bullying. feeling different. school years.
Saad’s fiery red hair makes him quite quickly visible peering through the cracks of the library shelves. “Is this where you’re hiding now?” He utters loud enough for the librarian to come over and hush us. “What?” He turns to her. “Why does he get all the privilege to study here and not to mention,” he picks up my wrapped sandwich, “and eat here and I don’t? I’m crazy as he is.” His staid demeanor and gripe indulges his protest and the poor librarian leaves us without much more than a displeased scowl.
I am entertained by Saad’s gusto. He certainly is also a talker as he plumps down across from me, leans against the bookcase, pulls his knees up to his chest, and unwraps one of my sandwiches before rummaging for another detail. “So, you’re avoiding everyone now?”
My stoic stare remains intact as I listen to Saad’s docile hunt and tease him back, “No, just you.”
“Shut up.” He refutes jokingly and then casually pulls back his head leaning it against the books on the shelf behind him. “You should forget about yesterday. Owen had it coming. He’s a prick anyways. Don’t be so sensitive. They don’t look at me any differently than” he breaks off a small piece of my sandwich and pushes it into his mouth, consuming the grub while exhaling his words, “they do at you.”
“Isn’t that an interesting point?” I bid with intrigue.
“Well, you’re an outcast in an outcast group, besides, if Owen didn’t shove the senior in the hallway, maybe he wouldn’t have mashed potatoes thrown at him in the lunchroom.”
“Maybe,” I murmur indifferently and agree.
“The fact is that we’re untouchable. Do you know what would happen if we reported any harassment? Some form of disciplinary action, but what would be the point of that? We’re in high school. We are bound to be tortured and ridiculed even if you’re not an outcast.”
“That’s very comforting,” I grimace. Not liking what I am hearing, I shift to avoid Saad’s gaze.
“Oh, come on. We’re freaks. We rule this school. We can eat sandwiches in the library with reprieve,” and Saad takes another bite. “We are the kings!” He shouts and the librarian makes an appearance again.
“Saad,” she wags her finger and then presses it to her lips making a hushing sound.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” His apology only sounds half sincere but the librarian lets us be.
We the kings, are known to be Saad’s famous words or at least his famous answer to everything. I, on the other hand, don’t like that title. It carries too much weight and scrutiny. Saad likes to act out and cause mischief, whereas, I like to hide in the library and cause no disturbance. Also, I don’t like to steal other people’s sandwiches. Affixing outcast to the word king also causes a pungent transference. A mad king is not seen as favourable, but a nuisance. We are a nuisance and everyone around us simply obliges to our pitying episodes.
“How is your head?” I ask as soon as the librarian leaves.
Saad reaches to the side of his forehead and touches the bruise. “It will heal.” His voice changes from whimsical to a mournful one.
I understand why Saad likes being different because he gets all the perks. I consider that cheating. Plus, I would prefer not to have any mental afflictions. Normal is easier accepted than abnormal. No matter what words you prescribe to feel better and own it, being different is shitty.
“Was it Darek again?” I ask.
Saad continues to eat my sandwich, smacking his lips together, and making a lot of sounds chewing and breathing. Briefly, his eyes fall to the greyish carpet and he nods.
Underneath that hard exterior, I know that getting shoved in the hallway and being sneered at during lunch time, he prefers finding me in the library and acting obnoxious to distract himself from the hurt and loneliness. But he only acts confident around me. Other times, he dodges the students in the hallway, avoids eye contact during class, and stays still and quiet in his seat. He becomes as invisible as me. I let him be that way. I let him have these moments to mend his wounds, even if he picks on me and annoys me. But, he does it with love. But he does it because of fear. But he does it to seek comfort.
“Is that why Owen shoved him?” I ask.
“The big brother,” Saad scoffs. As much as Saad may find Owen pestering; Owen seems to take big-brother duties to heart, acting like our bodyguard for years. He can afford it, too. Build like an ox, not too many dare to stand in his way. Darek is not an exception but he continues to pick on Saad for his involuntary tics and foul mouth. Although, lately, Saad’s tics haven’t been as visible and his foul mouth has been rinsed out slightly. The meds have been taking the effect but Saad doesn’t like them. He still gets sudden and involuntary movements in his shoulder. He likes to scream at that but only when we’re outside and away from school.
“So, what’s wrong with you today, Mr. Smith?” Saad asks.
“The usual,” I answer with slightly upbeat energy. “The auditory phantoms.”
Saad likes when I call my hallucinations phantoms. He considers it a secret code. Although, I don’t see how. Auditory is pretty much the giveaway.
The library provides solace and Saad provides friendship.
Different is not always bad. The key is finding another different to waste time with.
Saad grins and raises his finger to his lips hushing.
I smile. “You idiot,” I whisper. “I hate you,” I add but only jokingly.
© Jacob Greb — 2023
return to Story Teller
Original Date: 2012 Original Source: halfwayaway