Nothing was special about the day. There was nothing happening; no celebrations, no rare occasions, nothing even coincidental. It was just a grey cloudy day on November sixth, the day I was admitted into Lloyd Faulkner's Home for Delinquent Boys. A week ago my dad had driven up to the building, with me in the car beside him. He told me I would be staying here until I "learned". Learned what, I'm pretty sure I could guess, but why it had to be at this place was a mystery to me. He took me inside. I remember wishing I had dressed nicer; the lobby we entered was relatively high class, and I was wearing a grey T-shirt with a hole in it (from battery acid, if I remember correctly). There was a lot of my dad talking to the receptionist in gruff whispers, as if this were a hospital and needed to be silent, and then a lot of signing paperwork. I just stood silently while it was all being taken care of, staring off to the left where a pair of double doors led down a linoleum hallway. A few times I saw some people walk by, but they were far off and nondescript; they didn't really catch my attention. Nothing did. The place was a dreary beige. It reminded me of a retirement home.
After my dad made me aware of his departure by awkwardly patting my shoulder, I was taken on a tour of the place that would potentially be my home for a good while. The person showing me around was named Mr. Thomas. Looking at him, he seemed somewhat intimidating, like he had just graduated from being in the military, but he was actually very kind and I enjoyed being in his company. He walked me down the same hall I had previously been staring down. Apparently that hall was the visiting hall, where family members would come to see whoever it was that was staying here. At the end of the hall we took a right, and went up a large staircase. On the second and third floors were the classrooms, which were currently filled with students. I was told previously that I would not be attending classes until winter break was over, seeing as it would start only a week from then. I was happy about this. I did not like being introduced to new people so quickly, but I felt as though that might happen anyway since I would be living here. Mr. Thomas also pointed out the entrance to the cafeteria, but we didn't go in. I was glad. The smell of cafeteria food, anywhere at any time, sickened me.
The fourth floor was home to the dorms. There wasn't much to see. It was a lot like looking down a hallway in a hotel: rooms on both sides, numbered, and a small space to walk in between them. I was then taken to my room. It was near the end of the hall, number 33. It was small, and kind of sad. Mr. Thomas assured me that I would get used to it, but I silently wondered what there was to get used to. There were two beds on opposite walls, with about three feet between them. There was one desk attached to the far wall on the right, sitting under a small grimy window. There was a door on the right and left sides of the room in the back. Closets, I assumed. Bathrooms were down the hall to my right, I was instructed. I was also told that showers could not surpass ten minutes at any time.
I was given a stack of clothes that I would be wearing during the entirety of my stay there. There were school clothes, leisure clothes, and pajamas. Laundry was done for us, which was a plus I suppose, if everything else didn't seem so terrible. The clothes looked terrible. Everything was a mix of white and blue. The school clothes I was given must be for winter term, seeing as the sleeves of the shirt were long, as well as the pants. Ties were apparently required as well. Everything supported extreme modesty. I didn't mind.
Before he left me in my room, Mr. Thomas informed me that I didn't have a roommate as of yet, so I was allowed to use both beds (for what, I didn't have a clue), and then he told me that there was a fifth floor where psychologists had sessions with a lot of the boys here, but I would not be one of them. He told me this was a good thing, gave me a smile, and took his leave.
The rest of the week from there was very dull. I learned the daily routine almost immediately, since there was barely anything to do in the first place. On the second day of my stay, my things arrived. I suppose dad just threw some things in a suitcase hoping they would suffice, and brought them here. There wasn't anything I really wanted in it, so I stowed it under the bed I was using, the one on the left.
The next five days were spent doing the same things: waking up at 6:30, skipping breakfast to roam the halls instead, a ten minute shower, more roaming, skipping lunch, spending time being bored to death in my room, and then eating dinner after most of the other guys had evacuated the cafeteria. Once I had dinner down I usually went straight to bed.
Tonight is different. I don't intend for it to be different, though. I go straight to my room, like always, but as I near my room I notice two people standing in the doorway. One I recognize as Mr. Thomas, who is carrying two suitcases. The other is a guy I've never seen before. I assume he's around my age, but I can't quite tell since he's facing away from me. He draws my attention though; he's using crutches and talking in an annoyingly loud voice.
"Fuck, Thomas! For the last time, I don't need to change rooms. I sprained a goddamn ankle for Christ's sake, I didn't kill someone! And I mean, look at the place! The guy staying in here has got to be a total loser, there is nothing in here. Come on Thomas, take me back. Jesus." He gives an exasperated sigh as he leans his weight on the doorframe.
"Okay, okay, I can't. You know I can't. It's against the rules. Just do this for me, alright? I don't need to fill out any more forms because of you. You can come back when you're healed. And your roommate isn't a loser, he's pretty cool. I gave him a tour around, he's-"
I decide to make my presence known then by awkwardly clearing my throat. Mr. Thomas quickly turns to face me, stress written all over him.
