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existentialism & summertime.

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The “bell” of the highschool wasn’t actually a bell, but rather an obnoxious computer beep that sounded throughout the classrooms and hallways. It was a spacious school to make up for the student body, which was comprised of well over a thousand students, disregarding any transfers or those visiting on foreign exchange. Despite the annoyance, it got the point across well enough, and even with the teachers best efforts, students poured out of classrooms and into the halls the moment the incessant ring alerted for a class change or lunch break. This time around, the alert sounded for lunch, and the hall directed toward the cafe was flooded with students of all kinds. Unlike what you’d expect, the food at this particular highschool wasn’t half bad- the specials, at least, were normally up to par with whatever the senior cooking classes were making that term. Five dollars for a semi-meal seemed like a bargain, until you took into account the pricing of literally everything else.

You win some and you lose some.

Hence the particularly skinny student digging in his pockets while standing in the lunch line- one arm wrapped in a fresh cast, the other stretched down into his cargo pants pocket for any bills or coins. If he absolutely had to, he’d pull out his debit card, but greatly preferred the pained look that was given every time he dumped a handful of change in front of the supervisor managing the small register the school owned. One of these days he was going to get hit upside the head for it, until then his habit would continue.

This was normally the case for Jamison’s behavior.

He’d earned himself a reputation among the student body, as it neared senior year the freshmen would get told off about his attitude in classes- his infamous stunts pulled- and his miraculous ability to never get suspended. There were rumors that his parents were filthy rich, and bargained every time he got caught with something. Bunch of daft cunts. Jamison couldn’t help but mull over the accusations to himself, if he was filthy rich would he be digging around for coins? Wearing the same cargo pants every day? Well, he did love the pants. The pockets kept everything he’d ever need at his disposal.

But that wasn’t the point. Truth be told, Jamison had been couch surfing since around 9th grade. He worked two part-time jobs, along with school to stay afloat- he could’ve focused on work, gotten an apartment, and dropped out of school. But, despite how much he ranted and raved about hating the school and the system, Jamison enjoyed what it allowed him to do. There were creative outlets- and, though he disrupted classes quite a lot- the subjects in which he excelled in, the teachers loved him for. There was an unspoken appreciation for Jamison’s attitude in certain classes- keyword, certain- and that was part of why he’d never been suspended.

Second was, of course, his situation. Teachers listened to a lot more than students did. His particular favorite was the english teacher- who for some ungodly reason accepted his chicken-scratch handwriting and self-indulgent assignments. Every time consulting with other teachers to actually read his work, and appreciating how Jamison, to quote him directly, “could put thoughts to paper, even if it wasn’t really the subject material.” A lot of his stunts were pulled inside of a classroom, and teachers slid him under the radar nearly every time. No matter how mad they would get, the leniency for his deviants won out in the end. He’d only been apprehended by a school official who cared to “turn him in”- as he called it- once or twice. Which hadn’t warranted suspension, but he was getting pretty close to running out of warnings.

His friends were forever tolerant as well, it’d become a cycle of sorts- staying mainly with Amelie and Moira. Who, as weird as they were, had families who didn’t bother to ask too many questions when a scrawny blonde Aussie showed up on their doorstep. Others included were Reyes, (first name Gabriel, but had always gone by his last name) Lena, and on rare occasion Brigitte- who’s father only allowed him in the house for his engineering skill. A mutual respect sort of thing- but, Jamison was normally kicked out again after a few days.

He’d gotten around to all sorts of cliques in the school, a jack of all trades, the catch was not everyone within those groups could stand him. That select few had tolerance for Jamison, although no one could believe it, he’d formed pretty decent bonds with nearly each stereotypical highschool group. (The ones exempt from this were the acclaimed “popular” kids. Amelie was technically part of this possie, but never considered herself to actually be included. She actively denied any involvement, as if it were embarrassing.)

Speaking of connections, a familiar eager hand was tapping his shoulder.

