Faded Mannequins

By Inherent

Fade To Grey

Friday February Fifth

In just five seconds, everything changed. Everything I was against crashed right into me.

One second before I was complaining about some stupid thing that happened at school, some microscopic event that lasted minutes longer than this, but couldn't compare in any way.

I was talking about my English teacher, and how horrible, evil, and cruel she was. You know, the normal stuff. I just started telling my long, monotonous story when it happened.

"I mean, she doesn't even know how to teach. She was all like, 'Michael, you can't blow off an assignment like this, it's a huge grade.' And I was like, 'Blow off? I spent days on end perfecting this repo-"

I never got to finish that sentence.

I can't really explain what happened. It went by so fast, yet so slowly. The gloomy scene of cars driving in the rain got a bit more dramatic. Instead of driving straight to our destinations we all spun out of control like God rolled a bowling ball out of the sky directly towards us, waiting to see what would happen. I was ripped forward then back so quickly I didn't have time to think something poetic like, 'This is it' or 'Have I done anything worth living?' All I was able to think was, 'ouch'.

Five seconds.

One crash.

Then everything stereotypically went black.

Many people say change is inevitable. I was always inclined to disagree. Change doesn't have to happen, it can be ignored as long as we please. We can avoid change as easily as we avoid anything else; we just pretend it doesn't exist. Just like people did with every other horrible thing that happens, they swept them under the rug and put a nice coffee table on top to keep it contained.

My life was like a broken record, never changing and never giving me any surprises, and I liked it that way. I didn't have to worry about things popping out of nowhere or worrying what would happen the next day. I already knew what was going to happen.

Before that there was a short period where things were almost normal. It was kind of frightening at the time.

I was all of five-years-old, enjoying my first month of kindergarten sitting alone in a corner reading a book. I was perfectly content, just my book and me. The teacher couldn't understand this. In her simple mind of hers she came to the conclusion that I was unhappy- that I needed friends. She didn't get that I had enough, that I had my imagination and that was enough for me.

What ended up being more than enough for me was the reluctant boy whom she sent over to 'be my friend'. He was wearing jean shorts and an oversized red shirt. I remember him shuffling over, sitting down next to me and mumbling, "I'm Andrew, Mrs. Franklin told me to be your friend. Is that okay?"

At this time I was still reading my book, I didn't put it down to reply. I just nodded behind the pages and continued reading. Andrew just smiled and went back over to his other friends.

We didn't talk until two weeks later when Andrew got in a fight with his friends who actually took the time to talk to him. He came over to the corner I was sitting in during recess and told me to go play with him because his other friends were being 'dumb' and he was bored. I nodded and went to play a really bad game of basketball. When recess was over he said that I was a really good backup friend.

After that day, we didn't talk again. He went back to his real, non-backup friends and I went back to my books. It was safe to say that we were both fine with how things ended up, because it was how things were meant to be. And who were we to change it?

Simplicity was—and still is—my state of mind. It's my way of living and it's my way of viewing. I don't analyze, I don't wonder, and I don't care. You'd think for my personality I'd be one of those 'deep and moving' people, one of the ones who tear small details or ideas apart and try to figure out a 'why'. I never figured out a good reason why to do that.

This is exactly what I wrote my English report on. This is exactly what earned me a C for the quarter. My teacher said I wasn't thinking deep enough. I told her maybe, possibly she was thinking too deeply. She told me to leave her classroom now or there wouldn't be any pizza left when I got to the front of the lunch line. I told her I packed my own lunch.

I don't know why this is important enough to put in here, but I know there's a reason. The reason is probably too deep for me to recall right now, but I know there is one. That's something I do believe in, that there's a reason for everything. I don't know how there couldn't be a reason for every single thing that happens.

I suppose I should write a little more about myself in this since whoever it may be that is fortunate, or unfortunate enough to read this should know a little bit more about myself. You know, the basics. Things teachers ask you on the first day of school to 'get to know you better'. Though, I've never really understood how my teacher knowing orange chicken is my favourite food will help her to understand me.

