Usually, your classmates wouldn't assume you have dementia or can't speak. But for someone with a memory loss problem, I hear them whispering about me every day. I have no interest in friends, and I have never thought of myself as a people person. My mother used to tell me to try and make friends, but all they do is talk and talk when I can't even remember what I wanted to say or why I wanted to say it.
I'm in ninth grade and entering a new high school. What can be worse? Oh yeah, I'm apparently a "troubled student." I was expelled from my other school for complications involving my temper. I don't remember the specific details. I seemed to have forgotten.
Now in the new school, I walk down the hallway while kids murmur and call me "memory boy."
One girl, with strawberry-blond pigtails and nasty brown eyes, glares at me. She whispers to her friends, "look at his eye-bags, what a slob. He so doesn't belong here." The ugly piglets behind her laugh cruelly.
I'm about to insult her pigtails and tell her she looks like an overgrown child. My mind checks off all the things I can say to the brat, like how her huge red pimples can signal spaceship. Until I become distracted by a poster hanging on the wall, it has delicate yellow flowers and an inspirational quote. When I glance away from the sign and look back at her, I forget what I wanted to say. She stares at me with suspicious eyes as I scramble for words.
What did she insult? My eye-bags? Or was it- my skin? No, that's what I wanted to insult her.
"What?" She asks.
"I- your pigtails don't look good on you." That is the only thing I can come up with to say. Her jaw drops while I walk away. I had wanted to say something more offensive, something funny- but I forgot. Again.
In math class, the teacher asks for the hypotenuse of a triangle. I look down at my thin, white sheet of calculations and yawn. I write down a few numbers, multiplying by the length and height. Once I have the answer, I raise my hand high in excitement and forget to write the actual solution down.
The teacher looks at my hand and says, "Yes, Clay?" In a sluggish voice.
Suddenly, I forget my answer and gaze at the teacher that glares back at me, his eyes dull like dust. The only noise in the classroom is the handles on the clock ticking back and forth- creating more seconds of silence while my memory searches for something to say. I can't rely on my paper since I forgot to write down the answer. There's nothing left to do but guess.
"Is it, uh- is it 25.8 inches?" I avoid direct eye contact.
"No. It's 134.8 inches." He turns his back as the class laughs at my unusual answer.
A boy behind me calls, "Memory boy probably forgot his answer and just guessed!"
I whip my head around and glare at him. The boy has crooked and yellow-stained teeth. His entire jaw looks like a snout, and his bleached blond hair doesn't make him look any better. I prepare to insult his teeth so harshly that he would wish he hadn't said anything at all. But suddenly, his mouth closes after the laughing, and I forget what I had wanted to say. I forget what the class was laughing at before. And I forget why I was so mad.
The day goes on.
Once school is over, I take my bike home and pass Central Park. I decide to feed some geese to calm myself from the humiliation at school today.
While I watch the birds munch on pieces of my leftover sandwich, I hear my name called from the left. Jake, my best friend, is waving and rushing towards me on his bike. He was from my old school. Jake sits down next to me and strikes up a conversation. We were complete opposites. I hated speaking while he was the most extroverted teenage boy you would ever meet.
"How's the new school?" He asks.
"I don't know. I think people like me. They call me memory boy. It's weird."
"They're just jealous of your superpower."
"It's so cool to be able to forget things so easily. Being in a city public school in New York, there are a lot of things I wish I could forget."
"Maybe it's a good thing that I forget what those bullies say to me at school. If I remembered, I would ruin their life." I throw the last piece of bread into the pond with rage. "Anyway, I think I have homework. I wrote down the pages in a notebook so I wouldn't forget. Smart right?"
"Wait!" Jake exclaims. "Why don't you just write down what you want to say to the people that you don't like. And then whenever they annoy you again, you can use material from your a notebook."
I think about it and realize that idea could work. If I wrote down my thoughts, would I remember to check the book for them? "Maybe," I say before getting on my bike and pedalling off.
While I walk down the crowded halls again, the blond boy from yesterday passes me. His teeth are as crooked as his personality. I finally remember what I wanted to say to him. I take out the notebook and write down some of the most hateful comments I can think of, judgments that will tear his social status apart.
"Hey Clay!" Oliver, the math club captain, stops me outside my class. "I'm here recruiting people for math club and according to your teacher you really like math. Wanna join?"
"Um-" I realize Oliver is wearing a New York Rangers hockey cap. I want to tell him my love for that team and how they won the Division Championships in 2013- no, 2015? Which year was it again? Anyway, I want to ask him who his favourite player was and I could maybe make an actual friend.
"Well?" He interrupts my thoughts.
I suddenly have forgotten the question he asked. "Sorry, what did you say?"
He scoffs, "never mind." Oliver walks off and approaches another math nerd from the end of the hallway.
I realize I had lost another chance of friendship and write down: "Oliver likes the rangers." In my new book so I wouldn't forget.
Instead of mixing substances in a beaker for chemistry, I scribble down words in the notebook. I learned that the blond brute who sits behind me is named Max. What kind of name is Max? I write.
"I have to go get some new equipment. Stay in your seats," the teacher says as she walks out of the class- mistakenly leaving teenagers unsupervised.
Suddenly, Max stands up from his seat and chuckles.
The whole class winces in fear as he grabs a beaker from the teacher's desk. There's a green, gooey substance inside that foams. Bubbles explode above the liquid, like my exploding fear of what he plans to do with it. Max brings it over to his own beaker and prepares to pour the liquid in, his friends grinning like devils behind him.
