44448

Dec. 1st, 2009 09:05 am
backdrifter: I won NaNoWriMo 2009! (nanowrimo 2009)
[personal profile] backdrifter
For once, Ryan felt alert as he took his homeroom seat. Fidgety, but alert. He drummed his nails on the desk, irritating the homeroom teacher, who predictably said nothing about it to him. Respa didn't seem to notice, off in la la land as he stared out the window. The Pokémon T-shirt that barely covered his upper body seemed extra ridiculous today, in light of his un-childlike actions the day before.

The problem with Ryan's decision that morning was that he had to get through four periods on sheer willpower, waiting for lunch period. His history teacher still looked human, but when she spoke, it came out as a loud, electric buzz that hurt his ears. On his way out, she placed a short hand on his shoulder, smiling, but he cringed when she buzzed at him, the pain of the noise even worse in such close proximity, making him recoil visibly. The smile dropped immediately, her hand withdrawing as if burnt. The message in her movements was clear: She didn't know how to deal with the schizophrenic kid, and after this failure she didn't want to try again. Ryan wished he knew what she'd tried to say to him.

Second period was gym, a class he was normally just fine at. He wasn't stellar and he didn't try very hard, but he could do what he was told, and he could at least catch and throw a ball. Today, however, the lights far overhead flickered alarmingly, and his gym teacher was leaking an unidentifiable substance from every orifice. There was also a second, new gym teacher today, always chiming in from the back, but whenever he looked for the source of the voice, there was nobody there. This teacher had only negative things to say about each student. In the end, Ryan scrambled under the bleachers, to hide from this invisible new teacher in the dust and bugs.

He managed to make it through third and fourth period without major incident, though this might have had something to do with the fact that he had gone temporarily deaf, a blanket of silence settling over the entire class. Toward the end of fourth period, he found himself tapping his nails on the desk in anticipation, eyes on the door. He put his books away a good five minutes early, and when the bell brought his hearing back, he shot out of his seat, swinging his bag onto his back as he ran, and raced ahead of the student herd to lunch period.

He didn't see Respa at first, and he stopped short just inside the door before someone pushed him forward, muttering. He walked slowly, his grip on his bag white-knuckled as he searched for Respa. There were couples dotting the cafeteria, boys encircling girls and both forgoing eating food to nuzzle each other intimately, in public view. Ryan forgot, for a moment, his quest for Respa, thinking of how he wanted to pry those couples apart and bash at least one of them in the head. Something about the way the girls giggled quietly, or the soft look he recognized in the boys' eyes—

Respa was sitting by himself, at the end of the empty half of a long table. The other half's occupants were ignoring him, laughing and grabbing at each other, talking animatedly. Respa was staring at the table top, without anything in front of him. A hand, warm and soft, touched Ryan's arm, and when he looked, he recognized the being beside him as Sol. Sol was older, looking to be about Ryan's age, and he was tall without being too tall. His eyes were still a searing shade of blue, and they looked at Ryan now.

"Be careful," Sol warned, his fingers still touching Ryan's skin. "He's like an animal."

"Be careful of what?" Ryan whispered, watching Respa.

"When animals attack people," Sol said softly, directly into Ryan's ear, "they have to be put down."

Respa looked up, met Ryan's eyes. "What the fuck are you looking at?" he shouted, loud enough that one of the normal kids at his table glanced over and snort before turning back to her friends.

Ryan dropped his bag to the floor, and he surged forward to grab Respa by the shoulders. Taken unaware, Respa toppled off the bench to land on his back, coughing briefly. "What the fuck!" he shouted, swinging a punch upward at Ryan, but Ryan blocked the punch and threw Respa's arm to the side, even as he moved to sit on Respa's stomach. He
slammed Respa's arms to the floor, and with his knees he pinioned those arms to Respa's sides.

"Fuck you, get off me, Kamikaze!" Respa spat, freeing one arm to punch Ryan, successfully, in his chin. But Ryan felt as though his nerve endings had been shut off, as if with a switch; the punch only moved his head, and in return he punched Respa in the cheekbone, whipping his head to one side.

Respa freed his other arm, and he shoved Ryan off him long enough to roll out from beneath him and stagger upright, wiping the saliva off his unbruised cheek. "What the fuck is your problem?" Respa shouted, glaring as he stood back.

Ryan opened his mouth to respond, to say something about how he wasn't going to be called fucking Comma-kozzy or chinky bastard and stand for it, but those nerve endings had been shut off, too. He clamped his mouth shut, jaw set, and when he moved forward, Respa's attempts to block the incoming punch were completely futile. The punch knocked him back, and he landed on his ass, wheezing.