Anyways, my name is Michael, I'm sixteen years old and I have problems remembering the correct order of the alphabet. I don't like chocolate and I have a three-year-old Chihuahua named Seven.

I don't know if that tells you enough about me, but it's all I've got.

On Thursday February fourth 3:30 p.m. my location was Central High School on the corner of Seventh and Brockton. I had been waiting here over an hour, knowing I could have been home by now if my parents would let me get my drivers license. They say I should wait until my senior year and just focus on work now.

I could hear the sound of the diesel engine slowing down in front of the school. I looked up and saw my mother sitting in the driver's seat with my ten-year-old sister in the front passenger's seat. I quickly walked up to the car and threw my backpack in the trunk and then got inside. The car, I mean, not the trunk.

"Sorry, honey, I picked Kara up from school and we got a little sidetracked and we went out to lunch," my mother explained while searching for a radio station to listen to. " I was just so starved. I forgot to eat this morning."

"That's fine," I said not really caring.

"So how was school today?" my mother asked.

"Fine. Like yesterday and the day before that," I responded automatically.

"I don't get why you ask him that. Every time you do he says the exact same thing. Unless it's a Monday or Tuesday." My little sister sighed and got her iPod out of her backpack.

"Well, I'm sure if something bad happened at school he wouldn't be saying that. I'm just trying to make sure my son's okay. Is there anything wrong with that? I do the same thing to you." My mother gripped the steering wheel tighter and kept her eyes locked on the road.

"Whatever you say," Kara said. "But I swear he sounds like a robot." She snapped her head around and stared at me. "Would you mind terribly if I brought you in to show and tell. I'm sure the kids would be amazed at me having a robot for a brother."

I growled at her.

Kara smiled. "Even better. You're a tiger robot."

My sister's not the typical annoying younger sibling. She is annoying but it's a bit different. Mostly because she acts like she's twenty instead of ten. She's one of those golden children parents love having but don't exactly know how to act around them. She's just one of those children parents should stay away from because besides biting she'll also make them seem like inept adults. Which also ends up costing them a fortune in psychology bills. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure it will.

"Oh, Michael, you know the house next door? It finally sold," my mom said at an attempt to stop Kara and I from fighting.

"Oh cool," I said absentmindedly.

"Yeah, I'm happy about it. Having a for sale sign up for three months worries me if we every decide to sell."

"Mom, we're picking Erin up before we go home, right?" Kara asked.


I had no idea why Erin and my sister were friends. They were more than polar opposites. They went beyond that. Erin was one of those girls who thought being twelve and wearing more make up than a mime was attractive, and that going through five boyfriends in the coarse of three months was something to be proud of.

Maybe there was something beyond their noticeable traits and personalities that made them want to be friends. Maybe they had a lot more in common then what we all see. Maybe they were close because they weren't the same. Maybe if they were exactly the same it would feel like they were talking to themselves, which would feel boring because they could be talking to a mirror instead.

Except mirrors can't talk back.

When we got home each of us parted to our sides of the house to do our own thing. We had our own little sanctuaries complete with their own invisible Do Not Disturb signs. Kara and Erin ran to Kara's bedroom, my mom walked to the family room to watch a movie, and I grabbed a water bottle from the kitchen and headed upstairs to waste away on the computer.

"Could you possibly turn your music down?"

I snapped my head away from my computer screen and looked over to the door. My sister was standing in the doorframe looking quite pissed at me.

"You can't seriously hear my music through the walls. It's not even up that loud," I said, turning my head back to the screen.

"Yes, but, dear brother, I know you're playing the music loudly which makes my ears drown out everything but your music," she explained.

This was a prime example of what my sister was like. Kara could complain about anything at anytime. No matter how big or small, she just loved complaining. I've gotten so used to her complaining that without it she just wouldn't be her, just some alien in her body.