"Ah, this is him! Michael, this is your new roommate, Noel." Michael turns half a step to look at me for a moment, raises an eyebrow, and then turns back to Mr. Thomas. The guy doesn't look nice at all. I am officially intimidated.
Apparently Mr. Thomas has had enough, because as soon as Michael turns back to face him, he just walks right past him into the room, sets the luggage down on the bed, and walks back out. Before he leaves he stops to give me a sympathetic smile, but then he's off down the hall and before I know it, I'm alone again. Michael makes his way into the room, and I'm left staring at the doorway. I know if I don't go in soon, he'll probably shut the door and lock me out, so I walk in as silently as I can, sit down on my bed, and try to avoid eye contact.
Which becomes increasingly difficult to do once I realize he's staring a hole into my head.
"So…" he drawls. His voice is really low, really raspy. I wonder if he's been yelling a lot today. "Thomas says you're cool. Care to elaborate?"
I don't say anything. Dad told me not to talk to anyone when I got here unless it was important. This doesn't register as important, so I keep shut. Michael, however, doesn't.
"Uh, hello? Earth to fuckwad?" Well that's…nice. I haven't even spoken to him and he's already started calling me names. This bodes well. Regardless, I still don't look or speak to him. I hear the sheets of his bed shifting around and out of the corner of my eye I see him throw a pillow down to the end of the bed so he can prop his sprained foot on it. He does so and leans back against the wall.
"Fuckin' thing hurts," he mumbles, then I feel his eyes on me once again. "So, you like, a mute or some shit? You probably are. Fuck, I always get stuck with the crazies. What the hell. Do you do anything? Or is my new roommate a fucking statue?" He sounds tired.
I don't want to be known as a statue. I mean, I do things. I just don't talk much and I don't have any material possessions to do things with. And I guess I'm not the most interesting person in the world but I'm not the dullest either. There's just nothing to do in this place. What does he do? Well I guess he talks to people more than I do, I suppose. He must have done something interesting to sprain his ankle, unless maybe he just fell down the stairs, but he doesn't seem like the kind of person who loses their footing on something simple like stairs. He's in school right now, and he does seem kind of tough, so maybe he got in a fight with one of the other guys here? Who knows.
"Whatever," he says with a sigh. I guess he's figured out that I'm not going to talk, because afterwards he opens one of his two suitcases to grab some handheld game system (I don't know what it's called, never had one) and he tunes me out after that. I don't really mind.
After a while of sitting quietly (the only thing breaking the silence being Michael's button mashing) I decide to look over at him. He's preoccupied and doesn't notice. This is the first time I've actually gotten a clear look at him, and my intimidation dies down a little. His features aren't as tough as I assumed they would be; in fact he's kind of slender. He has really pale skin that looks eerie with the light from his game illuminating his face. His eyes are catching the glare from his game screen, so it's a little difficult to tell the color. They look to be a dark gray-green mixture, but I could be totally off. His hair is a messy mop of black waves, slinking down into his eyes but not past his ears. It's rather unruly, and I wonder if a lot of guys wear their hair like that nowadays. Or maybe he just hasn't brushed it today. I wouldn't know. He's wearing the leisure clothes. They're all wrinkled and rolled up in places. Is he the type of person who cares about how they look? Probably not. The clothes fit him, though.
I jolt a bit as his eyes flick up to me for the briefest of moments before looking back down at his game. "Take a picture asshole. Stop staring." And I mean to stop staring, but when he talks I notice something glinting around his mouth. Then I realize what it is, a lip piercing. He has a lip piercing? Why would anyone want that? It sounds so painful, and it can't be comfortable to have a ring there anyway, always in the way. It's on his bottom lip, on his left. Why did he choose that side? Does he have other piercings? Am I thinking about this too much?
"Stop staring. Jesus." He looks up at me, this time for an extended moment to make sure I see his pointed look. I get the hint and my eyes dart away to my own bed. It's a lot less interesting to look at.
At this point there's really nothing left for me to do except get dressed for bed, so I get up and go to the closet on the left. It's not really a walk-in closet. More like a coat closet. It smells like mold, and when I open it up my nose scrunches up unpleasantly. I quickly grab my pajamas that are folded and sitting neatly on the floor (no hangers were provided for me) and head back over to my bed, but then I hesitate. Usually I just change in the room, but now seeing as I have a roommate, that's probably not the best idea. Instead I decide to head to the bathroom, which only a few feet away from the dorm itself, so it's not really a problem. Before I step all the way out of the door though, I hear Michael call me back. I poke my head back inside to see what he wants.
"Dude, just change in here. You don't have anything I don't have, 'cept maybe a damn voice, but that ain't hiding under your clothes." He's still not looking up from his game. Is it really that fun?
I stare at him for a moment, but I still leave to change. I most definitely do not feel comfortable enough to change when he is in the room. I hear him mumble something as I leave, but I don't catch it. It's probably just another insult.
