Violence Begets ViolenceI’m always watching him. The boy in calculus class. The one with the starry freckles and dark eyes. I watch him because he never smiles. Not during the annual pep rally, not at lunch when he deals card games with his friends and never after school when his mom picks him up and kisses him on the cheek.
I could easily imagine him smiling- especially at one of my jokes. It’d be subtle and perfect and real. I’m the exact opposite, I can’t stop from smiling. Not when I get screeched at for missing chemistry homework, not when I trip over myself and especially when I notice him out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know why I’m so fixated on him. As Elsa says, there is much more fish in the sea. But something about him makes my heart and lungs race.
If I shut my eyes, I think of him. It’s easy to picture the sleek jawline, eyes habitually surrounded by puffy bags, the clothes he would wear out of routine: a crumpled T-shirt, in a sombre colour – dark grey or ink black or occasionally a navy blue one. Disciplinary shades – less like something he’d chosen to wear than like something he felt restrained in.
Elsa said that Ashton Kendrick was a freak. He’s not the freak, he was never the freak. The cafeteria was buzzing when I walked in with my brown bag, each table a impenetrable huddle of people trading secrets and gossip they way we used to trade candy and fruit cups.
Even though I knew most of the people, I didn’t like their gingery words tinged with honey to make it seem sweet.I looked for Elsa, but remembered she told me about cheerleading practice. I’m not surprised they did it at lunch- they don’t like cheerleaders eating. It seemed like the cafeteria was commanded by an ex-army cook with an overpowering fondness of dishwashing liquid.
Even the Odor of the conventional food was overpowered by the aroma. If you licked a spoon, the synthetic lemony would make your tongue itch. After suffering through years of meatloaf surprise (where the surprise was a single hair) and doughy, bright orange pizza, I asked mom to pack me lunch. Even bromidic salads packed in a ‘Sponge Bob’ container was better. I sat down away from the counters, where you could hear the squelch of the Lasagne hitting the grey trays. I opened up my lunchbox to find yet another salad and began to nibble.”Yo, Ash!” Henri held his hand up for a sarcastic high five.
Ashton hobbled along, head still in the dystopian novel he was reading. I made a note to check it out from the library. Every school has a Henri Johnson. He was the boy who enthralled all the girls, including the teachers. He was also the boy who would probably cry if you called his muscles small.
I was tempted to call Ash over to sit next to me, but he made his way to his usual spot. “A-ash, oh, Ash,” Henri’s voice shifted to a shrill falsetto yodel, “Now I heard something or another about you and my gf”. The cafeteria, from the net-wearing lunch ladies to the useless teachers, watched, captivated. Everyone knew Henri and Ashley, a statuesque honours senior, were happily together. “Look you little turd. You don’t matter to her, you don’t matter to anyone”. Henri leaned in and whispered something into Ashton’s ear.
I saw the exact moment the words landed on Ashton. He became despondent and crumpled into himself. I stared at my salad, but I heard what happened. Turning away from Henri was one of the worst things you could do and Ashton did it.
Everyone later pretended that the bruises weren’t there.Founding day makes me want to slam my face into a car. The Idiot (the principal’s nickname from Elsa and I), decided it was a glorious idea to make us attend dry speeches about the way Tipton Tigers was established. Everyone is “sick” on that day and today isn’t any different. The small minority of us filed into the assembly hall, prepared for yet another ramble about how brick by brick the school originated.
Kill me now. I could hear Henri fake-snoring on the other side of the room and let my eyes roll. I wonder where Ashton was. He’s never sick or late.
He’s probably like the masses of students, very “sick” and can’t possibly come to school. “Ms Jackson,” I whisper to the teacher to my left, who was nodding off. “I need the restroom.
Please.” I added as an afterthought. She handed me a hall pass, which I pocket. I gradually tiptoe out of the auditorium, into the hallway and let out a sigh I have been holding in for the past couple of hours.
Glancing at all of the lockers, I stroll down to the science corridor bathroom, to find myself face to face with Ashton. I stare at him for a moment too long.ohmygoshohmygodhe’sgotagungodmomdadiloveyouohmygodhe’sgotagunandit’spointingatmyfacepleasesavemepleasepleasestopstopohmygodHe smiles.