Last year, as a joke, the yearbook ran my picture, accompanied by the phrase "Most likely to blow the school up."
I guess I am that kind of guy. I have the appearance of the stereotypical loner; my entire wardrobe is black. I paint my fingernails –which are disgustingly gnawed down out of nerves- and my hair is emerald green. Most mornings, I don't even bother to comb it; I pull my hood up over it instead. I'm too pale, too dark, too brooding. I hate the world and the world hates me.
I don't wonder why they think I'll blow them all to hell.
It's a long ride on the underground from school to home. I change trains twice, which is a pain.
I don't know which train she takes first, but I always see her on the second one. That girl. She's friends with the goodie-two-shoes; the popular guys. The ones every one loves because they're just so gosh darn nice. She's loved too, because she's that girl who's so sweet and pretty and kind. She was even nice to me once, apologizing when she bumped into me and I'd dropped my glasses. She'd picked them up, handed them to me with a smile and called an apology over her shoulder as she bounded down the hall towards a disembodied voice shouting her name.
Sometimes, I think I hate her most of all.
I always pull my hood tighter around my head when I'm on the train. She tries to talk to me, because no one else from our school takes this train. She doesn't care that my responses to her chatter are far and few or that they usually consist of grunts and one-word answers, if I'm feeling kind. I never express anything other than disinterest, but she does not seem to mind.
I only half listen and wonder why she bothers. What does she think of me, with my dreary clothes, unusual hair and gloomy aura? My face –not that it's seen often- is pale, my features pinched. I have dark, slanted eyes, remnants of a once-proud Japanese ancestry, and a small, pointed nose. I always have dark circles beneath my eyes, which are sometimes highlighted with kohl or eye shadow. The glasses ruin my image; they're black plastic frames and they make my eyes stand out more from my white face, giving me an owlish look.
I don't dress this way –with chains on my pants and chipped nail polish- to be frightening or to make a statement or to rebel. I dress this way because I would look ridiculous if I tried to be "normal."
"Hi!" She sits next to me, and I scoot closer to the other end of the seat, away from her.
"The social studies test was difficult, wasn't it?" She yammers on and I twirl my glasses –I can't see much without the damn things- between my narrow fingers. "I think I did okay. I hope I did okay. Rowen helped me study, so I should be fine."
Absently, I rub at an eye, frowning at the smudge of fuchsia eye shadow that smears on my fingers. I had forgotten it was there; I never pay too much attention to my appearance. The light makeup only fuels rumors of my oddness, as well as getting people thinking I'm a fag. Not really true; not really false. Mostly, I avoid human contact as often as possible, so how could I be either?
Grumbling under my breath and wiping the makeup on my pants, I wish she would shut up. I have half an hour before I switch trains again and I could be napping, if she would just stop talking.
Knowing that an attempted nap will be futile, I jam my glasses back up my nose and peer around my hood at her, getting my first really good look at her.
She's really not all that pretty, when you're looking at her so close. She has a lot of hair, but it's thin and scraggly. And red. Not brightly so, but red enough to annoy me. Reminds me too much of that bastard who's always picking at me, thinking he's better than me. Her eyes –green- are too close together, her mouth a bit too wide. Her bangs bounce across her forehead when she nods. She has a freckle by her nose; just one and it stands out from her pale skin. Her eyes sparkle and I wonder what it would take to wipe that good-natured smile from her face.
Could I make her cry?
She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and I stare back at my dingy green All-Stars. I don't understand why she talks to me like this day after day. I know it's superficial; she probably sleeps better at night, having helped a charity case like me. She doesn't honestly like me. She can't like me. No one does.
I don't want her to.
She chatters on and on about the social studies exam and a science project and study groups and poor cafeteria food. Instead of telling her to shut the hell up –she won't anyway- I lean back in my seat, pulling my hood over my eyes and tuning her out.
The train stops and we part ways. She waves as she's swallowed by a sea of bodies, headed off towards the number five and home. I ignore her, crossing the bustling platform to the nine.
Holding on to the pole, book bag thumping against my thigh, I stare at myself in the window as the train speeds towards a modest neighborhood. Towards high-rises once magnificent but now fading, an apartment empty until six, cold and still echoing with the ghostly voices of last night's parental argument. My life is one of slow routine, dull and cyclical. Nothing new ever happens.
I imagine she goes home to a white picket fence, a mother waiting with cold milk and warm chocolate chip cookies. Her phone rings off the hook with friends calling and she still calls her father "daddy." I don't know if these suppositions are true, but I imagine they must be, for her life is surely the antithesis of my own. That is how she is able to be happy.
I know that no one will believe me if I tell them she talks to me on the train everyday. She is popular and I am no one, so what would she want with me? Her friends don't trust me; they look down their noses on me. Just like every one else.
It doesn't matter. I tell myself that everyday. None of this matters, because in a short year, I will never see any of these people again. It doesn't matter that people ignore me. Or hate me. Or fear me. Or –worse yet- pity me. It doesn't matter that she's so phony and nice to every one, because I know the truth. She's a bitch.
It unnerves me, though, the way she makes me feel a little less transparent. I've worked so hard to be invisible and she has shattered that illusion. As long as no one knows she talks to me, I will be able to remain almost perfectly unseen. That is what I want, no matter how much I am beginning to get used to these encounters.
The train stops and I slip off, solitary and unnoticed, and tell myself it's better this way.