She keeps talking but I don’t think I’ve taken in a single word. I’m only here because my father is making me. “You’re Crazy” he says. Crazy, I hate the word. It’s dismissive. It says, “I don’t understand this person so I’m going to label them insane.” I’m not crazy. I’ve just been pushed, and shoved to the edge. With just one more gust of parental control I’ll tip over and fall to my death, but I swear to god I’m not going alone, I’m taking someone with me when I go.
Dr. Caligari keeps droning on as if anything she says could possibly make what I’m going through any better. This bitch is practically ancient, she has no idea what it’s like to be a teenager and judging from the state school diplomas on her wall, she certainly doesn’t know what it’s like to be a rich teenager. The pressure. I don’t get to be what I want to be, I have to be what my father wants me to be. He only let me do Photography because I convinced him it would look good on a law school application and he bought it. He doesn’t understand that the feeling I get when I zoom in and frame the shot, is the only moment I get where the world doesn’t seem like a prison. Strange, a single image contained within the boundaries of a lens makes me feel free. Maybe it’s because I can control what’s inside that cage, unlike the cage that surrounds me.
“Nathan, are you listening?” Her old ass says.
“Why would I be listening to you? I’m forced to be here. I mean would you be present for sex you were forced to have? Or would you drift off to that place in your mind that blocks out the rest of the world?”
She acts appalled but that was probably the tamest thing she’s heard from my lips. My leg starts shaking and my hand can’t seem to steady itself, I need to take my pills. I never realized how much of a trap drugs were, at first you take them to feel good but after a while you’re taking them just so you don’t feel bad. I can feel the first stages of withdrawal hitting me: the goose flesh, the sweats, the aching legs and the constant yawning mixed with a running nose. That shit that Christ freak Kate took is nothing compared to the shit I’m on and I blame Mark for that. You’d never know it by looking at him but he pops pills like Judy Garland. The man is a walking pharmaceutical phenomenon being held together with chemical bonds
“Nathan I don’t think those are two things that can be compared.”
“Why not? I feel like I’m being forced to expose the deepest most private parts of me and no matter how much I resist you keep probing, isn’t that rape?”
Her silence means that she’s considering that idea. I feel like my father is holding me down as some lady has her way with me – an image bolts through my mind – I physically shake my head with enough violence to knock it loose. Its poor Kate, all tied up like a bundle of twigs. Mark said it was about capturing the moment when innocence is lost. When naivety turns to understanding of the cruel world we live in. I was drawn to that idea because I never knew what it was like to be innocent or naïve. I wanted to see the moment when someone else lost the thing I never had. I wanted to see the pain of knowledge, the knowledge I was force to learn. Before I understood what a swing set was I knew what a power-play was, I witnessed hostile takeovers where people lost their jobs and their livelihood, and blackmail is so common place in my house we use it to get family members to grab us something from the kitchen.
I knew that my mother didn’t love my father, that she married him for his money and I knew that she never loved me, she just had to give my father a male heir. I am the only worth she ever offered my father and she resented me for it. I was raised by maids and butlers and I was never allowed to have friends because no one was ever good enough for me according to my father. “All those tramps want is to use you for your money and will try to take it the first time you turn your back. You don’t need friends.”
“Can I go now? This is as pointless as the trade embargo on Cuba.”
Dr. Caligari nods her head and motions her hand for the door, “One thing though Nathen.” I stop just short of the knob. “I know after your father found those pictures on your hard drive he forced you to be here, and I get that you resent him and me for that, but just tell me. Why did you do it? Why kill those animals? Was it just to snap a quick shot?”
“We kill animals every day for one reason or another and I’m the criminal for killing a few rabbits and squirrels? Still… I’ll tell you why…. I wanted to capture that moment where they knew that it was over. Even the most simple of vermin understand death. A concept even kids fail to grasp. I wanted to see that moment when they knew it was over and there was nothing they could do about it.” Again images flash through my mind. I hit my skull to try and knock them out. “Goodbye doctor.”
I rush out of there bounding out to my car, and with panicked hands I tear open my silver monogrammed pill box, chewing up a grip-full. The bitter taste of chalk and medicine stains my tongue. Bourbon from my hip flask washes it all down. I breathe out the fire in my chest and inhale a cool calm. I sit in my car breathing in and out slowly until I feel that first notion of the high. That slight euphoria that lets you know the rest is about to flood you.