The bathrooms aren't the greatest of facilities. They're community bathrooms, so really it's just one big room. Urinals and sinks line the entire left half of the room, and shower stalls on the right. The back wall is home to the bathroom stalls. There's a room length mirror above the urinals, which I find particularly disturbing. Who wants to watch themselves while they pee? The whole place reminds of a locker room, but I've never actually been in a locker room so maybe I'm just making that up.
I head back to the bathroom stalls and choose one at the end to change in. There are insults and terrible song lyrics written throughout the inside of the stall and I can't help but snicker. I hope the people that wrote them weren't serious because this is a bathroom stall. Find somewhere cleanlier to be poetic.
The past few days have been the only days I've ever worn a tie, and every day I thank god they're easier to take off than to put on. I didn't have any fancy clothes at home. Where would I be going that needed fancy clothes? So I never owned a tie. Dad probably has a few, but I've never seen him wear any. But I bet he has some.
As I sling the tie over the stall door and begin to unbutton my shirt, I hear someone else enter the bathroom. I don't really mind, seeing as I'm in a stall, but it's still uncomfortable. I rush to finish dressing and head out of the stall right when the stranger turns on the faucet to wash his hands. I do the same, not wanting to seem unhygienic just walking out of a bathroom stall and leaving. He notices me right away.
"Haven't seen you before. New?" He looks at me through the mirror rather than looking directly at me. He has red hair that could be mistaken for brown, and bright green eyes. Everyone I meet here seems to have green eyes. I thought green eyes were kind of rare. Guess not.
I nod. "That sucks. Well I mean, it's not so bad here, but it sucks that you're here anyway. You don't really look like Faulkner material to me. What're you in for, if you don't mind me askin'?"
I do mind him asking though. He seems like a nice enough guy, but I still don't want to break my promise with dad. It's not important, so I shouldn't talk to him.
I shrug and shake my head, then head over to the hand dryers. Hopefully the noise will distract him from prying any further.
He walks over and turns on the dryer beside me. Over the roar of hot air I hear him say, "Hey, whatever man. No pressure." His hands are dry before mine. He gives me a friendly pat on the shoulder, then turns to leave.
As my dryer turns off, the stranger pokes his head back in the bathroom and says real quick, "I'm Jesse, by the way. See you around." And then he's gone.
I already like him better than Michael.
As I reenter the room, I realize the door had been left ajar. That must have been my fault. I make sure to shut it all the way when I close it behind me, then I head back over to my closet to place my clothes in the box I use as a hamper.
"So," Michael starts, "heard you met Jesse."
I turn around to face him. He's staring at me, eyebrow raised. He's annoyed. How did he even know that?
My confusion must be easy to see, because to tilts his head over to the door. "You left it open. The bathroom's across the hall, genius. Not exactly hard to hear."
I just nod, sitting down on my bed.
"You should stay away from him. He is not the kind of person you want to be making friends with."
I snort. I can't help it. He's telling me who I shouldn't be friends with? All he does is swear and call me names. At least Jesse was nice. Why should I listen to Michael? I just met him! I roll my eyes and get under the covers, trying to end the conversation there.
He persists. "I'm warning you. He's a bad person. Just stay away from him, got it?" He glares at me, waiting for an answer.
Retaliation after retaliation dances on my lips, but I say none of them. Instead I just sigh and close my eyes, wanting to sleep. Michael sighs as well, out of frustration I'm guessing. I hear some shuffling and I'm assuming he's getting under the covers too. My curiosity starts to wander and I wonder how he's getting under the covers with his foot in such a bad condition. I open my eyes a little, only to find Michael half standing half leaning next to his bed with his shirt off. He's changing.
I tell my eyes to shut. I try to force them shut, but no, they stay open, and they begin to wander. His skin is so pale I wonder if he's ever seen the sun. He definitely has muscle; it's just hard to notice with the clothes on. My eyes wander a little lower and my stomach begins to squirm. I've had this feeling in my stomach only a few times before, and I know it's bad. It has to be, or else none of this would be happening to me.
My eyes rest on his navel, next to which I spot something small that I assume must be a tattoo. I can't actually tell due to the dim lighting and my squinted eyes, but what else could it be? It's barely bigger than his bellybutton, and it appears to be a non-descript shape. I wonder suddenly if I'll ever figure out what it is. Will the opportunity ever arise to which I could ask him? I don't think so.
As his hands reach down to start unbuttoning his pants, I force my eyes shut and keep them that way. My face heats up immensely, so I pull the sheet over my head to hide my reddened cheeks. After this I focus solely on trying to sleep.
Dad would kill me if he knew.
--end ch. 1
Author's comments: What's this? Another story? That's right. This is the product of months of writer's block. I'm not completely sure I want to go along with the entire thing just yet, we'll see. OTWO Ch8 is in the works as well, no worries.