I turned down my music and swerved my chair around to face Kara. "Right. So, what's up?"

"Smoking cigars and listening to jazz, what do you think?" my sister said. "But seriously, why do you care?"

"I don't, I'm just trying to be nice," I mumbled turning back my bright, familiar computer screen.

Kara grabbed the doorknob and said, "Well stop it. It doesn't suit you."

"I'm a nice person." I stared at my computer screen while trying to find a web page I was on in website history.

"You're also my brother so therefore you're not nice."

I found it. "Your logic never ceases to amaze me. Now can you please get out of my room?" I said it as nicely as possible. Almost too sweet that I had to gag.

"My pleasure." Then she shut the door.

There was this ritual we had in my family. I don't really know if it would be called a ritual but we did it the first Friday of every month. That was the day my mother went to visit her great aunt at the retirement home, which was an hour away. She never brought Kara or me because Emily, our great aunt, hated kids with a passion. I can't say I blamed her. I remember the day when my mother tried to explain this the best she could to us.

"Mommy is going to visit Aunt Emily now. Be good for the baby sitter."

"Why can't we go?" Kara was too young to grasp the whole, why would we want to go?

"You know how you feel about spiders, honey? That's how Aunt Emily feels about kids." It wasn't the best analogy, but it worked.

Kara blinked and nodded, wide eyed (I think she imagined Aunt Emily squishing her like a spider with her shoe), then went to watch T.V.

Now instead of us staying with a baby sitter, we were old enough to stay home alone. Kara decided she would rather go to a friend's house instead of staying with her brother, which was more than fine with me.

I was still too young to drive and school was too far away from home to walk so my uncle, who lived about a half an hour away would pick me up after school on every first Friday of the month and we'd go out to lunch then he'd drop me off home. It's been this way since I was thirteen. I didn't mind spending time with my uncle, Peter, because he was the only person I could really stand besides Kara.

The odd thing about my uncle was he was only twenty-eight. Maybe that's why I got along so well with him. He was more of an older brother than an uncle. He was the first (and only) person that I admitted to that I wasn't exactly straight.

We were at lunch; sitting in comfortable silence, or what Peter thought was comfortable silence. I decided to just go ahead and blurt it out at the same time Peter decided to say something.

"You know this chicken is kind of chew-" I cut him off.

"I'm gay."

Peter put down his fork. "Okay..."

"Sorry," I said as I began to drown my fries in ketchup. "Just thought that this was a good time."

Peter shook his head and looked at me with stern eyes. "Don't worry about it, it's as good of a time as any. Am I the first to know?"

"Yeah. I don't think I'll be telling my mom anytime soon. It'll just be a reason to have her put me in counseling," I explained. "I mean, you don't think I should, do you?"

I didn't know whether I was talking about counseling or telling my mother.

"To be perfectly honest, you can't be sure what you're mom's going say. I've known her for a very long time and you can never be sure how she reacts. Whatever you do, remember that I still think of you as just Michael."

I don't know why I just blurted it out. I guess I wanted to see how it felt to admit something. I wanted to do something different, to change the day; and I have to say, it actually felt pretty good.

Friday February fifth started was the first Friday of February, which meant Peter was picking me up from school and I got to eat a cheeseburger for the first time in two months.

I waited five minutes inside the school because of the rain before Peter's car showed up, then I quickly ran inside like I had just robbed a bank and he was driving the getaway car.

We went to a local chain restaurant for lunch. We sat down, asked each other about our day and how we'd been. I ranted about school and Peter ranted about work. Neither of us said anything different than normal. It was just a regular first Friday of the month. There was no reason to make it any different.

Then when lunch was over Peter asked me whether to take the streets or the freeway home. I didn't really care either way. I picked the freeway because I decided stopping at red lights annoyed me. It never passed my mind that ten minutes later I'd regret that. Why should it? It hadn't happened yet.

And then it did.

In just those five seconds everything changed. My broken record flew off the player and hit me square in the face.