Actions

Work Header

Alone in the Universe

Chapter Text

I never should have let Mom convince me to take creative writing.

"This will be really good for you! You're always saying you don't write anymore because of your school work. It’ll give you an excuse to right more; then you can let me read all your stories."

As if she'd actually have time for them. Okay, so she did with the first few. Before we moved into the apartment. With Jeremy and Mr. Heere and then suddenly all of the very little attention left was gone.

Oh god, I don't even remember where I was. Sorry, to unload all of my "problems" on you in the first chapter, yikes, I'm a mess.

Sorry. I do not want this to be a sad story. Let’s be real, if you're reading this then you're probably pretty sad already so why would you want to get more sad? Why would I want to get more sad?

Just pretend, for the sake of our own enjoyment, that we're all happy.

Yay.

I just love being here at school. I especially love being completely alone and knowing no one in this classroom.

And I also love having an entire period to work on a memoir. 45 minutes alone with my thoughts, writing a story about some childhood memory.

The class ends with me typing random letters to look productive.

Okay, Evan. Okay. What was that speil about trying to stay positive? That was two paragraphs ago, how did you forget so soon?

Oh, if only Dr. Sherman could see me now. He'd be so proud of how well I'm handling this week's assignment: positive thinking! Hurray! I'm just so happy! Pretending to be happy is very productive! It's working so well, I am a changed man!

I just need to stop thinking, positive or not. Nothing good ever comes from thinking.

I’ve been distracting myself with tumblr for the past 10 minutes of class. While it’s very validating for strangers to reblog the pictures I took of that cool aspen in the park yesterday, I’m starting to get bored. Plus, there hasn’t been a new post to distract me in a few minutes. Maybe I should just eat the frog and start writing.

I decide the next best waste of time is to check my email. Crippling loneliness will ruin the mood, right?

Sometimes I wonder why I even have an email. Yeah, sometimes Alana will send me reminders of information for the Friends of the Environment Club and I also get a few things from teachers. But that's still really sad.

No one uses email, anyway, besides working people and sad grandmas who don't understand texting. I think I fit into the grandma category better....

As I wait for the log in, I notice my pencil-tapping has become furious. Immediately, I stop and check my peers. Did they notice how loud that was? Who am I kidding, it's so loud and distracting of course they realized.

My pent up energy is not happy. I notice that I've subconsciously begun tapping my foot which i guess isn't so bad. No one can see under the table, right? Is anyone looking that closely? Of course they are but-

The laptop screen flashes white as it's turns to my inbox screen. I'm almost excited to see my empty mailbox as if everything around me disappear.

You know, I wasn't expecting it to actually work.

It probably wouldnt have if it were empty or I just got a run of the mill emails. Because I definitely got mail. At the top of the list was a message with no subject from: c.murphy@gmail.com.

I blink at the screen.

I hadn't seen that username since December. I mean, I saw it on my contact list sometimes and it made me double check my sending contact. The last thing I wanted was to accidentally send something to him and have to explain it and then face him at the next club meeting. He probably wouldn't mention it (we never talk, anyway so) but just knowing that he'd get it.....

I figured he didn't check that as religiously as me. He'd never sent me anything before so, obviously, this is a mistake.  I doubt he'd want to talk to me out of the blue.

You know, checking this was supposed to help me nnot throw another bowl of anxiety into my life.

Awesome.

I dread opening the email.

I take a shaky, deep breath and look at the screen to see three new messages from Connor. I plot each one out in my head. These three are probably the explanation/apology. What would Connor even say? 'Oh shit, you're not *person who was meant to receive the message* don't fucking read that last one.' Then I would send a way-too-long reassurance letter where I apologize for receiving it like it was my fault he accidentally sent it to me.

Content, and ready to get this over with, I click the string and......

c.murphy@gmail.com

i'm fucking getting expelled

I shouldn't be surprised. I really shouldn't be, but I read it over a few times, knowing for sure it was meant for someone else. Probably one of the angry looking kids he skips school to smoke with.

Besides, the school will probably never expel Connor because of his situation. And his parents. They took him back last time so why should this be different? Is that horrible to say?

 

I won't let myself think that, like Connor would be able to read them through the webcam.

c.murphy@gmail.com

they fucking locked me in the attendance office.

c.murphy@gmail.com
actually fucking locked me in.

c.murphy@gmail.com
i tried getting out but the door won't fucking open.

c.murphy@gmail.com
fucking answer, evan. your always on your fucking laptop I know you fucking see these

Is it weird to feel attacked? The last one moves heart uncomfortably faster.

This is worse than mistake-email because now I have to respond. I have to think of something to say that will make him want to continue this inevitably strange conversation. And i need to do it quick or Connor will....Connor will be mad and that's the last thing I need.

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
Sorry! I didn't mean to ignore you or anything. I saw the messages and it was about two minutes before the class was over and I didn't want to leave you on read or start typing something out then have to stop and pack up for the next class. Plus, I have creative writing this period and we're just working on typing rough drafts so I can talk now.

Why are you getting expelled? If you don't mind me asking.

c.murphy@gmail.com
fuck if I know. they never fucking told me.

c.murphy@gmail.com
i think the secretary called my fucking parents. oh shit I'm getting expelled.

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
Not to be rude, but if you're getting expelled why did are you telling me? It's not like I don't want to listen, we've just never really talked before.

c.murphy@gmail.com
pretty sure you're the only fucking person who emails with perfect grammar.

c. murphy@gmail.com
and i needed to talk to someone. your always on your laptop so i went with you.

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
We're supposed to be on our laptops a lot since most of our schoolwork is online.

c.murphy.@gmail.com
you don't even do school stuff. you’re always on fucking tumblr.

Lorax_Hansen:@gmail.com
Only when I get my work done. And I always get nervous when I do Not-School-Stuff on my laptop because I feel like someone is watching me and thinking "that's Not-School-Stuff, what a bad student." I thought it was just overreacting but now that I know you watch my computer.....

c.murphy@gmail.com
i wasn't trying to freak you out. your not that interesting that i have to watch your computer 24/7  

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
I know. You didn't freak me out, it was just a joke. Sorry, it probably didn't seem like it. I'm not funny. My jokes are bad.

c.murphy@gmail.com
so what the hell is a fucking lorax? it sounds like fucking medication.

"Hey, Evan, how's your rough draft coming?"

Of course,I jump when the teacher asks it.

"It's good! Really good. Um. Funny story, I stayed up late writing it last night. In my notebook. You know how I'm rather like write stuff out on paper and not on the laptop. Not that there's anything wrong with the laptop I....um...but I left my notebook at home so I really don't have anything to do because I don't remember what I wrote word for word.”

I have to pat myself on the back. I think I say more fiction in daily conversation then in my actual writing. I spent last night stressing about this draft and completely ignoring it to try to avoid stress.

And sometimes my lies come so easily it scares me.

"Well, why don't you try working on something here? Maybe rewrite it here so you can have two versions to chose from."

"That's a great idea! I'll, um, I‘ll definitely do that."

She saw my email. She knows I'm not going to fucking write my draft.

c.murphy@gmail.com
did that lorax question scare you off?

