Lifestyles of the Poor and Infamous

Chapter Four: The Junior High Years Pt. 2

I felt as if I was floating on the walk home that day. I suppose it was just the thought of someone actually wanting to talk to me after last year that made me this way. I knew in my head that I was getting too worked up over this, that it didn't really matter that much but I let myself be happy anyways.

My mother was in the kitchen when I got there around five, heating up some TV dinner for my father. She asked absently how my day had been, but was a little shaken when I replied "It was wonderful, mom. How was yours?"

"Er.. Fine, I suppose, Angel," she answered, and I could feel her eyes trailing me until I was out of sight.

I still wasn't sure why I was so happy, so excited. I just knew I looked forward to tomorrow.

xxx

The next day had a typical beginning, and even a typical middle. I walked through it as I always did, but found myself a little nervous to enter the art room when the time came. As everyone cheerfully chattered their way into the class, I looked at the ground. What if Mr. Henries didn't really want to be friends? Not that I really expected him to, but I had hoped…

"Angel, I doubt you are going to learn by standing outside the door," I heard, and looked up. The person I was so afraid to see was right there, smiling as he gestured for me to enter the room. Giggles and whispers followed me of course, but as I took my seat, all eyes were on Mr. Henries.

He explained the project we would be doing. Since he was new and didn't know that much about any of us, we would be doing art about ourselves. He gave us each a large sheet of white paper, and a large tub of crayons went to each table. We were to use a pencil to draw our own personal view of our lives and of course use the ever reliable crayons to color it. When asked for details, he replied the best way to get to know us is if we use our own interpretation of the instructions.

I was excited. I love these kinds of assignments. It gave me a chance to do what I want, how I want. But then my mood fell suddenly. My life wasn't something I wanted to advertise in the hallways. What was I supposed to do? Just scribble all over it? That's how I viewed my life. Mr. Henries must have noticed my suddenly downcast countenance, because he again asked me to stay after. Class was over by now, and I sat in my seat still as the other students left, gossiping happily about their own lives.

I'd never been depressed before. I'd never felt bad about myself or my life, ever. I'd always just taken it in stride, getting over anything quickly because I'd just close my eyes and ignore it all. Even when Charlie left I wasn't depressed, per say. Of course I was upset, but I didn't stop eating or over eat or do any of that other stuff people do when they get depressed. I just… was.

I still wasn't depressed. I felt as if I should be. I lost my best friend, my mother and father hated each other and hated me, I wasn't skilled at anything and I was going no where in life, I was alone in the world. There was a strange weight bearing on my heart that had been getting steadily heavier and heavier ever since I lost Charlie. It wasn't sadness though. I didn't know what it was.

I absently ran my finger along the edge of the table as I stared at the blankness of the paper Looking around at my fellow classmates who were beginning already to put on paper their representation of their individual existences, I picked up a single blue crayon and started on the project. I had no pre-meditated plan or course of action. I just started. Taking up a different colored utensil every few seconds, I proceeded to make mark after mark on the page until I had covered every inch of the page in random colorful confetti, made up of every shade of every color except one. Finally, I picked up a black crayon and made a short, thick, black mark in the center of the paper. As I tossed the crayon back into the tub, I looked around.

Redness flushed my face. The only person in the room other than me was Mr. Henries, looking at me amusedly from behind his desk. This was the first time I had actually failed to hear the bell. I turned back to my table and put my head down. "Sorry Mr. Henries," I said into the wood.

"Don't worry about it, Angel. I didn't want to disturb you. Your face was a bit scary there," Chris said jokingly. I heard him stand up and start towards me. "Are you finished?"

"I suppose so, sir. Erm, Chris," I said, hiding my eyes.

"May I have a look at it?" He halted right behind me, so close I could smell his musty cologne. I had never bothered with the smelly stuff, mostly because I couldn't afford the outrageous prices of a tiny little bottle.

I sighed inwardly, knowing I couldn't just say no to a teacher, albeit a friendly one. I rose and stepped away, keeping my eyes everywhere but my artwork and my instructor. He tenderly picked up the multicolored paper, and proceeded to examine it from every angle and distance, from close up to arms-length. I could feel my already red-tinted face heating up more, and I chewed my chapped lips. He didn't like it. I just made a fool of myself. Stupid, stupid Angel…

"Interesting," he said, mostly to himself, though I looked up anyways. Interesting? Is that good? Or bad? "Angel, this is excellent," okay…good… "You really captured the assignment perfectly. I can see what you are trying to say." He now looked up from the apparently "excellent" art. "Will you sit down with me, please?"

I did as he said, and he took the next stool over, body turned towards me. His elbow was propped on the table, hand under his chin. "It's not your skill that is amazing; it's the feeling behind it. You feel lost and alone in a crowded place. People are everywhere; they surround you, but there is no one who really understands you. You are the black mark in the center here," he tapped the respective spot.

There was a silence for a bit. I digested his words, and was shocked at their truth. I opened my mouth, closed it again, and then spoke: "You're wrong, sir." I dared a look into his eyes. "Someone does understand."

He smiled that smile that could be in a toothpaste commercial, or on the cover of a celebrity magazine, but was too real for either, and I relaxed. I bowed my head, and felt something strange bubbling up in my chest.

We both chortled with laughter, and for the next hour we exchanged our life stories. It didn't seem possible to be this happy. Never again did I expect to feel this elation, this sensation of just having a friend.

He told me about where he grew up, his family, college, his girlfriends and the fiancé he almost married; I told him about my family, and about Charlie (omitting the part where I found out I was gay—I wasn't sure I wanted to lose this friend so soon).

My name is Angel Mahogany, and today might just be the best day of my life.