Behind him, Ryan could hear teachers galvanizing to come and stop them both, but Ryan felt as though he wasn't done. He took a running start, and while Respa was still trying to get up, he jumped to land knees-first on Respa's abdomen, flattening him. Finally, Ryan found his tongue.

"It's Kamizaki!" Ryan shouted, and his hands made their way to Respa's neck. "Say it fucking right!" Respa tried to say something, probably to make some smart retort, but Ryan's fingers curled tighter, squeezing the words dead in his throat. He tried to repeat himself, but all that came out now was screaming, a roar with no vocabulary. He could feel adult hands grabbing at him now, by the shoulders, at his biceps, but Ryan was unstoppable. "You fucking animal!" he bellowed, and he shook Respa by the neck once to smash his head into the floor, just as Respa had done to Alex against the wall yesterday. Sol echoed him somewhere above, reminding him of what Respa was, of what Respa might be, of who Respa looked like. Ryan didn't need to be reminded, though. He shut his eyes tightly, and the adults finally peeled his hands off Respa's neck, three of them working together to subdue him. When he opened his eyes, though, instead of Respa—

"Ryan, you hurt me," Victor gasped, coughing as he lay on the floor.

Ryan shrieked, flailing in the teachers' arms, and they shouted as they coordinated to hold him tighter. Hang onto him!

It was Respa on the floor again, coughing violently as a teacher helped him to sit up and rubbed his back. Respa touched his neck gingerly, watching Ryan being dragged out of the cafeteria, and when their eyes met, Ryan's furious, Respa's confused and afraid, he was the first to look away.

They took him to the dean's office, by which time he'd exhausted himself. He was content to sit on the wooden chair offered him, legs curled up and face pressed into his knees, but they pulled his legs down and his face up, telling him the dean was coming to talk to him. Ryan wondered why the dean wasn't in his office already, considering it was the dean's office.

The dean was a portly Latino man that took a moment to take his own seat at the desk, grunting as he adjusted himself. "Hello, Ryan," he said. "I heard this is rather unlike you. What's going on?"

Nothing, Ryan said in his own mind, but not only could he not get the words to sound out, but he couldn't even get his mouth to open. So he stared at the dean.

"Listen," the dean said, leaning forward conspiratorially, "I know about your condition, as does everyone else on staff who works with you. It's very important to all of us that every student stay happy and healthy, so I have to ask. Have you taken your medication this morning?"

"I," Ryan was finally able to croak, and he cleared his throat to try again, "I was going to be late for school. So I forgot, and I just ran out the door. I didn't—I forgot." He had been intending to say he hadn't even showered that morning, but he imagined the dean coming around the desk to actually sniff him and declare him a liar on all fronts. Better to not.

"Have you ever forgotten before? If we called your parents, would they back up your answer?"

"No, I don't think—I don't think I've ever forgotten, but you know what, nobody knows, because I take my pills in a cabinet—from a cabinet, in a cabinet, under a cabinet—nobody can see! You can't see! You can't see me taking my pills, because you don't live with me, you don't live in my room!" He pointed at the dean now with a shaking finger. The dean had a plan, he could see it now. The dean expected to come home with him, to take up residence in his room and watch him take his pills every day. The next step from there was for him to become Ryan, to assimilate his identity, and then Ryan would cease to exist as a person. And all this would happen if the dean called his parents, which he was already in the process of doing.

"Hello, Mrs. Kamizaki? This is Dean Perez, and I—"

Ryan grabbed the base of the phone in both hands, tearing the cords from it in a way that broke the actual telephone line and left frayed wires sticking out, and slammed it into the edge of the desk. They would find new wires, new cords, but the phone itself would be harder to replace, and so he slammed it again. The phone showed no signs of breaking, though, and so he hurled it to the far end of the room, where it shattered into big plastic shards and pieces of electronics.

"Ryan!" the dean shouted, apoplectic, but Ryan didn't care. He'd saved his identity!

"You can't be me!" he crowed. "You'll never be me!"

The problem, of course, was that there was another phone he'd failed to see, and a guard escorted him out of the office to sit in the waiting room while the dean called his parents properly. Respa was there, still touching his neck thoughtfully. When he looked up at Ryan, it wasn't a hateful glare, either, though it started out that way. Instead, the expression transformed into something more like pensiveness, watching him. The guard sat Ryan down, and then ambled into the corner by the door to keep an eye on them both.

"Sorry about your name," Respa said quietly, the hand at his neck becoming still.

"What?"

