The first thing I noticed about him was the hair. It was viciously blonde, almost platinum. The kind of hair that makes you wonder whether it's natural or from the box. Nevertheless, I would never be bold enough to ask him. We were in completely different domains, like an eagle and a dolphin. Never to cross paths.
At least that's what I thought. Of course, becoming involved with a person like him would be bad business. I wasn't exactly known for being a goody two-shoes, but my crowd and his were still worlds apart. I happened upon him by chance. I was just an unlucky witness.
“Welcome to your first day in Poetry 1” the teacher said, standing in the center of the room. He was talking to us as if we were his disciples, and had even arranged the desks into the shape of a circle. It was like we were the planets orbiting the sun.
“Now I know this is an elective that many of you are required to take, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply yourself”. His voice boomed across the classroom in a way that commanded you to be quiet. He wasn’t exactly a big man. In fact, he was on the shorter side, but he held poetry at such high regard that he carried himself like some sort of Ancient Greek philosopher. It was distasteful and rather annoying, but it worked. No one dared disrespect him. No one except “you-know-who” but I will get to that later on. For now there was peace.
“Poetry” he began, “Is a rather essential skill.” He paced around the room like an army general.
“Expressing yourself can have many benefits. Stress-relief, creative expression, working through troubles, the list goes on.” Most of my classmates were frozen in attention, except for one who was currently playing with a fat silver ring on his finger. Mr. Andrews had found a challenger.
“Do you know what happens to those who are unable to express themselves clearly?” he said, staring straight at the boy. His blonde hair fell over his face as he stared down at his ring.
“Well,” he asked. “Does anyone have an answer.” The smart girl, the one who usually answered questions, hesitantly raised her hand.
“Well I think some people would be upset and…”
“Some people would be upset” he repeated. He smiled, but not in the “that’s-so-funny-way” but more in the “I’m-about-to-lose-my-mind” way. The class suffered a catastrophic three seconds of silence.
“Without expression” he began “Humans beings wouldn’t exist. Self-expression is essential. It prevents us from becoming monkeys again.” It was at that moment that I knew I was in for a long-year. Luckily, Mr. Andrew’s talk ended soon after and a worksheet was passed around class. He talked big game but Mr. Andrews was like a firework. Flashy and explosive but his enthusiasm ran out quickly.
I found myself unable to focus. In boredom, I secretly observed my classmates who were busy at work. They were an interesting bunch. There was a handful who looked to be the artsy type, probably taking the class out of actual interest. The rest were like me and just fulfilling their requirements. I looked directly across the room where the blonde boy was sitting. I recognized him from the dangerous looking group that often hung out near the bathrooms and behind the school in the mornings. The girl next to him, who he was currently whispering to, was the same. I often passed her in the hallways and got a whiff of cigarette smoke that was always covered up with the smell of cheap perfume. Her face was flush and she was giggling but it suddenly changed and she reached for her purse. She looked back to him and he put up two fingers. At this, she pulled out a $20 dollar bill. Quietly, she placed her purse back down on the ground and reached under the desk to give him the money. He smiled, reached his hand into his pocket and handed her a tiny ziplock bag that seemed to contain a small amount of green stuff. They did this all without much of a peep and as far as I could tell, nobody else had witnessed it. It was like the things they warned you about in those anti-drug commercials. I was frozen in surprise
If things couldn’t get any worse, he lifted his gaze and looked directly across the room. We made eye contact, his chocolate brown eyes staring straight into mine. The smile faded from his face.
When the bell rang I plopped my worksheet down on Mr. Andrews desk before bolting out of the classroom as fast as possible. I had to go to P.E which was held in a detached pool house and was terrified of running into the boy on my way. I was only halfway there when I was stopped by a hand on my shoulder.
“You saw, didn’t you?” he said into my ear. His hand was gripping my shoulder so hard that it was starting to hurt.
“I won’t say anything” I said, my voice shaking.
“How can I be sure of that? How can I know you’re not going to run to the police after this?” I stayed quiet for a moment, thinking. There was only one way out.
“What if” I began “What if I buy some of that stuff from you” He seemed surprised and let go of my shoulder.
“You” he said pointing at me. “You want to buy…” He looked back and forth. Nobody was around.
“You want to buy some pot?” He asked. I nodded my head.
“That way you know that I won’t snitch on you” He seemed satisfied with my answer and opened up his backpack.
“20 bucks” He said pulling out the plastic bag. I would have argued about the price but I was shaking from fear.
