Connor Murphy hated his life. He hated himself, he hated his parents, and he hated his sister with her ridiculous yellow VW bug and her whiny hipster “music.” He hated that he had to ride shotgun on his first day of senior year, chauffeured around by his annoying little sister.
“Will you stop sulking!” Zoe snapped over the music, snapping him out of his introspective pity-and-angst-fest.
“I’m not sulking, Zoe, I’m being perfectly fucking reasonable for someone in my situation!” He growled, tugging on the strap of his messenger bag and burrowing into the tan pleather seat. Even though he wasn’t looking at her, Connor could practically hear Zoe rolling her eyes.
“You wouldn’t be in this situation if you hadn’t gotten so many fucking speeding tickets!” Zoe responded, matching his aggravated tone.
Connor scoffed. Logically, he knew she was right, and his parents taking away his car was probably better than getting his license suspended. Besides, riding with Zoe wasn’t terrible, and it was worlds better than taking the bus, but he was mad and didn’t want to give his sister any sort of satisfaction.
After a moment of relative silence, Zoe reached over and turned up the music, quietly singing along with the words. Connor was vaguely familiar with this band. Whenever Zoe was having a Teenage Girl Drama Session she played their music obnoxiously loud and it streamed through their shared wall.
“Oh my god my morning is already bad enough, must I be subjected to your auditory indie fuckery?” Connor asked. He was still pissed at her for the milk incident earlier, and so was being a bit more of a dick than usual.
“First of all, my car, my music,” Zoe said. “And second of all, I think you’d like this band. They sing about like depression and mental illness and all that. Isn’t that like, your thing?”
“My thing ? Zoe I do not own mental illness. If you ask Larry, I don’t even have one.”
“Yeah well if you ask Larry, Marco Rubio would have made a good president and the Washington Redskins having to change their name is an example of PC culture gone too far.”
“Larry’s such an asshole,” Connor said quietly. The siblings sighed together. They could always bond over a shared distaste for the general existence of their father.
“Seriously though,” Zoe said, pulling the conversation back to music. “Just because they aren’t Effervescence doesn’t mean they aren’t good! Their songwriter is probably one of the most gifted people of our generation, and he’s only seventeen!”
“Okay, okay. Shut up so I can actually hear it.”
Zoe’s eyes lit up. “This is one of my favorite songs, actually. It’s off their first album ‘ The Most Amazing Trees ’.”
“The fuck kind of a name is that?” Connor asked.
“Shhh!” Zoe reached for the dial, turning up a few notches.
“ Cause all that it takes is a little re-in-ven-tion!
It’s easy to change if you give it your at-ten-tion!
All ya gotta do is just believe you can be who you want to be,
Sincerely me! ”
Connor reached out and angrily turned off the stereo.
“What the hell?” Zoe asked, fixing him with an annoyed look.
“That’s not singing about mental illness, Zoe. That’s ‘it gets better, just hold on’ Hallmark bullshit.”
“You know Connor, just because not they’re not espousing the benefits of quietly cutting yourself in the bathroom while high off your ass doesn’t mean that it’s bullshit!” Still, she didn’t turn the music back on as they pulled into the high school parking lot. Connor gripped his messenger bag and exited the car in fury, slamming the door behind him.
“You’re welcome for the ride!” Zoe called after him, voice biting with sarcasm.
“Fuck you!” Connor yelled across the parking lot, not caring who saw. He was just Crazy Connor Murphy, the kid who threw a printer at Mrs. G. in the second grade, being a usual grade-A asshole to his poor, “adorkable” little sister.
Connor briefly thought about going to class, but then remember the comments his parents had made in the morning, and decided to read in the computer lab instead. He knew it was odd to go to the computer lab to read, but the library was a sparsely populated wasteland held under the hawk like eye of the librarian. Besides, Connor was pretty sure your standard crackhouse had more books than that glorified janitors closet. The computer lab was a bustling hub of energy that still had enough dark corners for him to block out the world, and the supervisor was a student volunteer who wanted an elective credit with no effort.
