Chapter Two. Ouisch.
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When I first came to Verde Valley, I thought I was the only one escaping something. Not true. It took me a very short time to realize that every student had a story they concealed in their hearts, something painful, and something tragic… A reason for packing their bags and transferring someplace safer slash rehabilitating. My own motives were simple, but private. At first I hesitated to give even my name away to strangers; I was so afraid of someone finding out about my past. I knew that in communities like VVS, or in any boarding school, secrets are the substance allowed to be abused.
But I came to the conclusion that you might as well let them be abused. Trying to hide your real face at Verde is a pointless crusade, because everyone finds out eventually. It’s hard to keep a secret from the walls and the people listening on either side of them… I mean, what the hell, go ahead and try, but it’s pointless.
I certainly tried.
My biggest secret was Bowman. I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to describe Bowman before, but he’s a very special person. Texan but lacking the accent, he grew up on an isolated ranch in Utopia that grows bananas and papayas, with his parents, his brother and sister, and his dog. He has a tree house with a rope swing, and showed me a picture of it once. Often, when he thinks he’s alone he sings songs where he doesn’t know the words, and backs it up on his guitar. Bowman has these pale green eyes that are so kind that it makes you want to cover them up with your palm and scream, “God! Don’t look until everyone else dies!”
Anyways, I fell in love with him. And I never told a soul.
I wonder sometimes if I’d have still gone to VVS if I had known what I was getting into, but I think I would have. Anywhere was better than being at home, playing slave, and the trip there wasn’t as bad as all that. My flight to Phoenix was delayed so I sat in the airport for hours and hours, massaging my burning eyeballs and cursing the waste of my time, but I actually enjoyed wasting the time. Then my changeover flight was canceled so I was forced onto another longer trip with an extra stop in LAX, and I wasted even more time, but I enjoyed that, too. Finally, when it turned out to be an overall shitty and inefficient day and the van rolled in late to deliver me to VVS, there wasn’t much left to deliver—I was a puddle of melted flesh on the floor of the passenger seat—and yet, the whole way, I had enjoyed myself immensely. There is nothing like the freedom of choice, and the choice of choosing to not do anything. Such freedom did not exist at my home. It was only later that I began wishing I had never left.
Friendly assistants scraped me up and helped me lug my over-packed suitcases up to the top story of the East Dormitory, where we found a mess in my room. Turns out that the previous inhabitant hadn’t known of her expulsion until the day it was due, and I was moving in uninvited in her space, and thus had to pack up all her things for her if I wanted a place to settle into. Finally, I was irritated. Perhaps I deserved it for enrolling mid-semester, but more housework was an unexpected and unwelcome surprise.
Boxes and boxes and an entire roll of packing tape later… Well, let’s just state that by dinnertime my already anti-social attitude had climaxed to an over-all intense hatred of every living person at VVS. I lay on the bare mattress while the fan pushed the air around, me smelling the food cooking in the dining hall but being too tired to get up and get any, it was then when I decided that I was never going to like Verde Valley School.
It’s okay to be pissed off sometimes, Ouisch, Jack said out of my memory. If we were just meant to be smiling, simple automatons we’d still have two brain cells and be living in the sea.
I would have dwelled on this thought for awhile, but then someone knocked on the door.
I didn’t answer it. My combat boots were crossed at the ankles, my arms behind my head, and my eyes screwed so tightly shut I saw little red lines in my skull. There is no way I am getting off this bed, I thought, and I repeated that to myself, over and over. Thereisnowaythereisnowaythereis—
But they kept knocking.
People only knock when they want something, my spiky little sea urchin, Jack murmured, which was true, so I kept ignoring. I’d locked the door and that was all there was to it, and unless they burst in, screaming for my blood, here I would remain.
Silence. I waited.
Finally, after eternity, there were departing footsteps, and I told my straining muscles to relax. They didn’t want my blood after all. But one more knock, just one more, and I might have wanted theirs. Little did they know how lucky they were to walk away right then.
Oh, Ouisch-McMuffin, Jack sighed. How I love your boisterous quirks.
Jack always did have such a way with words. It was small wonder he remained trapped in my cortex even after I’d left the relationship behind. Love hurt, despite the distance. I shushed his memory and flicked my head over at the floor, because they had slipped a whole piece of paper under my door and it was lying there. The letters were handwritten and large, and I could comprehend that annoying dribble at a distance, too.
Oh god, I thought. Exclamation marks.
Welcome to Verde Valley School! We hope that you are settling in just fine. Just wanted to let you know that tonight we have a special orientation for new students at 7 PM in Brady Hall, so please be there on time! We are so excited to bring you into our community!
It was signed by someone I didn’t know, in cursive so stiff it was almost print. A fat lot of good elementary school did for your handwriting, I thought. I rolled over and was consumed by my own boredom, anger, and exhaustion again. Even though it was still daylight outside, I yearned for sleep—an unusual craving, due to my explicit insomnia—and didn’t care for evening requirements. I had wasted too much time and been looked at by too many people that day. And I didn’t even have any cigarettes to take the edge off.
Without even bothering to get undressed, I curled up with my fists under my chin and fell asleep in the sunlight. Sleep was disconcerting and unhealthy, but sometimes, even for me, it was necessary. I knew that the next day I had classes, my first real introduction to my new future here, and unless my temper cleared up with some rest…Well…
“We’ll show those smiling automatons real orientation,” I told Jack, as my eyes closed.
I slept away the rest of the evening and all night besides, without a single person (important or not) managing to interrupt, but it was a complete waste. I did miss the special assembly for new students, but the next day I was in the same bad mood as before, worse even, if that is conceivable, and breakfast I spent practicing my angry scowl in the mirror and wondering if I shouldn’t go back to bed.
Now I am glad I didn’t, despite how it turned out, because though that day and every day after it really sucked, that day was also the day I met Bowman.