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A Splitting Of The Mind

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Take a look around and what do I see
It's looking like the whole world's goin just a little crazy
And I know it can't be all of them and just not me
So I guess I'm going just a little crazy

-'Crazy', The John Butler Trio



From the first moment I laid eyes upon him, I decided I liked him. That was saying something, because I don’t much like anyone. I can’t afford to like or trust anyone. Not anymore.

He slunk in one morning, head down, eyes x-raying the floor, shoulders tense and overall trying to look like he didn’t exist. I saw him appear in the doorway and quickly slip into the armchair Magda pointed out to him. He didn’t look around or make a noise or speak. He just sat there, as straight as he could in the sagging cushions of the blue and white striped armchair. He clasped his hands together tightly and placed them carefully on his lap, the thumbs facing the ceiling. A moment later his hands unclasped and one hand flew to his mouth where he began gnawing on a fingernail. Then, as though realising the full extent of his habit, he removed his fingers from his mouth and reclasped his hands back in his lap. Then he began to twiddle his thumbs instead. My eyes drifted away from the distracting hands and to his face. God, he was young. Too young to be in a place like this. He must be pretty fucked up. His face was pale, like it had been cast in moonlight. I twisted my head to check his eyes. His face may have looked like moonlight, but there were definitely no stars in his eyes. They were hazel, I could tell. I couldn’t see. But I didn’t need to see. I just knew. He had the whole ‘poor baby’ thing going too, but, to his credit, he wasn’t exploiting it. On my first days I would’ve killed to have the “poor little victim baby” thing going.

A shout of laughter rippled through the room and he jumped. Scared, he cautiously looked up only to find everyone fixated on the stupid television. He took a quick glance around the room, assuming everyone was watching the television. I wasn’t. I was still watching him. I focused on his lips now. Straightaway I could tell that those lips had touched another person and was disappointed. But there was no love on his face. There were no remnants of who had kissed him in his eyes or mouth or soul. He had hidden the memory of them inside of him and that distinctly annoyed me. If people hide things, then they have to actually look to find them. It’s okay if you lose them, or misplace them, or put them somewhere else, you can still stumble across them. Just like your first kiss. If it was a good memory, don’t try and hide it somewhere – just put it somewhere. If you hide it, you’ll never just stumble across it. But, if you forget it or misplace it, you never know when it might come back. You never know when it’ll pop up in your subconscious and give you a nice surprise. But if it’s a bad kiss, you try to forget and lose the memory so you’ll never stumble across it again. It’s quite sad actually when people forget to lose a memory and are haunted by it for the rest of their lives. But the brain is not just like a filing system, or a big tunnel with two exits saying ‘keep’ or ‘chuck’. You can’t physically file your memories; you don’t actually get to decide which ones you lose for good or which ones you simply misplace. I’m the only one who knows this, so, naturally, I know how to do it. If I’m really bored and Jasper is not here I sort through the week’s memories and file them, but a lot of the time I just let them go, it’s no big deal once you’ve cracked the secret. Though I bet if anyone else did it would be groundbreaking. Imagine being able to lose memories of a tragic childhood incidence or forget all the deaths you’ve witnessed. Think of how much a doctor or an ambulance officer would give to be able to forget things like that.

So, that’s how all memories work. Don’t ask me how I know – I just know. And now you know, so if I hear of a groundbreaking new study about memories I’ll know. I’ll even understand if you don’t credit me. After all, I’m just a teenage kid and that doesn’t give me much credibility, does it?

Back to the new kid. He’s taken up staring at the TV now, instead of his lap. I hate that TV! Doesn’t anyone realise how easily that box kills your brain cells? Annoyed, I ground my teeth together so hard Ben turned around.

“That’s not a good idea now, is it?” he said in his annoyingly calm, orderly way.

I purposely rolled my eyes and ceased the grinding. I don’t want to be here. I hated TV time. They think that we’re all so interested in who gets voted off American Idol. Who cares? Half of them can’t sing anyway. My money’s on the chick, and I don’t even watch the show. She’s gonna win though, I knew it. I shuffled in my armchair so my back is resting against one padded arm and my legs are propped over the other. Another ripple of laughter courses the room and I glanced at the television, wondering what was so funny about American Idol. Only, it’s not Idol that on but some crap TV sitcom. Holy shit! Quick! I need something to gouge my eyes out with and deafen myself with before too much of this stupidity seeps into my brain. Somebody must’ve changed the channel because now that I think about it, I don’t recall the sounds of American Idol at all this session. I must be slipping. How could I let such a little observation slip past me? Oh yeah, it was the arrival of that new kid. The one with messy, once-styled black hair. I could still smell the gel he used to use in it. Yeah, of course he’s washed it since he came here, but, like I said, I know stuff. And I know he used to gel his hair.

There is a quiet click but to my ears it is so loud because I have been awaiting it all day. The TV is off! Hallelujah!

“Lunchtime!” said Magda in an overly cheery voice, beaming at us all.

I moaned and purposely took my time unhooking my legs from the arms of the chair. I desperately hoped Ben didn't decide to wait for me. However, he’s not waiting for me but instead for the new little black haired kid who was sitting trying to look as inconspicuous as possible in his armchair. He offered a hand to the kid to pull him out of the chair. The black-haired kid learnt the hard way how difficult it is to extract yourself from the cushions of that particular chair. It swallows you in; sucks your arse in the base of the chair. I chuckled as he gripped the arm and tried to haul himself out.

“Here, let me help. Can I touch your arm?” Ben asked carefully, his hand still extended and quite close to the boy’s.

The little victim shook his head violently and retracted his hands, terrified, clutching them close into his body, staring up at Ben like he was threatening him. Ben holds up his hands hastily, indicating no contest.

I raised an eyebrow to myself and passed Ben on my way to the door. I paused, my back facing the two and shook my head slowly. I turned back around to face them both, smirking.

“What are you smirking at, Gerard?” Ben snapped, watching the kid and looking defeated.

I raised a finger to indicate patience then began to slowly undo the tie around my neck. Slowly, systematically, and carefully I undid it, preferring to reverse every step rather than loosen it. I took it off my neck and dangled it in front of the kid’s chair. He’s watching me with such intense scrutiny I’m quite affronted. If I was mocking him, he would know, and would not have to resort to attempting to read me. He finally decided my intentions were pure, or whatever; he just finally took the loop of the tie I held out to him. In one swift motion I hauled him out onto his feet. He staggered for a bit but I didn’t move to steady him. He didn’t want anyone to touch him. I had to respect that. If he fell and cracked his head, I wouldn’t touch him. If it was against his wishes to be touched, then I wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t that hard to comprehend.

Once out of the chair he was steadily going bright red. I let go of the tie and it fell, slack, in his hands. He bundled it up and held it out to me. I shook my head and made my way to lunch; I was hungry, after all.