"I'm sorry about your name. Kami—Kamika—"

"Kamizaki," Ryan snapped. "It's Kamizaki, it's not like it's hard." He glared at the wall.

"Kamizaki," Respa repeated. "Yeah, I guess not."

There was a stretch of silence, and Ryan surprised himself by being the one to break it. "You remind me of someone I used to know," he said, still not looking at Respa. "Like, the way you look."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's a good thing, I guess."

The dean came out of his little windowed office. "Ryan, your father's on his way over from work to come and take you home for the day. You're not fit to stay the rest of the day." Respa caught Ryan's eyes, his brows shooting up, and then the dean turned to Respa, who dropped the look. "Thomas, please step into my office."

Step into my office. Ryan felt a sensation, as Respa rose to join the dean, that he hadn't felt in years. Behind him he felt the cold static of the TV he'd been long since told didn't hold his life, and with each of the dean's words, he inexorably took a step back. It was Sol who grabbed him by the forearm, pulling him away from the edge. "Thank you," Ryan murmured.

"You did the best you could," Sol said, smoothing hair from Ryan's face. "You can't control outside forces. Not yet, anyway." He tucked the hair behind Ryan's ear, looking thoughtful.

"I saw Victor," Ryan whispered. "When he was down on the floor, I saw Victor."

"Victor's gone now," Sol said, adamant. "Don't worry about it."

"I saw Victor..." he repeated, and Sol ignored it this time.

"What's definite is he won't come after you anymore. There's no speaking for the others, but you're safe." Sol nodded to himself. Ryan nodded too, burying the words in his head that ached to remember Victor. Sol obviously saw the words, though, his eyes like X-rays into Ryan's cranium, and he frowned. "Don't try to make friends with him just because you miss the person who ruined your life. He's dangerous."

"Right." Ryan stared at the floor. "Right."

Ryan's father arrived to take him home, Respa leaving the inner office just as Ryan got up. They exchanged looks as Ryan left, and Ryan didn't know what face he was making, but Respa seemed more curious than afraid now.

"Your first fight at a new school," his father sighed in the back of a cab, his arm thrown over his son's shoulder casually. "Son, why didn't you take your medication? Your mother and I pay a lot for that, you know."

"I know." He leaned into his father's side, smelling the cologne that seemed to infuse all his sweaters. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry's not gonna cut it," his father said, and then seemed to rethink his words. "No, I guess it will... Punishing you seems almost pointless. Just promise me, please, please please please Ryan, to take every dose from now on." He shifted now to better face Ryan. "I mean, come on, kid, you've been doing this the right way for years. What happened?"

"I don't know." He hid his face in his hands. "I don't know, I'm sorry. I don't know. I was running out the door, I forgot—"

"If you were running out the door, you could have easily thrown—well, no, I guess not. Could risk losing it at school or on the street or something, and that, well... I don't even know what I'm saying anymore." He shifted one more time, this time to bring Ryan closer. "Let's just get home so you can take your afternoon pill and forget about this whole thing. I'm going to have to call the art class place to tell them you're canceling today..."

Ryan whispered one more apology, but his father was already looking out the window.


The next week at school, Ryan was sleepy and docile once more, with no homework to turn in, though this wasn't terribly unusual. It seemed as if the dean had spoken to all his teachers, because they all acted as if yesterday had never happened. There was no awkwardness between him and the history teacher, and the gym teacher said nothing about the way he'd thrown himself under the bleachers. Ryan understood now that there was only one gym teacher, that nobody else had been hired.

It was lunch period again when Respa came by, and Ryan wondered if this was going to be an every day occurrence. He hunched his shoulders, prepared for the worst—and was surprised when Respa calmly took a seat next to him on the bench.

"Hey," Respa said, looking at the fake woodgrain of the plastic white tables.

"Hi," Ryan replied, unsure of Respa's motives. He didn't seem like he planned to do anything harmful, but Ryan could never be sure of anything. He didn't trust either Respa nor himself.

"Can I sit here?" Respa asked, glancing at Ryan from the corner of his eye.

"Um, yeah, I guess you can." He glanced at Respa, too. "I mean, you're already sitting there."

"Ha, yeah, I guess. You got me." The entire exchange was awkward and stilted, both parties nervous, waiting for the other to make a move. "Do you wanna..."

"Wanna what?" Ryan stuck a sporkful of sorry lasagna in his mouth, waiting for Respa to articulate.

"Wanna hang out, after school or whatever?" Respa couldn't look at him now, stared intently at the chipped edges of the table.

