A new specimen for me to pick at, watching the way that his foot moved in front of the other, the way that his body moved with his feet's' pace. Studying the way that his blue eyes flickered, the way that his short dark brown hair was spiked up. I watched and studied his clothes with his tight, light blue shirt over his tight dark-washed jeans and black converse. He was the subject of a teen heartthrob, except for one thing, this one singular thing that made him stand out from the rest, and most likely the reason that he had obviously changed schools.
It was this singular thing that told me that, the fact that he had changed schools, not come out of home schooling. It was the way that he walked so protectively, and his hands were in his back pockets. He seemed like he was so aware of his surroundings, checking over his shoulder constantly, and wanting nothing to do with the other people in the cafeteria. I could look at this boy and I could see little parts of his history. He used to be top dog, just the way that he kept his look made that easy enough to see. He probably had the girls flocking to him, constantly on his arm, but he didn't look like the athletic type by his build. He was tall and skinny, looked more like a runner than some football jock. But still, he didn't look like he was running track & field, more like light jogging to keep in a basic good shape. Maybe it was just his good looks, and it managed to rub off onto the girls. But he had lost it all, something about his facial expression, the flicker of his eyes, something inside of him changed.
Minimization. Suppression. Denial. Fleeing to a new school. Clear anxiety. Disassociation from others. Overly watchful. Bruises. Not eating lunch.
I knew a lot of things, I'd studied a lot of things, I'd read a lot of things. And of all of them, I could identify one singular thing that made me think of why he would be forced to change schools. Trauma, being in such a situation was horrible, one of a word that regardless of the amount of times I told myself that I would stay away from the social norms; it was a word that I could hardly think. It was obvious, just looking at him and I could fully understand. Left school for nearly a month in an attempt through therapy, but by the time he'd gotten back, the rumors had spread, and everybody had heard about what had happened to him. He fell down the food chain of high school rapidly, falling to rumors that were both true and false, many of the rumors falling upon his traumatic experience true, but many more false ones had branched off. The bruises were not originally from the experience, but rather, from former friends attempting to beat the nonsense out of him. It was obvious that this experience had only happened recently, I would have assumed the original being about two months ago before he took a month off, and suffered through only two weeks before his parents agreed that he could change schools.
I watched the boy carefully as he paced around, looking for a place to sit. He made eye contact with me at a single point, and then looked around me before he moved towards my table, taking a seat at the far end of the table, facing the window. He was staring out the window, mindlessly, his thoughts taking him elsewhere, back to the place he had been in on a single night when his entire life had changed. I could tell by the way that he gripped at his arms that he was thinking about it. Normally I wouldn't care myself to ever talk to people, but I could feel something in my chest, although I tried to push it aside, picking up the fragile pages of Guy Montag and the story of a loss of creativity, a world of mass destruction, but not a world of censorship. My gaze kept flickering up to this boy, though, who had now created red marks in his arms. I tried to focus on a world that was set in an unpredictable future, but my mind wandered more than it usually did.
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" I uttered aloud, reading the pages of Bradbury's famous book, the words of Montag, recalling a traumatic experience that he had suffered of his own. Only after Montag had seen his wife revived from an overdose that she could not remember, he was remembering the traumatic experience of watching a woman dedicated to her books. He had tried to help a woman out of a burning house, but she would have rather died with her books, burning to her death. I looked up to the boy, who was staring back at me, confused. He blinked his eyes a few times, "Fahrenheit 451." I said simply, closing the book around my thumb in the page. "I was just reading it." What a lie. That quoted line had been printed many chapters before where I was. I was in the third section to the book, that line taking place much earlier.
I wasn't even sure why I was even taking notice. Never once had I raised my voice to watch and help Nadia when I watched her suffer through years, but I had always felt distanced from such an odd girl. She grew up in this torture, but to be thrown on such torture so suddenly, it would be horrific. Looking at the hurt in this poor boy's eyes, I moved down a few seats closer to him. He looked at me hesitantly; I didn't look like the everyday girl, nor the everyday human being. Humans were so far away and distant, that I had rarely ever taken myself to be like them and their purpose of life, in their perception of perfection. This boy's perception had been completely crushed, and it had been raised to entirely new levels that chances are he would never be able to reach. I held out my hand, "Celia." I said simply. And he stared at my hand for a few moments, unsure of what to do.