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
Sorry. My teacher caught me on my email during class. Thankfully, she didn't yell at me or anything.
The question didn't scare me at all; if anything, it got me very excited. How have you never heard of The Lorax?? It was my favorite Dr. Seuss book growing up. They've made at least two popular movies about it. One of them just came out, how did you not hear about it?

c.murphy@gmail.com
i don't watch a lot of fucking kid movies. and i probably locked up when it came out  

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
It's actually a very sad story. But I very much relate to the Lorax.

c.murphy@gmail.com
WHAT IS A FUCKING LORAX

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
I really want to tell you but if I do then you'll never read the book or watch the movie. So I won't tell you. Unless you actually want me to.

c.murphy@gmail.com
shit my parents fucking showed up and they looked pissed.

c.murphy@gmail.com
guess i gotta go.

c.murphy@gmail.com
tell alana im getting expelled so I can't make it to the meeting

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
You don't know that you're getting expelled. I have faith.

c.murphy@gmail.com
you're the only one

I don't think you'll be surprised to hear I never told Alana. It's not that I'm afraid of talking to her. If anything she's the easiest person for me to talk to because she's kind of my friend. I didn't want to say anything in case Connor wasn't getting expelled.

So instead I just spend the rest of the day suffering and thinking up every possible way the situation could go wrong.

I hold my breath as I open the classroom door, not wanting to see who's there. And as it's worse then I expected because Connor's sitting alone at the back table. Usually Alana's here way too early. Of course she'd be busy today.

"Oh. Connor. Your....you're here."

"Don't look too fucking excited to see me," he deadpans, not looking at me at all.

Okay. So, we're not going to let these emails change anything. Okay. Cool.

"No I wasn't....I'm not like...I'm happy you here. But not in a weird way! I'm just happy something...something bad didn't happen. Probably. Something bad probably didn't happen. I still don't know you haven't told me how would I know."

I hate myself the further I get.

"Connor! I heard that you were called to the office, are you okay?"

Well hello to you too Alana. Maybe if I was a cute emo boy with long hair and a mysterious past she'd pay attention to me.

“I’m still fucking here.” Connor doesn’t look at her either, which is  strange since they’re sort of friends.

"Why did they call you into the office?"

It's like I'm not there. I don't think Alana's looked at me yet. Why would she need to? I'm just her sidekick. It's not like we were the only members of this club until Connor transferred back here. You'd think they were the closest friends in the world and I'm just that guy no one notices.

"Attendance bullshit. I guess they put me on attendance alerts."

"What's that?" I ask, knowing full well what they are. I was an office assistant at the beginning of the year, I just need to be a part of this conversation.

He carelessly holds up a sheet of paper. "I need teacher's signatures proving I went to their class. Apparently, that's going to stop me from skipping."

"This is serious, Connor. You need to start caring about your school work."

"Thanks, mom, I'll get right on that.” The Anxious Leg Bounce  intensifies  

"Connor, I mean it."

Oh no. Please tell me they aren't going to argue again. 60% of our meetIngs end with Connor and Alana fighting and me getting super stressed. Sometimes I wonder why I even come we never do anything.

"You wanna yell at me, too?" It's horrifying to have Connor look at you. He's so intense, he just stares right into your eyes and you want to run but can't look away.

"Me? No. No, I'm good."

"I'm not yelling at you," Alana goes on. "I just think you need to spend more time on your schoolwork and actually coming to school."

"Why?"

"With your grades? You'll be lucky if they don't hold you back a year.”

"Who fucking cares if they do? I'm dropping out soon as I turn 18, anyway."

Okay so it's going to be one of those meetings. I really don't want to spend the next hour listening to them go back and forth.

And so is the common theme in the life of Evan Hansen: being an outsider. Forgotten. Sitting on the sidelines waiting to be noticed and giving up when his effort are inevitably proven meaningless.

How do people do it?

I try not to let the weight settle. Pretend positive thinking works and everything isn't just looming over me, waiting to consume me.

If I avoid it long enough it'll go away, right?

Chapter Text

"Hey, there, Evan. Can I come in?" Mom asks with a tired smile.

"Y-yeah!" I take a quick breath. "Yeah, sure. Come on in." I instinctually snap my laptop shut even though it was opened to a blank word document. I'm not sure if I was planing on starting a therapy letter or the memoir due tomorrow. Neither will be finished. I have no will to do anything.

"Am I interrupting something?" She gestures to the closed laptop.

"No, it's just...school stuff," I shrug off, setting the laptop aside. "It isn't due for a while so I'm trying to get a head start, I guess."

"That's good!" She nods with a distracted smile. "I'm glad you're really trying hard with your school work."

"Oh. Thanks."

"Where's Jeremy?" She asks, looking around the room.

"He's at Michael's. Again. Guess he just hates being here alone with me."

"Evan, we've been over this."

"I know, I know. Sorry."

"He's a good kid," she takes a seat at the edge of my bed. "I guess he takes a little bit to warm up to. But I wanted to talk to you about something. I got an email from Miss. Smith from Ellison today."

I perk up.

"She wanted to know if you were available to help with their Earth Day event. She told me you were the first on her list since you're such a hard worker. She really likes you, isn't that great?"

"And what did you tell her?" I shift in my seat.

"I said you'd probably be interested but I wanted to ask before I made any commitments for you."

"No, yeah, that'd be great. I'd love to do that!" It’s a good thought the second before my brain makes it into a huge deal “but, um, I have a lot of school things since....I’m...yeah, I just think it’d be stressful. But! But next year! Unless like things are crazy with college if I even get into college which..uh yeah next year. Sorry.”

"I'll let her know, then. Also, you need to think about applying again over the summer. Is that something you'd be interested in?"

I tense up.

No. Never. Not at all. Not again.

"Um, I was actually thinking of not doing it this year. Maybe doing something else but definitely not that."

"But you had so much fun last time."

"I did but I should try new stuff, you know? Stuff that'll get me ready for college or something."

Yeah because I'm totally concerned with my future and not terrified of having to face the other junior park rangers. They weren't scary or anything they just...they're just like everyone else. Before summer, I thought a common interest in ecology would make them different. Nope. They still ignored me and formed their friendships around me. I had to each lunch alone in the woods every day.

"Do you at least want to keep the option open? Why don't you think about it for a while and I'll let her know by the end of the month."

"Yeah. Yeah great that works," I agree knowing I've already made up my mind.

"I just don't want you to regret your decision."

"I know. Thanks."

We sit there in silence for a second. Thankfully silence doesn't last too long with Mom.

"Well, I'm gonna go change out of my scrubs. And I was thinking afterward I could cook up some leftovers and maybe watch an episode or two of The Office. You up for joining me?"

"Yeah, definitely I just...need a few minutes to finish up that...that school thing."

"Sounds like a plan," she smiles. "Dave won't be home for an hour or two so we can have some time to ourselves.

I think it was supposed to make me feel better. Maybe it would if I wasn't reminded that Mr. Heere would be coming home because he lives with in this apartment with us.

I make some worthless agreement. I snap open the laptop the second she's gone. Am I going to begin that 900 word memoir due tomorrow like a reasonable student?

Oh no.

I click on my email, ready to find comfort in the empty mailbox.

I don't pay attention to the little part of me is hopeful someone sent me something.

And for the first time the hope wins.

new message from: c.murphy

I click on it before I can process it.

c.murphy@gmail.com
shit, I didn't ask if you stayed up late.
i cant tell if you stay up all night or go to bed at 9:15.

c.murphy@gmail.com
i'm gonna guess 9:15.

c.murphy@gmail.com
still gonna give you a fucking play by play of my thoughts because this shit is a trip.

Okay. What the fuck.

I'm shocked he even remembers the Lorax thing and terrified that he now associates me with it. I guess the Lorax is part of my identity now? Innocent freshmen me would be thrilled. Every other Evan is utterly petrified.

But I still don't know why is he emailing me again?

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com
Which version are you watching? The older one is a classic and it's so nostalgic which is kind of good and bad. I think you might enjoy the newer one more. It came out a year or two ago, how did you not hear about it?

The second I send it I hate myself so much. How stupid can I be? He's obviously making fun of me. No one cares enough to watch the Lorax.

c.murphy@gmail.com
well, damn, you're awake. guess i need to rethink you.

c.murphy@gmail.com
pretty sure this thing came out in the 70s. it's weird as fuck.

