The hallways were filtering out, the other kids laughing and screaming with fading voices. I hung back, waving to a few friends and picking through my locker tediously. The mirror on the red metal door reflected my worn appearance; the previous night had taken a toll on me. My blonde hair was oily and matted down, and I had forgotten to put on a clean button up through my fatigue.
The bags under my eyes encircled a blue ocean of irises, and I tried to smile at myself. The night was filled with idea after idea, a scratch sheet of paper my close friend. A pencil gripped tightly in my fingers, I scribbled notes and thoughts until I finally was satisfied with the result.
It was my junior year of high school and the workload was getting heavier. I was never a part of the popular crowd but I was far from unknown either. I was friends with some of those considered cool, and I knew the people who were sometimes considered losers. I tried to be everybody's friend, sometimes to my detriment.
Mrs. Tildon had passed out an assignment the previous day. She always stood there with the all knowing look of a goddess, and her cascades of silky red hair curled around her sharp angled shoulders. I had this inner desire to impress her, maybe from a crush, maybe because I felt the need to always be perfect. It was a research project, based upon people's reactions and emotions to different situations. We had three weeks, according to the sheet, to come up with an idea and fully research it. We had full creative control over what we chose to research, but a four page paper had to be done to Mrs. Tildon's specifications and turned in at the end of the month.
It was November 12th, and I was already hard at work that previous night coming up with ideas. When one finally brought the satisfied smile to my tired jaw, I knew I had gold.
Stragglers were left behind, picking up books out of lockers, but most of the people I knew had gone. And that is when I saw him.
Marcus Di'Angelo, the subject of my research paper. He was constantly made fun of, constantly under the scrutiny of the other students, always the butt of cruel and heartless jokes. My best friend Kevin insisted he was some Satan worshipper, but I ignored those rumors and always watched the cruelty from afar. The boy didn't seem fazed by the acid words of others, yet he peaked my interest from the moment I saw him in my algebra class sophomore year.
He was quiet, yet exuded this strange air of intrigue. His hair was dyed a shocking purple, like a blazing sunset sky on the eve of a rainy night. He laced and strapped his lanky arms up in bright, neon fishnets and adorned his waist with studded belts with skulls or flames. His bangs always covered one eyes. It gave him the appearance of a half blind man, always searching for something and never finding it in that purple sky of his hair.
He walked by slowly with a black messenger bag slung over his slumped shoulders. His eyes were downcast and I, for whatever reason, wondered from inside what color those eyes were. I couldn't recall ever catching them in full light, only in shadow or in passing. The desire to know caught me off guard, and I looked back at my locker without acknowledging he was passing by.
Remaining unknown to him was key to getting that A on my paper. The idea may have seemed crazy to anyone else, but it felt genius to me. The goal was to see what reaction Marcus Di'Angelo, remaining unnamed in the paper of course, would have to a secret admirer. I would watch like a spy his feelings and emotions about the situation, baiting him ever so slightly each day at school with notes.
He was the schools outcast, the epitome of a loser on the high school social class. And with winter settling on my Minnesota suburb, emotions would be high with the bitter cold and icy winds that come calling each year.
"Hey Liam," a voice called, and, looking up, I saw Gina. Marcus must have faded away into the winding halls, because his telltale clink of the chain wallet he always carried could not be heard.
"Hey Gina," I replied, shutting my locker and stuffing the assignment sheet back into my backpack.
Looking down at it as I put it away, Gina asked, "So what are you doing for that project?"
"Um, well…I don't know yet." I lied.
I felt inside that I could, no, I should, be able to tell her. But there was this strange nagging feeling in my heart that whispered not to tell, to keep it close and keep it personal.
If I had only known the whirlwind that secret would bring, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would've had nothing on me.