After a few moments, though, he grabbed it. I looked up at the cafeteria around us, some people were looking at me, whispering to their friends. Probably those strange things that cause humans to step closer to their perception. By making comments about me shaking hands with this boy, calling me awful names, it pushed them towards their perception. Because, once again, imagining that this perception is like a high bar that you have to reach, if you put someone else under you, you can simply step on their backs, giving you a couple of inches more closer to that perception bar of perfection. But mine didn't exist, I had no need to create a perception, and therefore, nothing stood in my way to find what was past that bar. What else was there around me in this gymnasium of life that humans were completely blinded of, from their eyes always on this perception bar.
"Henry." He answered me smoothly. I couldn't help but crack a little smile, leaning back in my chair and looking him over a few more times before quoting.
"In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility." Henry looked at me, a little confused, blinking his eyes a few times. It came upon me that I could only speak in quotes most of the time, especially in introducing myself, something that I was never known for doing. I'd never spoken to anybody in this cafeteria, most of whom were looking at me, spreading rumors among each other probably by this point already that something was happening between Henry and I. But still, blinking, Henry seemed confused, in which I couldn't help but stifle a small laugh, "William Shakespeare, Henry V." I clued him in. "You become a great man when you have to face humility and become modest about yourself."
I noticed the hint of a smile creeping onto Henry's face, something that seemed abnormal to him when he quickly let it go. He couldn't have been used to smiling after two months of feeling so depressed. I couldn't believe that he had only taken a month away from school, and that he hadn't taken any time in between the two schools to let himself heal over such an ordeal. Or, maybe he'd just seen my look. I wasn't what media said was beautiful. I didn't wear makeup, I didn't care about my clothes or my hair, and I usually didn't care about my hygiene either, but I couldn't help but get in the way of Henry doing something to himself that he might regret. I had already noticed the red marks deep in his skin, right over some old bruises that may have been caused by his former peers, something I could locate in his eyes.
"Enjoying your book?" Henry asked me, after a long moment of awkward silence passing between us. I gave a few blinks before looking down and realizing that we had been so quiet. My thumb was still trapped between the worn down pages of Fahrenheit 451.
I shook my head, "Not really. I've already read it about four times." I replied shyly.
"Then why do you read it if you don't like it?"
I blinked a few times, shrugging my shoulders. Rarely was I ever without words to say; and often I could save myself with some classic literature quote that has plastered itself onto my white bedroom wall somewhere. "Literature is news that stays news," I quoted, "Ezra Pound said that in 1934. I suppose that's why, because I just always hope that maybe the next time I read the news, I'll find something different, and maybe I'll finally find something that I like about it. I mean, why would you read a book you already like, when you might find something the second time around that makes you realize: Wow, I really don't like this book anymore? You might as well keep it a happy memory in your head."
I looked back up into his green eyes, that seemed curious. I began to feel something inside of me that made me feel uncomfortable, thinking that he was this guy who could get all the girls, and after a few days, most likely would. He was clearly new to the school, and in only a week, he would be back on top of that food chain of high school, telling everybody in the entire school how stupid I was. Of course, they already talked about that.
Fuck. I slowly began to realize that I was forming a perception of perfection in my head, and immediately I stood up from the table, and Henry stood up across from me, "I'm going home." I told him frankly, I couldn't let myself sit across from this boy who might change my mind on the perception. The fact that I had no perception, no meaning to my life the way that everybody else had. I didn't want a perception of perfection; it would ruin my life the way that it had already ruined the lives of every single person in this school, the way it shaped their lives. I wanted the books to shape my life, to build myself a fortress of classic literature books, much stronger than any perception of perfection, some legacy that I had to let myself build up to that point, where I would feel unaccomplished every single day that I didn't reach it. And by looking at Henry, he was a perception in himself; he was something that was unreachable because I had no perception that made myself look like what others thought was "beautiful." But, without a perception, there was no beautiful, nothing existed.
Not even me.