What was so special about him? I couldn’t place it, but I knew what Mike had meant. There was something about him that was just... different.
I walked to my table – yes, my table – back in the far corner and sat down with my tray of food. It was really just chicken noodle soup and a roll, with a Styrofoam cup filled with water. I dipped the spoon in and brought the delicious soup to my mouth. My eyes searched for New Guy and finally landed on him. He was standing uncertainly in the middle of the cafeteria. There were open tables everywhere, some that had several people at them, and others that had only one or two – another thing that reminded me of high school.
I was the only one staring at him. Everyone else didn’t think too much of him, they probably thought he was just another strange patient having an episode, or they were too busy having episodes of their own. Another thing I noticed was that New Guy had napkins between his hands and the tray, so he wasn’t actually touching it. What was he, a germaphobe?
Suddenly I saw Ray walk up to him. Ray was a strange guy; and I mean really strange. I knew that everyone else had problems, but Ray was one of the only other patients I talked to. He had believed that he had been abducted by aliens, and that they had planted a chip in his brain. He was always talking about ‘signs’ they were leaving for ‘us humans’ and that we needed to prepare ourselves before they attacked. Poor guy’s watched Independence Day too many times, in my opinion.
I heard Ray say something to New Guy, and the two of them walked over to the far table on the left side of the room. Ray sat down and seemed to be introducing New Guy to the only two other people at the table, a tall bulky guy with strawberry-blonde hair and a scrawny guy with wild carrot colored hair. New Guy didn’t say anything but stared down at the table for a minute, before slowly and cautiously sitting down. He held the napkin in his hand and carefully wrapped his spoon in it, being sure not to touch the metal, and he slowly started to eat. Ray was talking excitedly to everyone at the table; Blondie seemed to be more interested in his roll, examining it carefully before taking small bites at a time, carrot-head seemed to be completely enthralled in whatever Ray was saying and New Guy just silently ate his food.
“Where’s your roommate?”
I looked up to see Mike, the supervisor for my area in this shithole. I nodded towards Ray’s table. Mike nodded when he spotted him. “Well, I see he’s making friends. Maybe you’ll learn from him.” Mike sat down at my table, folding his arms. I liked Mike. Not all that much, but I still liked him. Maybe it was because we both had tattoos, or because we had the same taste in music, or maybe it was just because he was more down to earth than the other supervisors; I don’t know. I just liked him.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, right.”
Mike chuckled. “I will never understand why you hate people so much, Frank.”
I shrugged my shoulders and took a bite of my roll. “What do you want?” I asked, bread crumbs falling from my mouth.
He leaned forward, his arms resting on the table. “I want to talk to you about him.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Who? My roomie?” I took a sip of water, swallowing the soggy bread in my mouth. “What about him?” I asked.
Mike’s expression went serious and I frowned. When was Mike ever serious? “Be nice to him.” He said.
I scoffed. I wasn’t really “nice” to anybody. “Why?” He was just another patient, right?
“He’s… different. Special.” I stared at him dumbfounded. He sighed. “Look, Frank.” His tone was still serious, which kept my attention. “I know you. You think you’re a badass and that you run the place; and you’re an asshole to the patients and everyone else around here.” That was true. “I’m not gonna lie; I don’t like the thought of him staying with you,” Ouch. “but I have no say in that matter; It’s Deanna’s call.” Bitch. “But I want you to be nice to him. That’s all I’m asking.”
I frowned, I wanted to know why, but it seemed like he wasn’t going to tell me even if I asked. I shrugged my shoulders in reply. “I’ll try.” I said, “It’s not gonna be easy but I’ll try.”
Mike shook his head. “Damn it, Frank! I’m serious.” He practically yelled.
I flinched at his tone. “Okay, okay.” I raised my hands up in surrender. The last thing I wanted was for Mike to get angry. “Fine, I’ll be nice to him.”
Mike’s expression softened and he leaned back away from the table. “Thanks.”
I shrugged and my eyes drifted towards the table where New Guy sat. Ray was laughing at something that Blondie had said and carrot-top was staring at the two of them in confusion. New Guy had stopped eating and just sat with his hands in his pockets. What was so special about him? I couldn’t place it, but I knew what Mike had meant. There was something about him that was just… different.
Mike sighed and got up. “There’s a group session in five. Make sure he comes. Eat.” He left the cafeteria, stopping by each table and telling whoever would listen about the upcoming session.
I groaned; Another group session? Great. It was where we all sat down and talked about why we were here and what we wanted to do when we got out. I never spoke up in those things and I probably never would. I finished my soup and threw my half-eaten roll in the empty bowl. I stood up and placed my tray on the cart where a couple other empty trays were, then slowly walked over to the table New Guy sat at.
Ray was still talking. “And then they take this metal instrument and—Oh, hi Frank!” He grinned when he looked at me. “How are you? Did you like your food? I liked mine—“
I rolled my eyes. “Hey, you.” I tapped New Guy’s shoulder and he froze. “We have a group session we’ve got to go to. Follow me.”
“Oh, I fucking love group sessions. I have an awesome story today! I saw this sign on the television that the aliens sent…” He started but I cut him off again. New Guy slowly got up and I showed him where to put his tray.
He stayed a couple feet behind me as we walked to the small room where the group sessions were held. I sat down in one of the chairs and waited for everyone else to show. New Guy cautiously sat down and stared at his hands. Soon everyone else gathered inside, and then came Maggie – she always led the group sessions. She was probably in her thirties, but she had spiky purple hair and a tattoo sleeve on her right arm, which made my respect for her go up a little bit.
“Hey, guys. How’s it going?” She said, crossing her legs. Today she was wearing a short plaid skirt, fishnet stockings, combat boots and a white button up blouse, where the first three buttons were undone, exposing her cleavage. She had a black tie loosely thrown around her neck, and her nose ring was in. “Hey, Frank.” She winked at me, and I smiled back.
“Well, then.” She said, grinning. “Let’s begin.”
This was normally the part where I’d fall asleep, but instead I prepared to listen, because for some reason I was really interested in what New Guy had to say.