The world pulls away from me and everything seems like it’s at a distance. Everything I interact with seems far away and unreal. A smile spreads across my face. My mind is empty, void of any thoughts and I am happy. There is nothing in life a lot of oxycodone can’t fix, no pain too strong for Purdue Pharmaceuticals to kill.
I have class in 20 minutes but this town is small and all the cops know better than to pull over a Prescott.
I hide it well, no one ever knows. I’m a brick wall of emotion on the outside but on the inside I can’t get over what we did to Kate and how Mark can just teach a class right in front of her face like nothing ever happened. Like he is innocent. He’s a monster… and so am I. I’m one table away looking right at her and I can’t say a word. I don’t know how he does it. Acting all cool. I shake it all off, I can’t lose conviction. Mark says I have to stay strong if I want to capture real art. He says the pills will help but all I feel is nothing. Whatever Nathan was, whatever I was is all gone and all that is left are these drugs and the words of Mark Jefferson floating around in my mind.
He’s doing it again. That weird kid Warren is staring at me, he does it every class and I never know why. Does he know? He’s a sneaky crafty mother fucker so I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s into some pretty fucked up shit too. Those movies he brags about liking to that flat-chested-loser are gory taboo shit for sure. I bet you he’s into some fucked up shit, maybe he does know and he admires me for it, he’s kind of cute too in a dorky kind of way. STOP IT NATHAN. I yell inside my head, I’m doing it again. This is why father sent me off to that torture camp. I’m not supposed to have thoughts like those. It’s not normal.
That loser girl asks Mark a question eagerly seeking his approval. She has no idea what he has planned for her. I would feel bad for her but if she’s too stupid to see through Jefferson’s bullshit then she deserves it. I saw it right away. I can’t wait to be there when that innocent face turns to shock as she finally gets it. The moment she stops living in a fantasy world and sees the truth. That everything is fucked.
The bell rings and we all shuffle out of class but just as I’m out of the door I’m hit with a stiff shoulder. It’s that Warren Kid. He hands me a note and scurries off with a hint of arrogance. I open the note and it simply reads, “I know.”
It looks like this time it wasn’t just the drugs or the paranoia filling my head with worry. This time there was something real. Warren Graham knows something, I should kill him. Yeah, I should defiantly kill him. Mark would like that. Creative initiative he’d call it.
On the back side of the note are the words, “Meet me in my dorm in 30.” Is it a trap? Will I arrive to a room filled with police and evidence so strong that even my father couldn’t get me out of trouble? Did Jefferson sell me out? I look back through the door and look at his smug face talking to that Max bitch. I don’t get how she’s 18, she looks like a 12 year-old boy.
If Jefferson did sell me out I swear to god I will take him down with me. I’m not stupid. I have insurance. Keeping dirt on other people is what my family was built on. Jefferson is fucking with the wrong kid if he thinks he can pull one over on me.
I have no idea what lies on the other side of this door but the answer is only a knock away. Just. One. Single. Tap. I hit the door with a thud right on time and it flings open like the starting gates and the Kentucky Derby. He’s dressed differently than normal, like he’s trying to impress someone. I suppose that someone is me. Nice jeans with a white half buttoned shirt tucked into them. His chest bare and white. I push him down to the ground and close the door behind me. Kid fucked up.
“What do you know?” I scream having lost all my cool all at once.
He’s pulled himself back against his bed recoiled in fear. “I know the truth.” He says holding out his arm as if to block a punch. I wail on him anyway and lift him to his feet. “What do you know!?” I yell two inces from his face. “This!” he says as he kisses me so hard our teeth mash. I go from iron to Ice cream in half a heart-beat. Teeth turn to lips and lips invite tongues and every part of me knows a relief that no pill or drink has brought me in weeks. This is the most relaxed I’ve felt in eons. I drop the pistol I was about to pull on him and it crashes to the floor unnoticed and forgotten.
We fall to his bed and become a mess of exploring hands and curious lips. I’m not sure how long passed, in those moments it’s hard to gauge time, it passes so differently than normal time.
