Pink, white and blue wads of gum cling the black metal undercarriage of the bench seats of the school bus, collecting grit in the wrinkles and creases created as they were pushed into position. Modern art or an analogy of life, my cheek drains the comforting cool out of the rubber floorboard where I lay, watching feet dangle in a morbid dance, teaching myself to breath again.
Carelessly swinging down the aisle, Mike had inadvertently on purpose caught me with his foot in that particular place that 13 boys dread a collision, for fear it will stunt your growth. Dirt and dust bunnies console me with each ragged inhalation, until their words rob the rest of my breath.
Did you hear about Ted?
Before guns became popular school accessories, there was Ted, my biology lab partner. Quiet and quirky, skinny as a pole, lost in a sea of faces, unless you were looking to clean your shoe. And many did. Few ever saw the brilliant creativity that only reared it's head in a limited audience. Mostly, he just existed.
What is the point in telling if it only encourages them more? When the only answers given at home are 'you need to learn to fend for yourself, be a man'?
Dust rose in ominous mushroom clouds, blue lights bathing the yellow school buses in their glow, as the brown patrol cars flashed into the lot. Sirens squeal in the ears of faces smudged to the window glass as flashlights, in gun belts, bounce against thighs racing toward time that had already passed.
Jangling metallic clatter echoes down the hall of lockers, a scalpel slips into the crimson pool leaking from the face of a boy, who pushed Ted, one last time.
We didn't see Ted for a few years, and then one day he was there, sitting next to me in science, again. Always something to say, but no one to listen.
Just another victim, falling on deaf ears.