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
I don't know what gave you to impression that I've ever slept in my life but alright. But I really like the older one. I used to watch it over and over again when I was little.

c.murphy@gmail.com
so it's the lorax's fault you're such a tree nerd.

Mom's door creaks open and I shut the laptop again. It's a very short walk to the
couch room/kitchen considering the apartment is about four rooms wide.

"How does Mac and cheese sound?" Mom asks, peering into the fridge.

"Great," i try to sound positive for another microwaved dinner.

I'm starting to sense Connor's unrest. Really, i just assume that he's as nervous as i would be. It's hard to imagine Connor being nervous, anyway. He's always been so...open about his identity and his emotions. The guy punches lockers and cries every other day (when he bothers to show up) how...how could an axious person do that? Yeah, I guess it's different for everyone but I can't comprehend this.

The point is: I need to respond quick. I don't want him to think I'm mad at him or ignoring him.

I pull out my phone while Mom is working on dinner, checking email.

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
Well my ex gave me a copy of the newer version on my birthday. It was a joke but I still really appreciated it. If you want I can loan it to you? Or maybe we can watch it together? Not that I don't trust you but it's very valuable and I don't want anything happening to it.

Oh my god you're so stupid why would you say that. Now he thinks your stupid. He's only doing this to you to make fun of you

c.murphy@gmail.com
well shit why'd you let him go if you gave you the fucking lorax? what a keeper.

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
...why do you assume it's a him? You're not wrong but, I'm kind of curious.

c.murphy@gmail.com
wishful thinking?

Lorax. Hansen@gmail.com
Oh my god, am I that gay?

c.murphy@gmail.com
um, those fucking uggs?

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
Please don't mention that, I'm trying to forget about those stupid shoes entirely. That was the worst decision of my life.

c.murphy@gmail.com
it was the last nail in the coffin. i always had my suspicions about you.

"How are you on refills?" Mom asks from the kitchen.

"Oh. I'm fine," I reply not to invested.

Lorax.Hansen@gmail.com
Nope. Wow. I'd always kind of wondered if it was so obvious that I wasn't straight. Like when people look at me is there first thought: GAY. I'm not even gay. I guess most people wouldn't think: he look bisexual. There's no bisexual 'look.' I mean Jared used to tell me I was a Twink but I thought it was just Jared being Jared.

"How much do you want, ev?"

"Um...." None, please. These "dinners" always taste like eating pure radiation. And I hate myslf for being upset about it. I know it's the best we can do as a "family of four" with one, small income. "Anything? I guess I don't really mind."

I nod, biting my lip.

Dr. Sherman tells me at this point in need to distract myself from the Bad Thoughts. Because avoiding problems has done wonders for me so far. I check my email and it's empty. I refresh the page about six times before I accept Connor's lack of response. Oh god. I go over the message over a few times, seeing all the things I said wrong.

I scared him away, didn't I? Already?

Chapter Text

Connor hates me.

I must have freaked him out or made myself look like a complete idiot last night because he still hasn't responded.

It shouldn’t be such a big deal. I’m going to see him at school, right? I can ask there.

Except this is Connor who rarely comes in two days in a row. The attendance alerts are probably a big motivation to never come back to school.

Plus, I doesn’t look like I have a ride to school, anyway. Jeremy's friend Michael drives us to school which is...humiliating for me. Not the point, sorry. Jeremy slept over his house last night and I'm positive they won't come back for me. So I'll have the entire day to roll around these thoughts.

I've been checking my email every few seconds and nothing. It’s getting hard to breathe.

Did I freak him out? Was it because I told him I was bi? Why did I even tell him that? Why did he ask about that?  I can’t stop replaying what he said.

‘Wishful thinking?’ What does that mean. Why was he wishfully thinking about my sexuality?

It's a miracle when the door opens. I've never been excited to see Jeremy before.

"Hi. Jeremy."

He looks around to see if actually talking to him. "Hey. What's up?"

"You're um...you're here?"

"Yeah. Michael and I just got back. Had to, uh, pick out my school stuff. And you, I guess."

"Real-really? Um thanks." Of course I'm going to start stuttering now. Yay this day is off to a horrible start. I mean, it's in front of Jeremy so does it really matter? Yes. Yes, it always matters. "I'll, um, get my stuff."

"Cool," he nods, disinterested as he heads to his side of the room. He has to grab around the messy piles of nothingness to find what he's looking for.

Just watching him rattles my nerves.

As I zip my backpack I plot out my next letter, if only to distract myself.

‘Dear Evan Hansen,
Today is going to be a good day! I know it doesn’t seem like it at all and you feel like this is all a lie (isn’t it, though?). But that’s okay. Because today will be great! It’ll be the best day you’ve had in a while.

Think about all the good things that have happened. Jeremy remembered to pick you (and his school supplies) up. You’re going to see Connor and sort out this whole email thing. It probably wasn’t a big deal. Maybe he just fell asleep. Or got bored and left you on read. There could’ve been a family thing. Him not responding doesn’t automatically mean he hates you.’

 

"Is, um....Michael's outside?"

Jeremy’s always caught off guard when talked to. It's kind of sad. It's like he's shocked someone notices him enough to ask him a question.

Or am I just projecting?

"Oh. Yeah. He is."

"Great. Thanks."

As I walk towards the door, I check my email quickly. No luck.

It doesn't matter right? What's the worse that could happen? Connor hating me and getting upset over what i told him and planning to ruin my life. Somehow I feel it could be worse than that....

I take a deep breath before opening the door.

"Hey, Evan!" Michael is the human personification of a dog. He's always so excited and happy to see everyone. And the way his face lights up when he sees a new person.....yikes I'm not straight.

"Um, hey- hi. Michael."

I start to wave but decide against it. Waving is embarrassing, Evan. The hand ends up picking at the hem of my shirt. I want to hit myself for slowly tearing all my clothes apart. Is it really obvious? Can people see it? Can Michael see it? Probably. He thinks I'm so weird, that's the only reason he's nice to me.

"Thanks for, um, for picking me up," I offer. My voice is too high pitched.

"We couldn't leave you behind," he smiles like it was so obvious.

That's a lie. He's so cool there's no way he could even think about me. But the possibility makes me giddy.

I can't look at him. Making eye contact with him would be too much.

Wow. I'm really weird. And very self conscious, yikes. Dr. Sherman says that others don't notice small things like twitches or tearing at my shirts. But...in my mind it's all they can see. For example, Michael can see the anxiety radiating off me like steam. And he's just really nice (or feels much pity) to even talk to me. I've said that so many times before, it's probably getting annoying. I'm sorry.

"Oh! I got you something, too!" He remembers before leaning back into the car.

I hate him. He's so nice. Why is he so nice? Haven't I told him he doesn't need to get some something from the 7/11 just because he feels bad for me? He never listens because he's too perfect. And I really don't deserve anything. I don't even deserve a ride to school from them. I'm a senior, I should have my own car, and, you know, by be completely petrified of the idea of driving. Why can't I be half normal?

"I wasn't sure what you wanted but this seemed like a safe bet," he hands me a bottle of Pure Life peach tea.

I hate cold tea.

"Did I guess right?" He looks so hopeful.

"Y-yeah! Yeah, this is great," somehow I'm able to smile. "Thank you."

He smile brightly, opening his mouth to say something else, but of course the door opens. Goddamn, Jeremy.

I hate how excited he gets when he sees Jeremy. No one will ever get that excited to see me because I'm such a freak.

I get into the back of the car, ready to be ignored all day. Oh well. At least I had a minute of conversation. God knows I won't get any from Connor.