“What was that about?” I ask him. “You already know. Otherwise we wouldn’t have spent the last 20 minutes making out. I don’t know how you feel about me but I knew that you
were like me.”
“Like me?” I echo.
“Yeah… you know Gay.”
I pull back and wipe my lips, “I’m not a fag!”
“Call it what you want but I think when one person makes-out with the someone with the same sexual organs it’s called being homosexual. Or Bi if you like both..”
I fall to the floor and find that gun I let fall and take aim at him, he doesn’t flinch. “Shoot if you must but it wont change what just happened.”
He’s so calm. This isn’t the Warren I know from school. His eyes, this steely blue wall of effortless courage. In that moment I was weakened. The gun drops to my side and with timid steps I walk back to his bed and let him hold me. I don’t deserve this, this feeling. I think it’s called comfort. My mom never held me like this, my dad ignored me, Jefferson controlled me and I poisoned me, but Warren Graham. He holds me. I fight it off as long as I can, just as I was taught, but it comes on like a Texas rain. A gentle mist then a full-out unforgiving downpour. I cry so hard in Warrens arms he must think I was near death.
I don’t know how much time passed. I’ve never cried before. There is a high to it. Then I reminded of my pills. I go to reach for my silver pill box but Warren slaps it out of my hand. I scramble to the floor and claw at the pills on the floor. “I know an addict when I see one Nathan. You don’t need those. You have me, I’ll help you get through this.” The sunlight pours in through the blinds and highlights him like and angel as he offers a hand to me.
There are moments in life when you see something simple, an open door, an offered umbrella… and outreached hand, and you know that they are much more than just those things. Warrens hand was a chance, a rope to help pull myself out of this hole I’ve dug. In these moments you are given a choice, a powerful one. Do you take the helping hand or not? Accept or reject? I know what the Prescott’s would do. So I choose the opposite.
Warren skips school for three days and holds me close telling me all sorts of stories as I detox. I’m a sweaty kicking mess the whole time and he stays with me forgoing sleep or food just to comfort me from a mess I created myself. My father would have sent me away to some clinic for some high priced doctor to deal with me, my mother wouldn’t have even noticed I was sick.
When you do drugs you push away all the things in life you are trying to run away from. When you are kicking drugs all those demons come clawing back at you with a fierce roar. Keeping you awake at night as your legs try to run away. That’s why they call it kicking the habit, because your legs are constantly kicking.
The whole time I think of Kate and of Rachel. Mr. Jefferson is the abyss, and I stared too long into it, it stared back. I’m the monster because I could have stopped him but instead I helped. There is only one thing that could take this feeling away.
After the three days I feel almost normal again, whatever that means. I can’t stop crying and I can’t stop think about those poor girls. I tell Warren everything. What I did and how I help Mark Jefferson.
When it’s all out in the open he smiles at me, a gesture I don’t deserve. “You’re right, I don’t want you to go, but, it is the right thing to do and it is the only way you will be able to sleep at night.”
I make a few phone calls and within the hour it’s all over. Mark is in handcuffs and so am I. Kate is out in the parking lot watching me being hauled off in clinks. I stop the Uni’s and ask for a moment.
“Kate, I’m so sorry. I want to make excuses for what I did. For what happened. But I can’t. I can never give back the woman I stole. I can’t return what I took from you and for that I will never forgive myself. All I can hope is that you can move on and forget all this.”
She takes my face in her small hands, “Nathan, what you did to me… what you helped Jefferson do… is unforgivable. But I know that wasn’t you. That was some twisted manipulated kid, high on drugs. I don’t forgive him, but I do forgive you, Nathan.”
I start to cry so hard my chest feels like it could cave, I have never felt so small in my entire life, and I grew up under Sean Prescott. My eyes are like a windshield during a downpour. I see a blurry Warren standing by the cop car waiting to take me away. He hugs me and I kiss him in front of the whole school. I don’t care anymore. This is who I am.
I’m in the car as it pulls away, the world falls back and it seems so distant. Finally, I made a choice that was my own, and no one can take that from me, not Dad, not Mom, not Jefferson, not even Me. Then there is, that slight bit of euphoria that lets you know the rest is about to flood you.