Flames. Whenever I fall asleep, all I see is flames. Whether it’s in the background or consuming my dreams it’s always there. As a candle, a fireplace, or a wildfire it never stops. I want it to stop. I need it to stop.
Every day is the same. I wake up near heart attack, panting, heart beating a million miles an hour. I somehow find the strength to get out of bed. I shuffle over to the bathroom, change out of my pjs, and brush my teeth, and I go over to the kitchen.
By that time Ollie’s still asleep. I make food, staying as far from the stove as possible. And then I take my pills. I hate these pills. These God damned pills. Doctors say it's for my own good. Saying stuff like if I take them the flames go away. The flames never go away.
I check the time. 7:30. By now I can slowly process whats going on.
"Monday." I say, "School. Project. Due."
I walk toward the counter and grab the paper on it. I read it.
"To kill a mockingbird, by Mathew Garrison."
I leave the tiny apartment, and walk down the stairs. I open the door, and it’s still dark outside. You can feel the cold fall air in the short breeze. It's like a little burst that sends shivers down your spine. The breeze causes the swing set to eerily creek in the distance. The sound of mumbling coming from kids walking to school.
I look around the yard. Scanning it like a robot. When I see my bike where I left it, tied to the lamp post. The only thing giving light to this dark scene.
I grab my bike and slowly try to get momentum. the pain in my lower left thigh as I try to push down on the pedal. And just like always I end up giving in. The pain is to much to bare. I end up walking to school. It's a ten minute walk to school so by the time I get there, get to my locker, and get to class I'll be cutting it close. One more tardy and I have detention.
I slowly make my way to school. A ten-minute walk that feels like an eternity finally ends. I walk over to my locker and throw my book bag in. I shut it and head to class. Math with Mrs. Doyal. She's an old lady that struggles to hold her pen up. She has been teaching for forty years. She is the oldest person at the school. Practically prehistoric.
I walk in and instead of an old lady we have a young man. I'd say he's late twenties, early thirties.
"Hello class, my name is Mr J-a-b-o-w-s-k-i Jabowski you can call me Mr J. I will be filling in the hole that was left when Mrs Doyal left. Don't worry she's fine, she just needed to call life alert." He gives off a little snicker and gets back to his speech, "Uh Mrs Doyal had to go to the hospital. She'll be fine but she decided she was to retire and spend time with the family. A sort of epiphany. So I will be your teacher for the rest of the year."
It felt weird not having Mrs. Doyal as our teacher because she's been teaching me math for three years.
The class is like usual. We talk about math, get homework, and leave the room. I get my textbook out.
"Damn. Fell again." I say.
I lean down to get it. the same pain in my thigh comes in sharper. As I slowly reach down and get up. I close my locker and there he is. Hunter Lawrence and his sidekick, Jacob Gibson. Gibson slams my locker and walks toward me like a 90's movie cliche. Even though it’s a cliche it still makes me flinch. Hunter is just in the background laughing.
"Hello freak." Hunter says. He reaches into his pocket to grab a little box. "You know. I recently took up smoking. Started on Saturday and smoke half a pack each day."
"W... What does this have to do with me?" I ask.
"Easy." he says
He takes a stick with a red dot out of the box and places it against the side of the box. And with a flick of the wrist, I'm on the ground crawling away from him.
The two of them are just laughing. Laughing so hard they are on the brink of tears. At the same time, I'm on the verge of tears.
“NO FIRE BAD!” Gibson says in a mocking voice. And that’s when I hear a voice.
“Hey get away from that kid! And put the match down, we don’t need another fire.”
The boys drop the match run off. A boot steps on it and a hand reaches out. I look up. And it’s Mr. J?
We go to his classroom. And he gives me some water.
“How you holding up?” he asks.
“Did they hurt you?”
“Not much of a talker, no?”
… “I don’t like talking to other people.” I answer.
“You just left my class didn’t you?”
“Yeah, why?” He keeps asking me questions. What’s your name? What’s your parent’s cell? Why were they bulling you?
“My name is Mathew Garrison, my parents don’t have cell phones, and…” I lift up my pant leg and roll up my sleeve, revealing scorch marks and scars.
“So that was you in the news paper.” He mumbles, “What happened.”
“You don’t have to tell me.
He grabs my shoulder to get my attention.
“I’ll write you a pass… and come see me after school.”