me.
“He's only ten, man.” his friend whined worriedly.
Ash rolled his eyes, “And how old are we? Ten's when I started. And anyway, he seems pretty chill. You wouldn't rat on us, would you kid?”
I mechanically shook my head, “Nah. But I don't smoke.”
“Well then try,” he urged. His cold eyes were far more pressuring than his tone.
Staring at the pack, I went through a quick list of pros and cons. On the bad side, I knew smoking would only get me in deep trouble later on in life. But rethinking it, this was basically some sort of initiation. If he was offering me a cigarette, It basically meant he thought I was cool enough to smoke with him. He thought I was cool. Even though Ash was not somebody whom I truly wanted to befriend or anything, he sure was badass. How awesome would it be to hang out with someone like him? How jealous would all my friends be? And anyway, this was my first ever chance to grow up. My first chance to do something reckless and escape from being the goody-goody two shoes that I had been for all my life. Going on that impulse, I took one of the cigarettes from the pack.
“You got a lighter?”
Ash's friend pulled one from his pocket but did not toss it to me yet, “Look kid, you don't have to smoke that if you don't want to. We're not pressuring you or anything.”
The other boy irritatedly grabbed the lighter and handed it to me, “Don't listen to Quinn, he's a wimp.”
I smirked and put the cigarette between my lips. Then I flicked the lighter on. My finger burned in the flame and I dropped it, yelping. Ash snickered and Quinn looked like he was biting back his laughter. I blushed and bent down to pick it up. Dang, that might have cost me some cool points.
On the second attempt, I successfully managed to light the cigarette. The only things I knew about how to smoke were from television. I imitated what I had seen many movie heroes done and sucked some smoke into my mouth. Then, taking the stick between my fingers, I inhaled the smoke into my lungs. I tried not to cough but that only made me choke hard. More laughter from the older boys. But I was determined not to look like a loser. I took another drag. This time, I was prepared when the smoke hit the back of my throat. I smiled at my success. Quinn had an expression of uneasiness written on his face.
Ash, however, looked satisfied, letting out a chuckle, “Feels good, yeah?” I nodded. He gave my a toothy grin, “Wait 'til you try weed.”
I forced myself to smile; what I really felt was sick. I didn't know why the sudden wave of nausea came over me, but it made me drop the cigarette and the lighter. I clutched my stomach. What happened after that made absolutely no sense. Quinn laid down on the tiled floor of the bathroom and started screaming at the top of his lungs. I covered my ears at the volume. My head throbbed so hard that I could hear it. I groaned. What the fuck was going on?
Believe it or not, I did NOT get inspired to write this chapter from the song haha. That was just a lucky coinicidence. I totally hated this chapter. Ugh. I just had to write something like it about...like, Frank's turning point I guess? PLEASE REVIEW and RATE. Even if you say bad things, because I have several of those to say about this. I'll also take predictions about...anything, really. Predict away!
Oh and I forgot to say, last chapter's song was The Kids Are All Fucked Up (no shit) by Cobra Starship.