“Here” I said. He grabbed the money from my hand, almost tearing it, and shoved it into his backpack.
“Hey don’t think you’re off the hook” He said, his voice dropping. “You better not tell anybody about this.” After that he left, maybe going off to class but likely skipping behind the school with the rest of his crew. I let out the breath I had been holding and looked at the bag in my hand. A rush of fear filled me. I moved quickly and jammed the bag into the bottom of my backpack. I would have to destroy that later. I felt so dirty, like a criminal. After the school day ended I tossed the bag into the dumpster behind the school. I hoped that would be the last encounter with the boy but his final words were etched into my mind. “Don’t think you’re off the hook.”
For the following months, I always felt like someone was watching me. I mean, he wasn’t even that secretive about it. My friends even assumed that he had some sort of crush on me. I couldn’t tell them the truth. He wasn’t looking at me with the eyes of a boy in love. He was looking at me like how a wolf looks at his prey. I eventually learned to ignore it and soon so did my friends. School proceeded on as normal.
“Today, as many of you know, we are going on a field trip to the art museum. This is a privilege that many students like you don’t get to experience” Mr. Andrews was doing the customary, “make sure you behave”, speech that all teachers gave before field trips. I was already bored out of my mind.
“I want you all to take notes on what you see at the museum. You’re going to use this for inspiration. Why doesn’t someone go get some clipboards from the supply closet that way you guys can take notes easier?” Unfortunately, Mr. Andrews made eye contact with me first.
“Now they should be in supply closet A22. I trust you” he said, handing me the keys. Instead of receiving the chore of retrieving clipboards, I felt like a knight being bestowed with a quest.
I left the classroom, glad I would get to miss the rest of Mr. Andrews speech and went on the mission of finding the supply closet. The keys he had given me were master keys, that could open mostly any room in the school. It was a lot of power to give a student, but I was quiet in his class and always did my work on time.
I reached what I thought was A22 and opened the door. I was met with a long dark staircase going down. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I could hear the sound of heels in the distance and quickly shut the door. A teacher was coming so I would just have to investigate later. I left the door unlocked and double-checked the brass plaque by the door. “B22”.
I finally found the right supply closet and got a handful of clipboards to bring back to the class. Mr. Andrews was pleased and soon we embarked on our field trip. I tried to focus on taking notes on statues and paintings but all I could think about was the passageway.
Soon we got back to the school and moved on to the next class. Things weren’t quiet today. Apparently rumors were spreading around that the blonde boy had been called to the principal's office on suspicions of selling drugs. It made sense since he hadn’t been on the field trip. He had been in questioning all day and soon last period rolled around.
“The principal can’t prove anything about him” the girl in front of me said. “They are letting him go.” Sure enough, when I left my classroom a family face was waiting for me.
“What. The. Hell” he said, screaming at me. “You snitched!”
“I don’t know anything about that,” I said. “Remember, we made a deal?”
“I know it was you” he said, his face twisted in anger. I backed away.
“I’m going to beat the hell out of you” he thundered, charging at me. I ran away into the crowd as he chased me. He was on my tail and it was only a matter of time until he caught me.
“Come back here you little…” he yelled. I ran up the staircase but he was much bigger than me and was lost in the crowd. Without much else to do, I ran to B22 and opened the door. Sure enough the passageway was waiting for me. I closed the door behind me and could hear the screams of the boy in the distance. He wouldn’t find me here.
Without much else to do I followed the passageway down. It was made out of stone and completely dark, so I had to feel my way through. Eventually it plateaued and I was moving forward. I must have been underground at that point. After what felt like hours, I reached another staircase which I followed up to a trap door. When I got out, I realized I was in the woods outside the school. Slowly I moved through the brush till I reached the parking lot. I could hear police sirens in the distance.
"Where is that girl" A voice yelled. The blonde boy was being restrained by police and pushed into a car. Somehow like that day in poetry class he realized I was looking at him. His chocolate eyes met mine and he gave me the scariest look I have even seen on a person. With one final shove, he was pushed into the police car.
The boy never came back to high school and was sent to juvenile detention right after the incident. The police told me I was safe. Apparently the school was built during the Cold-War era and the tunnel was a way for students to escape the school if necessary. I have dreams about it. Sometimes I'm simply walking down it, dragging my hands across the cold stone. Other times, I'm running with the boys screams in the distance. No matter what, the thing I can't get out of my head is the look he gave me. He eyes, almost black, and a look of pure hatred. Some things, just live on in your nightmares forever.