"Stop." I interrupt. "That's a bad idea, you don't know what that liquid is."
"Yeah, whatever memory boy." Max continues to pour until all of the substance is emerged into his. For a moment, nothing happens. The classroom is silent, waiting for disaster to strike.
Suddenly, a fire erupts from the beaker like a volcano. I wince and back away in fear, wondering how big this fire can grow. Max shrieks like a girl while his friends run away. A guy from across the class grabs the fire extinguisher while the smoke rises to the ceiling, alerting the smoke detectors. Fire sprinklers start to spray ice-cold water onto our heads. The classroom is in panic when, thankfully, the boy runs over and exterminates the flame with the fire extinguisher.
For a short moment, everything is calm. Everyone is safe, and the fire is gone. Then, the teacher slams open the door with a menacing face. She looks like an eagle eyeing its prey.
"Memory boy did it!" Max abruptly calls, pointing towards me. The teacher's wicked eyes shift from him to me, her expression becoming angrier than before.
"What? No, I swear!" I yell.
Max struggles for something to say. Then, he smirks and furrows his eyebrows. "Would you even remember if it wasn't?"
My face fills with wrath. That's it. I march over to my desk and grab my notebook with furious intentions. Opening the book, I realize the water from the sprinklers ruined the pages. The ink's washed away and unreadable.
"Do you want to explain something to the class?" The teacher glares at me while I pause in fear.
"Yeah. I wanna explain something!" My built-up anger helped with the little courage I had. I knew what I would say, and I wouldn't forget. "Max set his beaker on fire- or- by using- uh-" I stumble in my words. A few kids giggle silently. "It doesn't matter, everyone in the class saw him do it! You know what max?"
I slam my hand down on his desk and stare him dead in the eye. The rising fury I feel boiling in my stomach pushes me over the edge. "You. Have. Nasty. Teeth."
My classmate's jaws drop. We have all been thinking the same thing, but everyone was too afraid to say anything to Max.
"And you know what? I may not have good memory, but I have something that you won't ever have." I hesitate for dramatic effect, Max's eyes glance away from intimidation. "I have guts."
He laughs nervously. "Okay? That has nothing to do with-"
"Not to mention how crooked and yellow your teeth are." That catches him off guard again. "They're so bucktoothed that they chase off any girl that comes within two feet of you."
He grits his teeth.
"Gritting them won't polish them, bud."
Being so close to Max, he finally sees my lifeless black eyes staring at him like death. My eyes naturally are very red and baggy, mixed with my messy black hair- I can be terrifying when I'm angry.
"That's enough," the teacher says.
"Need the teacher to back you up, big guy? Can't fight your own battles? Afraid I'm gonna insult your awful bleached, split ended rag you call hair next?"
By now, he's practically tearing up. When suddenly, his face turns red with rage. Max stands up. He's much more intimidating when he's standing at six feet tall.
He punches me straight in the gut. I curdle and wrap my arms around my stomach, backing up quickly. The teacher shouts, but Max starts charging at me. I lunge to the side and out of his way. His back is turned from me as he stops running. Now's my chance. I grab the fire extinguisher and swing it into his ribs.
Suddenly, the principal bursts through the door. "Stop! Clay Richards!" He shouts while advancing towards me. "Your other school told me you were a trouble maker!"
I glance at Max whimpering on the ground and realize I'm holding a fire extinguisher. What happened? Why did I do this?
He grabs me by the hair and drags me out of the classroom.
I was expelled for attempting to injure another student. Apparently, fire extinguishers are a serious weapon. The school saw me as a "danger" to the other students. According to the people Max bribed, I caused the fire.
On the drive home from a meeting with the principal, I decided to ask my mother what had happened since I only remember minor details of the situation.
"There was a fire, you know that."
"I know but," I gulp, not prepared to hear the answer to my question. "Did I start the it?" My voice cracks in the middle while my heart sinks. I wasn't the most likeable person, but I wasn't evil. If I set fire to a building with people I almost considered friends, I would feel awful about myself.
"Are you okay?" My mother glances at me.
I pin my head against the car window. "I just don't want to hurt anyone. But- but I can't remember if I did.
"The kids at school said you started it. But that doesn't mean you hurt anyone, other than Max."
There's a short pause while I stare out the window and look at the towering buildings around.
"Mom. What happened at my old school. Why was I kicked out?" I finally ask.
She sighs. "You got into a fight. A really bad one. The kid took out a bat from his locker, and hit you over the head."
"Why can't I remember that?"
"Well, that was the day you stopped."
"What?" My voice becomes much quieter and broken.
"The doctor told me you had a concussion, it caused severe memory loss. You can't remember the day you got the concussion, you can't remember conversations with people, and you can't remember certain events. I'm not sure exactly how it works- something along those lines."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"Because I know you're short tempered. I felt like you would've been angry about the fight and maybe you would've gotten into more fights. I couldn't predict what you would've done. I just wanted you safe."
My mother has always been cold, but I sense a fragment of warmth from her. I finally realize there was someone who truly cared about me. Maybe I had forgotten that too. We continue on the highway, heading into a new and hopefully brighter future.
The new school isn't very different from the others, a typical public school. However, I'm less angry and more open to making friends. Whenever I want to talk to people, I focus on positivity and say what's on my mind- before I forget. I never speak less than I should anymore.
It's a new life at a new school. What happened at my other school? I was expelled for complications involving my temper. I don't remember the specific details. I seemed to have forgotten!