"What about your friends? Ella and Cassandra, right? And that guy, um, Malcolm?" He gestured with the spork, trying to speak around the food even as he chewed quickly.

"Malachy," Respa corrected absently. "They'll be fine on their own."

"I guess, then," Ryan said with a shrug, trying to play it cool. Okay, so not taking his pill had been, in the end, a very bad idea, but the ends clearly justified the means. Respa seemed to be looking for his approval now.

"Cool. I'll see you after ninth period, then, alright?" Respa was doing an acceptable job of keeping the tremors out of his voice, but Ryan could still hear them here and there.

"Yeah, cool." He swallowed the bite of lasagna. "Cool."

Respa took his leave quickly, leaving Ryan to feel giddy all by himself. Sure, Respa was a bully. Sure, Respa had kicked the shit out of another human being in front of him, twice. Sure, he'd tried to strangle Respa yesterday. But in the face of possibly having a real, normal friend who just wanted to hang out after school, all those things seemed to melt away into irrelevance. He barely noticed, the rest of the period, how soggy his food seemed.

Respa met him, as promised, just outside the school building's front doors, leaning against the stone wall there. Ella and Cassandra were nearby, unfortunately, and neither one of them looked happy. Malachy was gone, presumably nowhere near school. "Isn't this the little faggot you beat up the other day?" Ella asked, flicking her cigarette as she looked Ryan up and down.

"Shut up, Ella, you twiggy little bitch," Respa snapped. "You guys can survive without me, right? Come on."

"I can't believe you're going to hang out with that little jerk instead of us," Cassandra said, snorting. "What happened to you?"

"Are you serious right now?" Respa put both hands on his hips, standing between Ryan and Cassandra. "Go watch Ella eat, you dumb fat bitch. I don't wanna hang out with either of you right now, go away! I'm hanging out with Ryan!"

"Fine!" Ella retorted, both of them looking thoroughly scandalized. "I hope you weren't planning on going to St. Mark's Place, because that's where we're going, you losers!"

"Fuck you!" Respa shouted at their backs. "Fuckin' dumb cunts," he muttered when they were out of hearing range, and he turned to Ryan. "We can go hang out in the cafe at the top of the Barnes and Noble, or go to Riverside," he said, voice much brighter. Still wary, Ryan nodded, and pointed toward Broadway to signal his choice.

"Man, that thing is so fuckin' ugly," Respa commented as they passed the blocky bronze sculpture that was supposed to represent the school.

"Yeah," Ryan agreed, finding his voice, "it really is."

What Ryan discovered, in the Starbucks-owned cafe on the top floor of the bookstore, was that outside of school, Respa was actually sort of bashful even as he was talkative. He learned that Respa liked Radiohead as much as he did, though when Respa asked why he liked them so much, he couldn't exactly say It soothes me when I feel like my medication isn't doing the best job. He lied, of course, saying he just thought Thom Yorke was a genius, and yes, he did find it kind of soothing. Respa hated Amnesiac, an album Ryan liked to use to get to sleep some nights.

Respa still sat uncomfortably, every so often jumping up to stand next to the table, and finally Ryan suggested that they go to the park, where they could lie in the grass. Respa remarked that it was pretty cold for that, and then Ryan remembered he needed to get home to take his second daily dose of Seroquel. He gave some bullshit reason about strict Asian parents needing him home by a certain time, and then Respa walked him to the station. Their goodbye was awkward, both of them waving at each other from three feet away.

It was strange, Ryan thought as he wedged himself between an obese woman and a skinny man with his legs spread two seat-widths, how quickly Respa had changed his tune. Part of him wanted to just accept it, to take Respa's friendship with an open mind and be normal. The other part of him wondered, though, what Respa might be up to. He already had suspicions that Respa was smarter than he let on, especially after the bathroom incident with Alex and the keys. That seemed a little too thought-out for a regular bully.

"Where have you been?" his mother wanted to know when Ryan came through the front door.

"I went out after school," he said, removing his shoes as he slid his bag from his shoulders.

"You went out. You went out?" She sounded more confused than upset, stopped in her tracks by the idea of her mentally ill child socializing.

"I made a friend. So yeah." He shrugged, trying to downplay it; the last thing he wanted was for his mother to get excited over him making even one friend in front of Kenny. She did it anyway, squealing and clapping her hands (not hugging him, he noticed), and behind her Kenny smirked at him.

"Um. Can he... Can he come over? Not tomorrow or anything, just sometime this week." He asked it softly, trying to keep Kenny from eavesdropping, but Kenny was obviously trying to listen in.

"Absolutely," she cooed, obviously pleased. "I'm so happy for you!"
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