Is that a bad thing? Do I even want to talk to Connor? Yeah, it's absolutely wonderful to have any human interaction but...honestly, Connor scares me. He's very unpredictable and I feel like he hates me and he's about to ruin my life.

I've kind of come to peace with that. Or maybe I've just numbed myself to it. Who really knows.

He has to be at school, right? Those attendance alerts...they have to be doing something. Honestly, he'll use that as motivation to skip.

I want to lay down in cry in this backseat. Would they even notice? They'd probably just pretend they didn't hear, anyway. And maybe that's okay. I'm not sure I'd want to Jeremy to acknowledge me. Michael on the other hand...

I spend the rest of the ride fantasizing about Michael finding me in tears, it's too embarrassing and gay to share.

-

Hiding in the bathroom during lunch is just the saddest fucking thing. Really.

I'm not a very noticeable person so I doubt people are looking at me and tracing my every step (though Anxiety strongly disagrees). And I'm just worried people will think "he's been in the bathroom the whole period? Did he spend it jerking off? Crying? Either way that's so fucking pathetic. What a loser."

And I still have this clear vision of a line forming outside the stalls and someone banging on the stall door, demanding answers. And I'll have to pretend to be calm like I've only been in here for a minute or two please calm down.

I do sorta wish I could sit at a table. I used to sit with Jared and his weird camp friends, but I doubt he ever wants to see me in the hallways let alone at his lunch table. And maybe I could sit with Alana but she's at a Real Table with friends. I don't belong there since I'm not part of their Group. Or any Group. And sitting with Connor is out of the question. When he bothers to show up he sleeps at a Loser Table.

Maybe you're blessed enough to not know what a Loser Table is so let me explain: Loser Tables are the tables where loners sit at lunch. They all sit together but no one talks. They're all too focused on something (reading, sleeping, eating, playing on their phones) to talk. It's so depressing.

And maybe Real People don't give the Loser Table a second thought but I feel like they're always looking at me and judging. And that's why I'm sitting fully clothed on this toilet, bag on my lap, and book in hand. It's such a good book that I don't even mind being alone in a bathroom during lunch. It's a tree encyclopedia Mr. Heere bought me for my birthday. It's not like I can actually read it because I'm so distracted I have to reread every sentence and even then it doesn't sink in. 

And then it happens: someone bangs on the door. I jump, hitting my back against that silvery metal thing attached to toilets. Is it gross to be talking about this? I feel like that's gross. I'm sorry.

"Evan, what the fuck is wrong with you."

I can't decide the most alarming thing from that: the fact that Connor's yelling at me in a bathroom or the fact he knows it's me.

"Why do you just assume it's me?"

"No one else where's khakis. Get out of the stall."

Oh my god, he's going to kill me.

"Um...no thank you."

"You want me to break the door down and fucking drag you out?"

"I'm sorry. I just...I...I don't understand why you...why do you want me to?"

"Cuz it's a good reason to skip," he responds like it was such a simple concept.

There it is.

"You...no. You can't. You have attendance alerts. You can't."

Remember how he's trying to destroy your life? Stop looking out for his best interest. He's just tricking you into believing he cares about you so he can fuck with you. He hates you.

"And how am I a good reason to skip? I still don't understand that."

"If anyone asks I'll tell them I was taking you somewhere you wouldn't get the shit beat out of you for crying in a bathroom stall."

Is this manipulation?

"I wasn't crying! And I've never really skipped before. I wouldn't be very good at it."

"It's not a goddamn skill. Just, come on."

I want to ask so many questions: where are we going? Should I bring my bag? Are you going to kill me? Why did you never respond to my email? Does this mean we're friends? Why did you care I was bi?

But I stay quiet. He doesn't want me to talk, anyway. He just wants an excuse to skip.

 

Chapter Text

I think I'm going to throw up.

Sitting at a stupid picnic table with Connor Murphy is 1000% worse then the Loser Table. At least at a Loser Table you don't have Connor Murphy sitting next to you, staring into your soul, expecting something incredible from you. And you don't have to wonder why that fear kinda turns you on.

My leg is trembling. I can't even feel my heart but it's going fast. I might be lightheaded, too. And it's hard to breathe. And I'm feeling a lot.

At least here I'm not completely terrified that everyone else is talking about me and laughing. I don't catch sound bites resembling my name. But it's also worse because Connor has no one else to pay attention to. It's just me and him and I have to do something to make him like me. Or kill me.

But, funnily enough, he's not looking at me. He's picking at the weathered wood of the picnic table. And, if I may, his hands are really interesting. They're bony and pale (which the black nail polish really brings out), long and slender. Why am I so fascinated by them? That's so weird, Evan, stop being weird.

Not to mention he's wearing a transculecnet rubber bracelet (thinner than the ones you can buy at Hot Topic) with printed red letters: ...is a beautiful thing. I assume that sentence has a subject that I just can't read at the moment.

And there's also-

.... wait

"Oh my god. Your hand!"

He's confused for a second before looking down. "Oh yeah," he responds like he didn't notice his palm is torn open. I see muscle and bone.

"Dude, it's Fake. Stop hyperventilating."

"I'm not...I wasn't hyperventilating. Okay maybe I...shit I'm sorry. It just looked so real. I thought I was going to have to do first aid things."

"You know first aid?"

THIS IS MY MOMENT.

"Yeah. Um, over the summer actually, I, uh, I was a junior park ranger at Ellison state park. I had to learn first aid."

"That's...really fucking lame. Shit. Good for you and your nerd shit but that sounds like a fucking nightmare. I'd fucking kill my self," he laughs uncomfortably.

I'm offended but...he's not wrong if my broken arm had anything to say on the subject.

Distraction.

Dr. Sherman says that in these moments he wants me to think  about something else. Anything else.

"Yeah," I laugh nervously. "I guess. But, um, can I maybe see your hand? That...that sounded so weird, oh my god I'm sorry."

He literally pulls his hand back and looks so deep in thought. When he thinks his eyes lose light. Like he's gone. Like a dead fish. He turns off and I'm very afraid.

What did I do wrong?

"Uh, yeah, sure," he doesn't sound sure. Like he's doing this against his better judgement.

Still, he holds out his hand which is very interesting on it's own. But looking at his hand is kind of unsettling. It's like a gore blog on instagram that shows up in your recommended even though it makes you want to throw up. It's gross. Like, yeah, it's fake but I'm looking at his fake torn apart palm. It's impressive work, really well done, and makes me so uncomfortable. You know, I think that describes Connor really well.

"Did you, um, did you do this? Yourself?"

"Nah. It just showed up."

I look up, completely caught off guard. My brain isn't the best in social situation so my thought process is just a bunch of question marks.

And he laughs. I shouldn't be surprised (this is Connor Murphy, after all), but it still stings.

"You're so confused. I drew it, man."

'Man.'

That's strange. I never pictured Connor as the type to unironically use bro-talk. Is this his way of telling me 'I remember what you told me last night and I'm not into it so don't get any ideas, BRO.'

Oh my god, is he straight? He can't be straight. I swear I've said that before but there's no way Connor Murphy likes pussy. That idea really twists at my insides. Like I have a chance with him regardless of his sexuality.

"Wow. This...this is really good. Do you, um, do a lot of art...stuff?"

Beautifully said, Evan. So eloquent. Gee, why don't you write anymore? You're a natural.

"Eh. I picked it up at the crazy home cuz I had nothing better to do. I just have things in my head, you know? Like, super visual pictures I have to get out somehow. Drawing's the lest destructive method. Plus, it's like some Buddhist shit: channeling your feelings or whatever."

I nod, trying to convey the proper facial expressions. Does it show that I'm interested? And really uncomfortable with him referring to 'the crazy home.' And confused where the Buddhist thing came from (I never thought he'd be the religious type).