“Jamie! Haven’t seen you around lately, luv.”

He’d say Lena was short, if he wasn’t so abnormally tall. She had to rock on her heels to reach his shoulder to begin with, though the difference never seemed to bother her. Lena was a force to be reckoned with, she was on every single sport team. Every. Single. One. Football? Field hockey? Swimming? Even Ultimate Frisbee. Lena was there, front and center, with her jersey always numbered 26. It was no surprise that she was getting into whatever college or university she wanted to attend, the amount of scholarships she had was almost exhausting. Jamison would’ve been jealous, but there was nothing much he could do with sports. Not when his arm seemed to be constantly broken- and, well, he was missing a leg. A little more than half of his right, to be precise.

“You ‘aven’t been looking hard ‘nough then.”

Brief laughter was exchanged, the lunch line shuffled forwards, and the cafeteria’s noise would’ve drowned out their conversation if either one of them knew how to talk quieter.

“I have been real busy with everything, every coach wants something more outta me, as if I'm not the best of the best on the field every time!”

“Too right. Dunno what they’d even be able ta’ squeeze out of ya, mate. Stress that comes with being tha’ best, huh?”

The line advances, and Jamison and Lena manage to dip into the small area where you’d pick up whatever food you actually wanted. It was a weird way to run things, as Lena had commented that it was nothing like school back in London, Jamison could only agree. But, it was connected to the massive kitchen the senior students used.

“You good for coins and all that, luv? Still at Amelie’s place?”

His good arm slings the large backpack over his shoulder, and struggles a bit to open the pouch containing his wallet- there was bound to be loose change in there. He only needed a few more dollars for what he was getting- and seriously did not feel like getting his card out. Work had been picking up, since it was getting close to summer he could work practically daily again- until then, though, he was stuck budgeting everything.

“I’m good. Well, ‘cept for Amelie lettin’ me stay. Her folks finally got tired of ol’ Jamison again! ‘ppreciate ‘em, though. Was there for a lil’ over a week, miracle they ever let me stay that long.”

“You know, I never took Amelie as the type for having lenient parents. She’s always so, y’know, stiff.” Lena pauses whilst selecting her drink- a tuna sandwich already in her hand while Jamison reaches over her for a bottle of gatorade. “But, on the bright side, you can stay with me this weekend! My folks are going up the mountain, taking a little break and trusting me with the house. You’ll be in and out, they won’t know you even came over. Leaves room for me asking next week too, if no one’s open for you, James.”

It was a little demeaning, admittedly, how Lena doited over his every move when it came to housing. He had spent several days without someone to stay with before, and didn’t mind doing it again. Shelters were fine, the only problem was the closest youth shelter was two bus rides away from the school, and with a broken arm Jamison couldn’t really drive. He had a license, surprising for most people who knew him, but was stuck without 1) a car and 2) a working second limb.

“Sounds great, Lena. They leavin’ today? Or preparing t’day an’ ditching tha’ place tomorrow?”

“They scurried out this morning, something about getting up there early for a head start on skiing and relaxation. I don’t see how waking up earlier is more relaxing, but works out for us, yea?”
“Sure does, mate. Cheers. I’ll meet you outside the gym- know you have a soccer game today.” Jamison lets his coins rattle on the register’s flat front surface before waving to Lena and turning to walk out, Gatorade in hand, going over the mental checklist of any classes he needed to check in with. Considering how close it was to those summer months, most teachers were tired of marking, and assignments were slowing down with the exception of the end-of-year type stuff. Everything was aces, with the exception of that biology essay he needed to write. Even if a trip to the library was in order, he headed to the end of the school and out the back door- the standard meeting spot for both Reyes and Amelie.

