Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place.
Of Mice and Men. Mandatory reading for English class. I may not work on a ranch and I may have two living parents, but I understand it. I don't belong anywhere. Where is the place for people with severe social anxiety, who shudder at the thought of ordering a coffee? It'd be a quiet place, and there are no quiet places for Angelo Green.
Make today different. That's my motto, and I repeat it to myself every day in the mirror. And then I go to school every day and ignore it. Although my 'today' is different to most people's days, so I like to think that I've achieved my goal in an unconventional way.
As I head downstairs on another hellish Monday morning, I hear muffled shouts coming from the living room. Something about money, and a handbag. Mom's probably bought one of her ridiculously expensive designer bags again, and considering the fact that my sneakers are being held together by duct tape, my dad is none too pleased.
Mom, dad, stop arguing for two seconds. You're meant to love each other.
That's the plan. I repeat it over and over in my head as I open the living room door, the creak alerting my parents to my presence and prompting them to immediately shut up. True to my theory, dad looks like he'd paused in the middle of waving a Gucci bag in front of my mom's face.
'Morning kiddo,' Dad says. The smile that he's plastered on his face is obviously fake, but that's the new normal. I never see dad smile anymore, no matter how much he tries.
Mom, dad, stop arguing for two seconds. You're meant to love each other.
And no words come out. Not a one.
I stand there silent, pulling at a string on the inside of my sleeve.
Put down the bag and be a dad! Ask me how school's going! Ask me to watch a football game! Anything!
'I'm going to school.' I can see their smiles falter for a second, as if to say 'that's it?'
'No breakfast?' My mom questions. I shake my head and she exhales deeply. 'Eat something in school. Have a good day.' I nod and head for the front door. As the icy October air hits my face, I can't help but mentally laugh at my mother. Really? Have a good day? I can't even form a sentence, what makes you think I'm capable of having a good day? I walk to the end of the street and immediately pull out my headphones from my bag. When you don't want to talk to people (or you physically can't) headphones are a godsend.
Hey Isaac, I like the shirt. You like that musical too? That's crazy, we should go see it sometime!
Yeah, I'm always overly ambitious about my speaking abilities when I see Isaac (and my ability to get tickets to shows.) Stood in front of me in a Hamilton shirt and black jeans, casually conversing with the group around him, he looked so carefree. I feel a pang of jealously alongside the butterflies that throw raves in my stomach whenever I even see Isaac. I wish I could hang around with a group and be casual.
'Angelo!' Isaac's voice is instant serotonin at the best of times, but his voice saying my name? That's terror and an almost irresistible urge to run in the opposite direction. As he excuses himself from the group, the butterflies that were once partying in my stomach now seem to be flailing around screaming.
Isaac! Great to see you! Did you know that the school musical is Beauty and the Beast? You should definitely audition. You're really talented.
'Hi!' His voice sounds like sunshine and I'm glad I didn't eat breakfast or I'd be seeing it in reverse.
'How are you?'
Dumb. Stupid idiot. He asked you a question. You don't respond with a question.
Seemingly choosing to ignore my social incompetency, he carries on unfazed. 'Oh, I'm okay thanks. Just finished up hanging posters for the musical. Are you auditioning this year?' If he was anyone else, I'd take that as a joke. Of course, I can't even have a one on one conversation, let me perform on a stage. I shake my head agressively, like a toddler who doesn't want to take a nap. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but I swear I saw his smile drop a bit when I... communicated that I wouldn't be doing it.
'Well, we could always use people for tech crew! Just think about it.' He smiles that perfect smile and touches my shoulder briefly. 'See you around!'
My handwriting is shaky as I slowly write out my name. For what feels like the fiftieth time, I check the top of the sheet of paper, to make sure I'm not signing up for the cast. Amazingly, the text hadn't changed and it still said 'Tech Crew Sign Ups.' A way to see Isaac perform without having to buy a ticket or heaven forbid, join the cast.
Before I can register what's happening, I feel a strong hand on my back, shoving me into the wall. I slump to the ground as I hear a deep voice behind me say three words.
'Damn theatre queers.'
I'm not even in the cast, idiot. I'm more like a tech queer.
And again, nothing comes out.
As I turn around, I notice someone stood right in front of me, his look alone screaming 'I want to break every bone in your body.' I can't take my eyes off him as his abnormally large frame walks away.
And falls over.
People stare as he hits the floor with an 'oof!', his bag flying off his shoulder and skidding to a halt at the feet of a very unimpressed teacher. For a swift second, I think I see a foot in front of him, and as I look up I see that the foot belonged to none other than Isaac. He gives me a wink as he retracts his foot.
'Gordon, get up and get to lessons,' the teacher said. The boy who I now identified as Gordon stood up and shoved a huge finger in front of Isaac's face.
'He tripped me!'
'Actually miss, his shoelace is undone,' Isaac replied cooly. Both me and the teacher looked downwards and to Gordon's dismay, his left shoelaces were indeed untied.
'Language! Get to class or get to the principal, it's up to you.' Gordon huffed and stomped his way down the hall. Isaac approached me with the demeanor you'd have when approaching a sick puppy.
Better now that you're here.
I nod. Isaac stretches out a hand and I take it, allowing him to pull me to my feet.
'Hey, you signed up!' He said gleefully, his eyes glued to the sign up sheet next to me. For a second, I think that he's planning something horrible and wants everyone to see, before I realise that I've never actually given him reason to hate me.
'Angelo, are you sure you're okay? We can report this if you want to.'
I shake my head firmly.
'Okay then' His voice is uncertain and for a moment, there's a silence that I wished more than anything that I could fill.
Thanks for helping me out. Maybe I can make it up to you Friday night?
But of course, my words were nothing more than a croak in my throat. Isaac gives me one last look before smiling and touching my shoulder for a second, before heading off down the hallways.
And with him went yet another failed attempt at a normal teenage life.
Fuck you, social anxiety.
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Bro, same. Ahaha, fuck social anxiety. Seriously, though, either you've had firsthand experience, or you're great at writing anxiety because this is spot on. Double points for him being a theatre kid. And he's queer. If the rest of your stories are anything like this, I think you and I could get along quite nicely. I'm curious as to your use of quotation marks. Is this a normal thing I was unaware of? I love your name btw :)
Thanks so much! Yeah I'm a fairly anxious person most of the time so I figured I should just write what I know :) with the quotation marks, if you're referring to how I use ' instead of " for dialogue then I don't think it's a normal thing, just a bad habit lol :)