Connor was also sure that Zoe wouldn’t look for him here. She had no reason to look for him anyway, but occasionally she heard rumors that some kid had gotten their head shoved in a toilet and wanted to make sure that it wasn’t Connor’s fault. Or maybe she hoped it was. Either way, Zoe would expect him to be getting high behind the school, which, sure, he did, but not nearly enough as she believed.
He pulled “The Little Prince” out of his bag. He’d read it over twenty times, and had reached that sweet period with a favorite book where it no longer feels like you’re reading the story, rather allowing the words to envelope you in the comforting embrace of well worn pulpy pages and flowing stories that feel like home. Reading and dancing had been Connor’s passions for his entire life, and when he was fourteen and his father pulled him out of tap class, deeming it “too gay for a teenage boy,” and replaced his tap shoes for a baseball glove, reading had become his only escape. For Connor, books were less of a hobby and more of a much needed life raft pulling him out of his stormy reality.
He plugged in his earbuds and put on a playlist (that included no songs by Effervescence, fuck you Zoe). Normally, Connor wouldn’t be able to concentrate on reading if he was listening to music, but he didn’t have to worry about losing his place with “The Little Prince.” He could just dissociate all day and everyone would think he looked either studious or broody. So, that’s exactly what he did.
From: The Asshole
where the fuck are you ???
From: The Asshole
zoe ive been standing outside ur yellow monstrosity for like a half hour where hte fuck are you
From: The Asshole
u fuxking butch im gonna hotwire ur car and drive it home
From: The Asshole
From: The Asshole
gotta spell my insults correctly. see,, public education hasnt been wasted on me. on a separate note…. WHERE IN THE MOTHER FUCK ARE YOU???????
Jesus Connor! I’m in jazz band practice! I’ll be done at four thirty! Stop blowing up my phone or Mrs. McCall will confiscate it.
Also I sincerely doubt you’d be able to hotwire my car. Just sayin.
Connor huffed and shoved his phone in his pocket. Of fucking course he was going to have to stay at school until four thirty! He was so pissed at his parents. He wanted his car back. He wanted to be able to leave. He hated feeling trapped. Fuck. Connor felt his heart start to speed up. Why the hell was he freaking out? It wasn’t a big deal! Zoe would be done with Jazz Band practice soon and then he could go home. He needed his headphones. Music could usually pull him back from the precipice before he fell into an abyss of blind panic.
“Hey fag! Nice hair length!” Connor’s head snapped up. He saw a pickup truck speeding towards him, and then a cup of warm soda was in his face and hair and on the front of his shirt. He looked like a sad glee reject.
Connor couldn’t take it. He felt himself falling into a state of raw emotion. His fingers shook as tears formed in the corners of his eyes. His skin felt too tight. He started to scratch his neck, as if to peel away the suffocating coating and give his body the permission to take up a comfortable amount of space. His stood like that, hunched over, loud, choked breathing, eyes cloudy but no tears actually falling, until Zoe met him near the car.
“Okay! I’m here now! We can leave!” She yelled, a scowl already on her face as she approached him. “Connor?” She walked toward him, closer than she’d been in weeks. “Connor what the fuck is wrong with you?” She placed a hand on his shoulder. He jumped up and his body went rigid.
“Are you alright?” Zoe asked, concern written all over her face.
“I-I’m fine,” Connor replied. His skin was buzzing, his mind spinning the world in strange patterns all around him.
“You’re bleeding.” Zoe reached out to touch his neck but Connor stepped back shakily.
“It’s alright. Lets just go.” He felt like a dog trying to blend in with a pile of stuffed animals. The world did not stabilize in Zoe’s car, it kept on tilting, speeding up, and slowing down.
They arrived at home. Connor ignored his parents, gripping onto the railing as he pulled himself upstairs, until he was able to collapse onto his bed, messenger bag still slung across his shoulder.