That's a lot of distractions, but I'm trying my best to make sure he knows I'm Interested.

"My family hates it. They think drawing fucking happy shit is gonna fix anything. I've tried for my mom, ya know? This shit freaks her out and she's seen a lot from me so I figured I'd give it a shot, ya know? But it just felt like I was fucking lying to myself with that positive shit."

"I get that!" I exclaim like it's the most exciting thing ever. "I get that so much because my therapist was trying to get me to like...write positive letters to myself giving myself a pep talk every day."

No, Evan. No. Why would you say that? Aren't you trying to get him to like you??

"For real? That's the saddest fucking thing I've ever heard, oh my god."

"Right? And when I was writing them-"

"Wait, you actually do it?"

"Well, yeah, i couldn't show up with nothing done."

"Yeah. Yeah you fucking could. I'd laugh in my therapists fucking face if she tried that shit. That's so fucking embarrassing. What if someone found that? Holy shit."

"You know, I kind of worry about that all the time. I write them on my laptop instead of a notebook so someone wouldn't be able to just pick it up and read it. But like what if I accidentally send them to a teacher or something? How would I even explain that? It's so embarrassing."

“My step-brother has a notebook full of, um, Humiliation Sheets, and they're all on graph paper which kinda makes sense for him."

"What the fuck is a Humiliation Sheet?"

"I still don't know. But there different categories he marks off when something embarrassing happens. And he just left that laying around on the kitchen counter."

"That's the best fucking blackmail. If my sister did shit like that I'd fucking ruin her life with it."

"I don't really need to do that. He's doing a good enough job of that himself."

"Jesus. Siblings are the fucking worst."

Sometimes I forget how attractive Connor is (i have no idea how). Watching him laugh is...an experience. Most of his laughs are expressionless or mean but when he really finds something funny he smiles showing his teeth, scrunches his eyes, and leans back.

Wow. Wow, I am sure not straight.

But attraction is such a weird thing for me. There's about a second of feeling giddy and so overwhelmed by how pretty a person is. But that's ruined by literally anything. It could be seeing them talk to literally anyone or the sudden reminder that said person will never notice me. Either way it ends with me feeling so horribly alone and inadequate. I remember that I don't exist in a world where that can happen to me. I can only watch as t happens to everyone else. I can look at all the cute people in the world and they'll never notice me. I don't even want them to see me because I'll fuck up and embarrass myself. And they'll think "that kids so weird I hope I never see him again. He doesn't fit in anywhere. When is he going to accept that and just give up?"

I have to step back and get a good grip on that thought. Somehow I forgot that this thought used to consume my every thought. Huh. Does that mean I've been improving? Well, that doesn't matter any more. Things are clearly getting worse again.

Maybe that's for the best....

The realization is a split second. I have to do something. If shy away from any risk then he'll never like me. He'll never know I like him. Do I like him? Or am I just so desperate I obsess over anyone who pays attention to me?

That doesn't matter right now.

Before I can think twice I lay my head on his shoulder and he tenses up immediately.

"Oh my god, did I...oh my god I'm sorry I'm sorry I didn't mean to- I know I shouldn't have...shit. I mean what was I thinking why would I think that's a good idea, I'm sorry. I'm sorry just-"

He takes my hand in the most ungrateful way. It's nothing like a movie. We're both too awkward and unpopular but somehow he's holding my hand. He still looks uncomfortable and my mind is too blurred and frazzled to focus on the specifics.

My brain throws out one excuse and insult after another. I don't know what's happening.

"I...god, how do I say this without sounding stupid," Connor's still not looking at me. I can't look at him either so that's okay.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to overstep a boundary or something, I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry, I totally understand if you want me to leave or something."

"This is good," is his response.

I don't understand it at all. It's so vague to me though he knew exactly what it meant. And I want to ask but I force out an, "okay." He doesn't want me to ask more questions. I think he just wants to hold my hand.

And that fills my (spasming) heart. It fills my whole body, actually, with a magical h. I think I'd be content to sit here forever, feeling his bony thumb run against my palm. I never want this to end.

Chapter Text

"Hey, kiddo! How was school?"

 

"Good! It was good, a good day. Sort of. We, uh, we got a new creative writing project today," I say like that's the most exciting thing that happened. But let's be honest, how would I even begin to explain that I skipped class to snuggle with Connor Murphy. Mom's don't want to know that, right?

 

And also, admitting that would include me skipping. Maybe she'd be excited to hear about me doing Cool Teenage Stuff. Or maybe she'd get nervous because I'm acting recklessly. Either way I can't see anything coming from it so I leave it out. 

 

"It's sort of a collaboration with an the art class where we'll  have to work together to make an illustrated short story. Which I'm, I'm really not looking forward to. "

 

"Why not? I thought you loved writing."

 

Oh she's so out of the loop. Do I have the heart to correct her? She sounds so disappointed...

 

"I do! It's not that I don't like writing or anything it's just...not, um...not with someone else. It's just a long project and I'll have to find a partner who will probably be forced to work with me and they'll hate me and think everything I do is so stupid and I won't have any say-"

 

"Hey. Dr. Sherman wants to get you thinking more positive, right? Let's try to think of a good way to look at this?"

 

"Maybe there is none." That sounded way too emotional than it was supposed to. 

 

"Sure, there is. I can think of a few things; wanna hear them?"

 

"Yeah, I guess."

 

"You can think of it as a challenge. You can have some hard evidence on how you're feeling better."

 

"That won't work. I feel like I'm not making any progress, and if anything I'm doing worse."

 

"Remember when you were in 8th grade and you wouldn't talk to anyone? I couldn't get a word out of you for eight months, and look at you now. Maybe you're not as far as you'd want to be, but you are making progress, okay?"

 

I'm quiet. 

 

"It...it could also be a way to meet someone new? You know, because of, um, the partnership. I could meet someone new and make a new friend. Is that a good one?"

 

She's smiling so wide. "Yes, that's great."

 

There's a pause. "Shit. I gotta go, Evan. I'll see you later, okay?"

 

"Yeah. Sure."

 

"I love you so much. And I can't wait to hear how tomorrow works out for you!"

 

"Oh. Good. Ha. I, um, I love you, too. Have a good day at work, Mom. Bye.Love you."

 

I always complain about noise in the house but the silence is much worse. Usually, I can distract myself enough to not be affected, but the sadness is too heavy today. This apartment and everyone in it is just so depressing. Especially Mr. Heere. 

 

He doesn't have a job. I should be out there comforting him and encouraging him or whatever. Never mind that I'm not emotionally developed enough to actually do those things. It's hard enough for me to talk about anything let alone the worst possible part of me. 

 

But he's laughing at something which means he's probably feeling okay. That's good right? I mean, he's probably just watching Netflix, though, which makes this even sadder. 

 

"Hey, Evan!" 

 

I jump and immediately slam the laptop shut as the bedroom door opens. Now I'm staring eye to eye with Michael Mell. 

 

"Is Jeremy home yet?" He looks around the room with a confused smile. 

 

"No. Uh, no he's not," I tuck the computer away, stupidly hoping he didn't notice it. "I mean, like obviously since...since he's not here."

 

"That's cool. Mind if I wait till he gets here?"

 

"Yeah! I mean, cool, sure, whatever. The play practice ends at, um, 5, I think? So it shouldn't be long. Before Jeremy's here. Heh. Get it? Heere? Jeremy's Heere, like...like his last name? Oh my god that was so bad, I'm sorry. Why did I say that?"

 

But he's laughing. And his laugh is so light and his smile is gorgeous. It's perfect and it makes me feel oh so many things. Things that probably aren't the best felt towards your step-brothers only friend. And on the day you may have started something with Connor Murphy. 