As soon as he turns the corner, heads under black hoodies look up, then downward again as the confirmation of it just being Jamison was cleared. There was a subset of the school where students who smoked always went during lunch break- a “smoke pit” that almost every school in the area had. Right across the drive-in to the parking lot, an area that was technically off school grounds was a safe haven for anyone and everyone who smoked. Jamison was one of those unlucky students that’d gotten into it during the younger grades. As much as he hated the habit, he was too many years in to quit outright. And, thanks to his height and appearance, buying them without being ID’d was the easiest thing in the world. (A nice way to make money on the side, desperate teens would come to him for smokes, and who was Jamison to deny a customer?)

“Sorry they threw you out again, Jamison.”

Amelie speaks in a monotone almost every time they interacted, with the exception of when Jamison was staying over. He’d heard her laugh maybe five collective times during their friendship that started in the beginning of highschool, and every time was a magical experience. He never thought the cold-faced Amelie had it in her, but had been proven wrong on multiple occasions.

“Naw, nothin’ ta’ worry about darl’. Could sense they were gettin’ exhausted with me, I got ways fa’ pickin’ up on tha’, “too much Jamie” scale nowadays. Lena’s lettin’ me stay tha’ weekend.”

Reyes snorts, his folks were always a little overwhelmed when it came to Jamison. He had good hearted parents, both moms had raised three boys and one older sister- who was already in college and had moved out. To add another teen with a mountain of issues on their couch was a little much of Jamison to ask for consistently, and only showed up when Reyes offered. Speaking of Reyes, Jamison eyed the new kid standing awkwardly near him, a goofy looking cowboy hat shading his eyes.

“Who’s this? What’s with tha’ hat. Looks ridiculous-”

Before Jamison can let his mouth get the better of him, Reyes waves a hand to shut him up, along with an explanation.

“This is Jesse. Long story short, ma’ knows his mom, so I have to hang out with him.”

Amelie nods, seemingly already in agreement with the arrangement of a new addition, and no other complaints from the usual smoke pit visitors leave Jamison satisfied. Doesn’t mean he won’t strike up conversation, though.

Jesse. I knew’a bloke named Jesse! Real nutcase. Blew his fingers off this one Halloween- thought holdin’ a firework would be a real fine idea. You ever do somethin’ like that, Jesse number two?”

“...Number two?”

“Yea. Can’t disrespect tha’ original. I’m sure an up-standin’ guy like you understands, y’know?”

Reyes let out a chuckle, messing with his lighter while Jamison took control of 90% of the conversation- only allowing quick answers out of Jesse, who was clearly a little intimidated and confused. The basics of where he was from, what he was like, cats or dogs- the essentials according to Jamison. Zodiac signs were important, he insisted to Amelie, so what if I don’t know anything about them? Still need to know who’s who. The banter continued on until the bell sounded again, and Jamison could come to the conclusion that Jesse was an alright guy. He looked pretty clean-cut, and it was surprising that he smoked- but, hey, Jamison never truly judged any books by their covers.

Goodbye’s and see-you’s were exchanged as everyone headed off to their respective classes- it seemed they could never score after-lunch classes together. Everyone’s interests were different, Amelie had taken up sewing, Reyes was in geography and Jamison had a trip to the Biology classroom. Now, Jamison was a decent biology student, even if he preferred tearing animals apart to learning about how they functioned or lived- the mushroom unit had been particularly exciting. And if by exciting he meant unbelievably dull, then, it was the holy fucking grail of units.

At least the teacher was nice, she was an aged woman with a kind face. She’d been particularly nice to Jamison, and according to Amelie she gravitated towards the misfits in the school. Along with her constant support of his participation in class, they’d shared a particularly heartfelt moment when he officially “came out” as trans. His name on the attendance had changed, the teachers referred to him as Jamison, his work name-tags had changed, and Mrs. Orisa had taken the time to pull him aside and express how proud she was. It takes a lot for someone to figure out who they are, she’d told him, if you ever need anything, let me know.