 

"It's all good."

 

That's when everything changes; I notice it: he's twisting the corner of his shirt. And rocking gently on the bed. 

 

Ticks. 

 

TICKS. Anxious ticks and fidgets. 

 

Huh. 

 

I laugh awkwardly in return then, surprise surprise, we go silent, doing everything we can to avoid each other's attention. All the while, my mind is racking up: how to start a conversation. What do I say? Does he want me to talk to him? Of course he doesn't but I have to say something. Should we bond over anxiety? Does he have anxiety? Am I rushing things? I'm rushing things. 

 

"Hey, Michael?"

 

"Yeah? What's up?" And he asks it with so much care and concern that I'm actually shaking. I blink at him a few times. 

 

Speak. Don't wait. If you wait then you'll just make this worse for everyone. 

 

"I like your hoodie! Sorry. That was weird, I'm so sorry."

 

"N-no, dude, come on. It's fine."

 

"Did you...did you make it yourself? Not the hoodie itself! Obviously you didn't...I mean you might have made it, I don't know, but I was, um, talking about the patches. That's what they're called right? I still don't know. Sorry. I just...how do you get them on? Do you sew them or glue them on, what do you do?"

 

GLUE THEM ON?? OH MY FUCKING GOD, EVAN. 

 

"You have to iron them on."

 

"Iron?"

 

"Yeah. It kinda sucks cuz I end up burning myself all the time. Not so much anymore but occasionally it gets me."

 

More awkward laughing. Every conversation I have is so awkward; why am I like this?

 

"Yeah. You know you don't have to ask me, right? I'm not gonna yell at you or something." 

 

No, don't acknowledge that. 

 

Maybe it's be fine were it a joke, but he's got the Concerned look again. 

 

"I know." I sit on the bed next to him. We're both really tense and I try to loosen up. That always makes things worse cuz then I just look high strung. Is that even the right choice of words?

 

My hand automatically reaches towards the patch. I hold myself back before I can touch him because that'd be too nice. He's probably got really warm skin. Maybe smooth? Oh, who fucking cares I just want to touch it and not be afraid of going for it. 

 

That's what real people do, right? They touch the person they like. 

 

That thought immediately forces me to make contact. My fingers are still light on the fabric, but this is such a huge step it doesn't matter. 

 

At first, he flinches away but slowly eases back. 

 

Oh. So this is cool? I'm allowed to do this? 

 

"Hey, Evan, have you seen my....Michael! Hey there!"

 

I used to be able to say I don't hate Jeremy. 

 

"Hey, man!" 

 

I'll never get why Michael is always so excited to see him. What's so special about Jeremy, anyway? 

 

I need to leave or at least get off Jeremy's (gross, cluttered, unmade) bed. 

 

But will I have to say something? Should I leave? Say goodbye? Tell Jeremy to leave?  

 

"You wanna play with us?" Michael ask, holding up a controller. 

 

I glance at Jeremy who's eyes are wide with horror as if I'd take Micheal up on his offer. I see him shake his head. 

 

"Oh, um, no thanks. I'm not any good at video games, and, I uh have school stuff."

 

"Okay. Well, see ya."

 

I get out of there a breath in the hall for a second. Shit. So I guess fate hates me tonight. 

And of course it's today when I really need time to rethink my entire life. 

 

Maybe I can hide in the bathroom or Mom & Mr. Heere's bedroom. It's still so gross that they share a bed and that...they're actually married. Even after two years that's so weird. 

 

Anyway, I'm trapped between Mr. Heere and nerds screaming over video games. Neither situation gets me excited. 

 

Fuck. What am I gonna do? 

 

"Is he okay?" Michael's voice strikes me through the door. 

 

Oh. So that’s what I’m gonna do. 

 

"How should I know? It's not like we talk about our feelings. He doesn't talk to me at all and that's fine." 

 

Oh. Okay. 

 

"He seems like a good kid."

 

Every instinct I have is telling me to leave. They're going to say something horrible and I'll feel even worse. But I can't walk away. I've spent so long imagining what they thought of me and now I finally get to hear it. 

 

"Yeah, whatever. He's sorta freaky, right?"

 

"Jeremy! Don't say that," Michael draws out a whine. 

 

"I don't get why you're always so defensive of him."

 

"It's called being nice. And I like him"

 

"Oh god. Can we please not talk about you fucking my step-brother?"

 

I hold my breath. 

 

"What? No! Not like that. Besides, does he even swing that way?"

 

"He owns uggs, Michael."

 

What is it with those stupid Ugg's?

 

"He could just be fashion conscious."

 

"Have you seen him? Ever?"

 

Michael laughs uncomfortably. 

 

"Besides, I doubt he'd ever tell me."

 

"Maybe you should ask him."

 

"Oh yeah. I'm sure he'll respond really great to that. He freaks if you say hi to him I don't think he'll be super open talking about his sexuality."

 

"That's not what I meant. Just try to have a chill conversation with him, you know? It's not like you have to talk about anything deep just try to get to know him." 

 

 And of course my phone chooses this time to vibrate. It's probably Mom. She's the only one who calls me with the rare exception of grandparents. 

 

I take a deep breath and pull the phone out of my pocket. I don't acknowledge how badly I do and don't want it to be Connor. 

 

"Hey, Evan! Is everything okay? I've been trying to call you. Please, respond ASAP! It's important. -Alana"

 

Oh. It's important. I'll...I'll get right on that. Except I put my phone in my pocket, promising to text her back later. 

 

Texting is just...it's too much. It scares me and I'm not really sure why. I guess once I look at a text I have to think of something Good to respond with. And, as I'm sure you can tell, proper word formation is no where near natural for me.

 

So I avoid texts. 

 

But it's not like I'm a Bad Person for that. I have responsibilities I need to take care.  Like Dinner. Mr. Heere definitely hasn't had a real dinner yet, (unless you could Hot Cheetos) and he probably really needs human contact. And healthy food. So I guess I need to go there for his sake. I'll text Alana back as soon as I'm done. 

 

I have to take a deep breath as I walk down the hallway. 

 

It's weird that I'm still terrified of talking to someone no matter how long I've known someone or how nice they are to me. And Mr. Heere's the best, he's so nice. He's kind of like that dad I always wanted, though it calls weird to think of him as a father figure. He's kinda like an uncle even though he married to my mom. 

 

Either way, he won't get mad at you for talking to him or offering to make him dinner, Evan, so I don't know why I'm worried about that. He'll be happy to see you out of the room, making your own dinner. And he'll tell Mom and she'll tell you she's proud even though she probably doesn't mean it and if she does that's so sad. Imagine being proud that your 17 year old son made dinner. 

 

I force myself to move. It's not a far walk (the hallway is so small, this apartment is so tiny) but it feels longer with my heart beating so hard. 

 

It's fine, Evan. He won't get mad at you for talking to him. He'll be nice. Just breath and...

 

"Mr. Heere," it comes out as a statement as I stand outside the kitchen. When his attention redirects to me, my confidence (if I ever had any) runs away. 

 

Oh, hey, Evan! What did those boys kick you out?

 

"Of...oh. Ha. No, they, uh, they didn't kick me out I was actually just leaving the room to make dinner."

 

"It's only four o'clock."

 

"I guess I'm just really hungry. Do you want some? Of what I'm making I mean. That probably wasn't the best way to say that. Do you want me to make enough for you?"

 

"If you don't mind, sure."

 

"Okay. Cool. It's not...it's just um just going to be chicken and rice so it'll be really boring so don't get your hopes up for something wild and exciting. Chicken and rice is about as exciting as we can get on Mom's budget."