It sealed the deal on his enjoyment in class, as he walked in he flashed Mrs. Orisa a grin that she returned with a welcoming smile- he was seated at the front row of tables in the classroom. It was more of a lab, complete with sinks and gas tubes for whenever they were experimenting. The projector was in the front of the classroom, and Jamison, despite being up front, normally sat alone. No one wanted to be around the one who somehow blew up his specimen on “dissecting a squid” day for whatever reason. Most times, if the assignment called for a partner, Mrs. Orisa would move some poor kid over to work with him- and, in the end, Jamison snatched the work away and finished it on his own. It was a win-win for both parties.

This time around, however, somewhere new was there.

Two new faces in one day? Showing up a couple months before the school year ended was weird enough, but by some miracle, the new guy hadn’t heard of his infamy within the classroom. Either that, or he was convinced he could survive the wrath of Jamison … “wrath” was really his constant need to talk to whoever was seated next to him. By the looks of it, the guy wasn’t much of a talker.

The one attribute that hit Jamison when he made eye contact was the word big. Big hands, face, body- even if it was buried under an equally big sweater- who wore sweaters in June? Aside from Reyes and, well, most smoke pit kids- wait, he was getting distracted. Introductions were Jamison’s specialty, his quick way to either make someone never speak to him again, or be a life-long friend. His success rate with the latter was hardly important.

“G’day! Made a fine choice sittin’ up front, y’know. Means I get ta’ take a jab at’cha. I’m Jamison- Jamie- James- whatever sounds best ta’ you.”

He was met with a wall of silence and that blank stare while Jamison scrambled into his seat after dropping his heavy bag on the classroom’s floor. The guy crossed his arms on the table, letting one too many beats pass before responding.

“Mako.”

“Uh. Like, ya name’s Mako?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool! Cool.”

How awkward the exchange was could’ve been considered suffocating. Or, at least, Jamison was feeling exactly that. He hadn’t met any brick walls in his time at the highschool, sure, not everyone enjoyed how talkative he was- but, to stand in the face of his blabbering instead of moving on was quite the skilled accomplishment. He would’ve been impressed if his heart rate hadn’t spiked for whatever god awful reason- was “Mako” that scary? No. Maybe passing on lunch just hadn’t been a good idea.

“Good afternoon, class! I’m sure everyone’s lunch break was up to par- I heard there was macaroni and cheese today.”

And with Mrs. Orisa’s standard start-of-class conversations, Jamison let the one-sided talk with Mako die out. Speaking up- without putting his hand up- whenever questions were asked from Mrs. Orisa, it was more of a discussion class for what they’d learned that year to make sure their Biology essays were top-notch. Mrs. Orisa apparently “couldn’t wait” to read what the students were writing up, as you could pick anything from a subject they’d learned about throughout the entirety of the school year. When the discussion was dismissed, and the last half of the class was dedicated to quiet study and writing, Mako was staring at Jamison again.

For some reason, Jamison was fidgeting.

“You an Aussie?”

Well, that was surprising.

“Naw. Jus’ thought I’d copy tha’ speech an’ mannerisms since day one. I’m plannin’ on a long-con here, don’t screw it up fa’ me.” The last bit was whispered comically, hopefully Mako would pick up on his joking- even if there was absolutely no change in his demeanor.

“...”

“Christ. Yea, I’m from tha’ land down under, an’ all that. What’cha askin’ for, mate?”

“Nothing. Just wondered cause of your accent.”

Of course he’d noticed Jamison’s accent- he’d been spewing input to the “class discussion” for around forty-five minutes. Did Mako really not pick-up on it? Or, did he just feel the need for clarification? … What a weird guy.

Luckily, Jamison’s thought process was interrupted by the bell again. Mako had turned to collect his things, and Jamison wormed his way out of the classroom after waving to Mrs. Orisa. He was meeting Lena- even if he’d been sitting on bleachers until around five, it was better than sitting in a shelter the whole weekend. Lena actually had Netflix.