 

That was too heavy, Evan, you made him upset. He probably doesn't want to be reminded of his unemployment. You're making things worse weren't you supposed to be helping? 

 

"Oh chicken and rice are as exciting as you make it. "

 

"Yeah! Yeah, I guess that's sort of true. And, um, I read something that said a healthy diet improves mental health so I'm trying to you know eat better. So even if it's not exciting it's good. Good for you maybe not....okay, I'm just going to go make it now. Bye."

 

My phone dings  as I'm getting the ingredients ready, and I immediately go for it. My mind comes up with a few situations: Mom has to work late. She's coming home early. Jared wants to get back together. 

 

Maybe it's Connor. Please, God, let it be Connor. Or, on second thought, let it be anyone but him.

 

I take a deep breath and glance at the screen. It's a missed video call from Alana. Oh. Yay. I'll give myself a second to mentally prepare; I'll call her back once the food's cooking. 

 

As I put everything together, I've finally picked up on what Mr. Heere's watching: it's some reality tv show about business and...people fighting. 

 

I have to eat with him. How sad would it be if we weren't sad together, trying to show some sign of support? Oh my god, that sentence made no sense. Why am I like this. 

 

"Hey, Mr. Heere, do you mind if I watch this with you?" 

 

I'll be completely honest, I ask it as a distraction. It's not like I don't want to spend time with him. I do. But this once I want to get my mind off Connor before things get Bad. 

 

Mr. Heere's eyes light up. "Yeah! I wouldn't mind at all. Let me...let me clear this up for ya." He cleans off the wrappers and whatnot next to him, clearing up the spot next to him. 

 

I sit gingerly, never putting my full weight into the chair. 

 

"So, um, what is this? What's it about?"

 

I try to pay attention but I'm confused. It’s not that I don’t want to listen I just have a lot to think about. And does it matter if I understand as long as i pretend to be interested? He won’t be able to tell the difference. And he’ll still appreciate it. 

 

That’s all that matters, right?

Chapter Text

I hate this.

So. Much.

The art class is standing awkwardly in the creative writing classroom. The teachers are explaining everything and no one is listening. At least I'm not. I can't. My heart is racing and I'm just...I'm going to throw up. Or pass out. I don't know.

This isn't going to be fun for anyone. There's a few kids that know each other and won't stop talking. Everyone else is going to have an awkward get together. And if it's awkward for the normal people than it's going to be an absolute mess to me.

Wow. I am really am getting worse because I just used "normal people" to refer to anyone who isn't me.

And I know I should psych myself out of it. Reassure myself that I'm not a freak but...aren't I? It doesn't matter if it's true or not I need to get that thought crushed and put away. Because I feel so out of place. Like everyone is looking at me and saying 'he doesn't belong here. He doesn't belong anywhere.' and they know that I'm the worst person here. I'm the lamest. The weirdest. They all unanimously agree that I'm completely worthless.

And it's gonna be just like middle school gym class: when the captains pick I'm not even a choice. I'm the punishment that gets thrown to the team with one extra turn. No ones gonna think to choose me.

"Alright, we'll give you five minutes to choose partners. When you find your group we'll come around. And no changing partners half way through! So choose well now because you'll be stuck with them for a month!"

Oh my god.

Was that a joke?

A funny joke?

I reach into my backpack because oh yeah I'm gonna need something to throw up in. Luckily, I keep a paper bag with me at all times for situations just like this.

I never expected someone to sit down on the other side of my table. That must be a mistake. Your so anxious you're having delusions oh my god what am I going to tell Dr. Sherman?

I glance under the table and there, plain as day, are black combat books and ripped skinny jeans.

Oh. Is this...is this good or bad? Is this person here to insult me? Or maybe hit on me. My brain immediately sets up a story where I'm the other side of this table is the most beautiful human being I've ever seen who thought I was cute and is gonna flirt with me and tell me I'm pretty and interesting and we're going to spend the rest of our lives holy together in our small, yellow house in a small neighborhood with a cat and maybe a reptile. I'd like a pet reptile. But they require heating things and that's so much electricity so they'll have to have a good job and be very supportive of me. Not that I won't pitch in but I don't think an environmental studies degree can earn you a lot of money.

Wow, Evan. Wow.

I take a deep breath and sit up in my seat, keeping the hard bag in hand just in case. Not...not because they're going to be so ugly I'm going to vomit, I'm just so nervous.

"Oh. Um, hi. Hi, Connor."

He doesn't respond vocally. Just raises his eyebrows in a lazy sense of acknowledgment.

He...he looks horrible. He's never very out together but today somethings off. His eyes are almost completely empty. Void of any life or energy.

It reminds me of his first day back at Ellison High. He looked completely dead then. I'd never seen anyone look so miserable. He had no facial expressions and even his face was just sagging it was so down and tired.

This isn't that bad but I have to say I'm worried. He hasn't been to school for two days and a weekend. And he hasn't been replying to my emails or Alana's. And that's not to say my emails are super special or I'm entitled to a response but he's not like this.

Is he okay?

"I didn't, um, didn't think you'd end up being my partner," I try to keep conversation going.

"Yeah? You got any fucking better options?"

Oh.

"No! No, I wasn't saying that like oh I don't want you to be my partner I'm sorry I should've been clearer I'm actually really glad you're in the class and you chose me to be your partner so soon I'm just so rattled by this whole experience I'm sorry are you mad at me?"

And he just stares at me with cold, judgmental eyes.

"I'm sorry."

I'm super uncomfortable. I don't like seeing Connor frustrated or angry especially when it's directed at me. Did I do something wrong? Is that why he hasn't talked to me? What did I do? Was it because I was too clingy that one day? No that was too long ago. Jesus, Evan, what did you do??

"You apologize a lot," he states blankly.

"It's called social anxiety, at least I'm actually trying to be nice," I sass instantly.

He straightens up and his eyes widen.

"Oh. Oh my god that was so rude oh my god I'm so sorry you didn't deserve that I'm sorry please don't-"

"I was impressed. You're ruining it."

"Sor-um, ha. Thank you? I guess?"

He nods, not seeming to have processed anything. Like he wasn't listening to me. Like he never will because he hates me and thinks I'm annoying and never wanted to be my friend in the first place.

"You're not mad at me, right?"

"No." He says like it's obvious.

"Oh. Okay. Sorry. That was annoying. I was just...I thought you decided you hated me and never wanted to talk to me again which yeah sounds really stupid now but....but I just overthink everything."

"Dude, I didn't have my phone all weekend. Or laptop so I couldn't have responded."

"Oh. Did, um...sorry if you don't want t answer but um did your parents take it away or something?"

He laughs bitterly. "You could say that. Guess I did it to myself, though."

"What...I'm sorry what does that mean?"

He looks scared for a second. I'll never get used to seeing Connor Murphy afraid. He's the most confident person I've ever met. Well maybe not confident but he's brave. He's not afraid to be himself. Though, I'm learning he's afraid of...something. He always gets like this when I ask him questions.

He looks around, leaning closer into the desk.

"You're okay with... blood, right? You're not gonna pass out on me?"

"Um, no, I'll be, um, I'll be okay. W-why?"

He nods, still looking to the side. I don't know what that's about. Maybe he's bad at keeping eye contact?

Connor puts his arm on the table, pulling up the sleeve of his jacket, still not looking at me. When I lean in, it's another one of those gore-art things. Except this one is more offensive and yet even higher quality. It's self harm scars that are incredibly detailed. And to make it even more realistic, there's scars in different stages of life: healing, sort of pink and some hot off the presses all in 3-D. Or I guess that's just shading? And it-

Wait.

Wait.

Oh my god.

That....

"That's not....that's not fake."

"What the fuck? Why would it be fucking fake?"

"No, I...the thing you had. On Wednesday. The hand thing. That was fake I just...this is...this..."

"It's the real thing," he slips the sleeve back up. "Got to spend the weekend in a hospital for it. Again."

"Oh. I'm...I'm sorry," i apologize, awkwardly. Im not a Great Speaker at the Best of Times. So now? My brain just stops working in that department. "I didn't know."

"How would you have known? I didn't tell you," and he's just so annoyed by everything I say.

"No, I know that it just....I feel like...like I should've known and I should've...should've done something but that sounds-"

"Evan and Connor. You're a group?" Mrs. Smith asks as she approaches us with her clipboard.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Connor slip his right arm under the desk. Like she can see through that ratty hoodie.

"Yeah," is the only answer she gets which she seems to be okay with. We're both quiet when she leaves. I have a thousand questions none of which I'd be comfortable asking.

"Can we talk about this later," he's tapping his fingers against the desk. "Like tonight?"

"Yeah. Yeah, of course. That'd be fine. Thank- thank you for telling me. Um, can I ask you something? It's not...I just...are you feeling better? Like I know that doesn't just go away after a few nights but...did it help?"

Connor looks around again, like everyone's listening to us. Does he not realize they don't care about us? At all? I don't think we even exist to them. Maybe it's different for Connor because he's so loud in his feelings, people are always expecting a good show from him.

Oh.

"I'll tell you tonight, okay? I don't want anyone else hearing about it."

"Oh. Okay. I understand."

-
It's 10 p.m. and my inbox has been empty all day. But now I have roughly thirty drafted emails to Connor.

What's worse: yelling at him on emotional impulse, or not sending the angry, heartbroken messages. Nevermind. I know the answers to that.

I'm just being selfish. That's what this is. I think Connor wants to talk to me as bad as I want to talk to him. And that he owes me conversation. I just...he told me we'd talk. It's okay to be mad he hasn't messaged me at 10? Well, 10:02 now. God that's so annoying how I do that, isn't it? How everything has to be Exact. Stop it, Evan. No one cares.

I'm a mess. Can you tell? I feel like I already told you that.

But I don't know what to think. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind. Anything could be happening. Alana says he really isn't allowed to have non school related technology so that could be causing the delay. Maybe this isn't late to him. There's still two hours left of "tonight" and the early morning hours are a possibility, too.

Oh my god. Alana! I haven't...I was supposed to call her. Like three days ago. Oh my god.

But...but it's late. She's probably not even awake right now. I can call her tomorrow. I will call her. Tomorrow.

I need a distraction or something because my mind is not helping. It's telling me that he never meant to message me. Or maybe he thinks I don't want him to message me. Or he never liked me and never actually wanted to talk to me. He just felt bad or something. How was I stupid enough to think he wanted to be my friend?

But objectively seeking he seems to like me in his own way. His actions show it. Why else would he skip with me and hold my hand and choose me as a partner and tell me about his relapse or promised to talk to me tonight. Fuck, it wasn't...wasn't a real promise. It was just 'I'll text you about something tonight.'

And it's not even my fault. Him. Not keeping his end of his promise reflects on him more than me.

But I can't deny that it's really upsetting. I really wanted to talk to him.  I like talking to him. I like him. Way more than I should.

And that's not even the big part. He relapsed. I'm too worried about him because I'm afraid he's going to try and hurt himself again. And it's hard to even imagine that. He deserves so much more and I wish I could show him that or protect him from his thoughts and impulses.

But when my inbox dings with a message I have no idea how to respond. I'm too afraid to read it, but I still open it. 

c.murphy@gmail.com
can I call you?

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

I'd love to but there's nowhere quiet in my house, and I don't get WiFi outside. I'm sorry. If you really want to I can figure something out?

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
texting works. guess i don't want my family hearing this either.

c.murphy@gmail.com
it's like what I told you today: i've been thinking about it so fucking much. i should've tried to stop but that feeling gets so strong that i can't control myself and it's fucking terrifying.

c.murphy@gmail.com
that night I just couldn't handle it anymore so I got a razor and just fucking went for it. Wasn't trying to hit a vein or anything, I just missed it. I was addicted to it for so fucking long and wanted to fucking feel better.

c.murphy@gmail.com
it was one of things where you want hurt yourself so bad because you want to feel as horrible as possible.

c.murphy@gmail.com
i got so freaked out when it was all said and done. like what the fuck am i going to do, it's not like i can fucking hide it. mom checks my arms all the fucking time and she's not gonna buy that  it's fake. So I just went downstairs and fucking told her. she was crying and made me feel like shit because i keep putting her through so much shit she doesn't deserve. 

c.murphy@gmail.com
you know they could go to jail for not doing anything? like now that they know i'm doing it again they're gonna be held liable if i fuck up again. and that's all my dad fucking cared about. he actually came into the hospital and said i'm disappointed in you connor. after all that money we spent on helping and this is how you thank us? do you want us to go to jail? is that what you're trying to do?

c.murphy@ gmail.com

god i'm such a fucking freak

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

You're not a freak, I promise.Lots of people deal with things like that and they're not lesser or "weirder" than anyone else because of it. I used to do something sort of to that idea. It's not the same thing but I could tell you if you want? And I'm not saying that to make this about me I just want to show you you're not alone. I'm sorry is that really selfish?

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
No, I want to hear.

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

Last summer I starved myself. And now that I say it that's so different than what you're going through but it's similar in that it's a bad habit that's hard to stop. I was just in a horrible place, and things were rough with my family. Money was tight, and I felt guilty because I was still getting therapy and medication. Like I was the cause of our problems and I couldn't help. So I stopped eating and didn't drink much either. I knew it was so stupid and my mom got really worried but I thought it was the best thing. Like I wanted to feel as bad as possible. Like it couldn't just be mental, it had to have  a constant physical feeling. SAnd i know that's sort of out of nowhere. I really try not to think about it, i just want to forget it ever happened and i've gotten really good at repressing it. So I guess the point is that other people have destructive tendencies? Sorry. I feel like that was random and didn't actually help.

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
you're okay now?

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

I'm working on it. I mean I haven't been there since September and I'm kind of improving.

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
good. you deserve the world evan and i wish i could fucking give it to you. and i wouldn't just fucking say that to anyone. i know your brain fucks with you a lot and you think no one cares but i fucking do. i you're not a waste okay 

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

No, no this isn't supposed to be about me. I appreciate that so much and I'm gonna cry but I'm still worried about you. Are you going to try it again?

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
i don't have a choice. i want to bad. like no one needs to know, maybe if i just do it somewhere else it won't be an issue. but i fucking can't go back to silver hill again, you know? i'm fucking done.

c.murphy@gmail.com
i'm trapped. i can't see myself getting better whatever the fuck that means so my only option is to do it right this time. and i can't talk to anyone about it or they'll lock me up again.

c.murphy@gmail.com
do you ever feel like that?

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

No. It's never gotten that bad.

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

That was a lie. I'm sorry. Do you remember when you came back for a few days and Alana introduced us? I had the broken arm?

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
When you fell out of a fucking tree? How could anyone forget that.

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

 didn't fall. I mean like I feel physically but it wasn't an accident. But i planned it to look like one. That way if it didn't work then no one would be worried and if it did work then my mom wouldn't be so upset. It's one thing for your kid to die but I feel like a suicide would break her. And I couldn't do that to her.

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
i guess we're more alike then we thought, huh?

 

Lorax_Hansen@gmail.com

Is that a good thing?

 

c.murphy@gmail.com
who knows. it is what it needs to be.

c.murphy@gmail.com
you know i love you, right? and that's not me being gay, it's one fucked up person to another. spirit to spirit.

 

Oh. Um. Okay. So I guess my heart just stopped but whatever.