The realizations I have at 12:30 AM. Please enjoy this little taste of humanity.

Chapter 1

It begins

by: Hyouka
Funny, how you don’t notice somethings significance until it’s no longer there for you to see as you always do.

The thought began when I was reading a book.

It was so very very long ago that I haven’t even an idea any longer what this book was. It could have been one of my childish books – or perhaps a bigger book I read, perhaps it was of significance and perhaps it wasn’t. I don’t even remember any longer. All I know is that this book brought to light a thought I’d never thought of before.

What would you say, if somebody asked you what one of your classmates meant to you?

Only a single sentence yet I sat in contemplation, wondering hour upon hour about it, never bothering to mention it to anybody else because it was just one of those fleeting things that I thought of without noticing it.

Well, whatever book it was, or whatever I thought of back then, it left me soon enough. I forgot all about it and didn’t bother to reread that book, whichever book it was. So the thought of it soon drifted off leaving me to the regular old world and thousands, billions and trillions of other things to fleet across my mind the same way it did, and disappear the same way it did, and soon it had as much significance to me as the height of the 14,567th blade of grass in my backyard. Not even a thought. Never considered past then.

In fact the idea of it, of that sentence, didn’t return to me until quite recently, just a few weeks ago. And another fact – it occurred to me once while sitting on the bus, a second time sitting in the cafeteria, and third in a worn gray seat in the back of a white van with tinted windows.

Don’t panic, please, I wasn’t kidnapped and I absolutely wasn’t being held hostage, in fact the van belonged to my school so you shouldn’t bother wondering if we got the cops called on us, especially since we did use our fingers to write “Help” and “Please” in the frost on the windows. No, this was for class, for a Living Skills class to be precise, but that’s the third story, so if you don’t mind I’ll be starting from the first.

A frosty day in December. Two girls are sitting in a bus seat. One of them is reading, the other is chatting quietly with the girl behind her, who just so happens to be a year younger than her. The girl reading is my dear friend Sharla. The other one, chatting with the younger girl – that’s me.

And I can tell you for absolute fact that the thought on my mind that day wasn’t to chat at all with this girl. She was my friend, and her name was Maddy, and of course I would speak to her any other day, but I was rather interested in speaking to her about my neighbor who was in her grade. A stubborn little butt, he was. I’d lived next door to him and his family six years and running and was closer to him than I wished sometimes. To this day I’m still haunted by the fact that I’m the only girl in our entire middle school who has seen him in his underwear, since we’ve known each other long enough he doesn’t bother to put on pants whenever I knock on his front door. Our relationship is love-hate, to say the least, and the love part might be stretching it a few miles too far. He’s an obnoxious dweeb who sings irritating songs extremely loud and makes sarcastic remarks and goes out of his way to bump into me in the hallway, which, sadly, is much easier for him to do than any of the other 7th graders, the reason being that he is actually a boy genius despite his idiocy and takes the same math class as I do and therefore is up in the 8th grade wing far more than he should be. I don’t know why I wanted to talk to her about him that day. I was curious. He had been a pain, and all the 8th grade girls in his math class were all over him just because he was just tall enough and blonde enough and charming enough to attract them like mosquitoes, since ‘flies’ is a bit too much of a courtesy when I’m talking about the girls in my grade.

None of that matters, and it’s not my point either way. The point is, I was irritated with him and confused by him and I wanted to know what kind of person he was when I wasn’t around him. So I was speaking to Maddy on the bus to get a bit of what you may call ‘inside information’.

Of course when I started talking to her it barely occurred to me at all that she would know anything about him. My neighbor is the same height as I am, blonde, always wearing v-neck tshirts and colored skinny jeans and vans, sparkling blue eyes and attractive even though his personality barely scrapes the surface of “okay”. And Maddy – she’s quite the polar opposite. Short and stout, brown hair to her shoulders and brown eyes, glasses, wearing a Gryffindor scarf and her Mockingjay pin and always talking about books, books, books. Both are smart, her for her reading and him for his math, neither ever for the same thing, but they never even fall on the same level when I think about them at the same time.

So when it suddenly occurred to me that they were in the same grade, it struck something.

See, I know things about the people in my grade. In fact, if you were to come to my school and know nobody, and point out to me a random person in the hellhole we call a cafeteria, I could tell you quite a bit of information about them even if they don’t know my name, or who I am, or even who I’m friends with. To think for the first time that Maddy, short stout geeky little Maddy and my neighbor, the fresh prince of Bel Arrogance could be even in the same grade, could know even the slightest details about each other made me stop in my tracks.

Just the thought of it was insane. So many 7th graders I knew, but just like me and the people in my grade, they all had a certain small, tiny little connection with each other, could name each other, could even tell you the color of each other’s eyes is just a mind-blowing aspect to me.

But of course I didn’t say any of that to Maddy. I just asked her about him, she told me he was an arrogant idiot same as I thought, and I got off the bus at my stop and wandered down the street and that thought was fleeting and gone same as the sentence in that book.

Strike two. Sitting in the cafeteria.

I can tell this to begin with. Our table, which consists of approximately 8 people each day, one of which usually isn’t welcome there, is the weirdest one in the entire cafeteria. And maybe you’re thinking, “well, that’s what everybody says their lunch table is” but I can tell you this now, I am making no exaggeration. Ask any table in that cafeteria and they would point you automatically to ours.

It could be the fact that we burst into song at random moments, or sit on each others laps or cuddle with each other, talk about weird things like anime at a volume far too loud to be considered ‘indoors’ or the fact that we have an angry little troll named Cole there who cusses at us when we touch him, often times when the principal is standing behind him but he is unaware, but at any rate, we are indeed the weirdest in the room.

Our title, we have been recently informed by somebody from a different clique of the cafeteria, is the “weird artistic musical freaks” table. Not quite the most creative title for a table, but quite suiting, in a way.

If there’s one thing I could change within that title, it would be to add the word “aware”. The fact that we are a mish mash of all the unwanted kids, the “Island of Misfit Toys”, if you will, makes for one quality within us that many of the others lack. This quality is the ability to see the separation.

We can name the cliques even if they can’t name themselves. We are the eyes and ears, and the awareness of the population of middle school. We stay above the operation. We don’t live amongst them. We observe them like monkeys.

As I was sitting there at the lunch table on this day, whatever day it may have been, I began to observe. The separation. The difference. The cliques. The way that Brody Rigden, the ultra popular boy of the school sat with his friends around him and the way that Megan Emmett had a trail of girls like ducklings following her to dump her tray. The way Dalton Klinger walked with his Nintendo DS up to the window and the constant, irritated, “Imma clean your clock if you dare take a step near me” look on Trent Larson’s face, sitting alone without a tray near the windows. Each character of this school falling its way into place like that one background character in that one book that you hardly notice until they’re killed off and you get angrier than you ever would have expected to. Each day I notice if somebody’s missing. I pick out the faces in the crowd. They all play a role in my life even if I hardly notice them until they’re gone.

And I don’t know what was so special about that day. It very well could have something to do with the fact that I had to head up to my locker before lunch, and my spot was taken when I came back down and I was overwhelmed with the thought that I could be stuck sitting somewhere else and not having a clue where you’re supposed to go. The offset of balance. That one face - my face - not where it should be.

And I realized for the very first time that day that everybody in that cafeteria belonged to me.

If I were to bring Maddy down into the cafeteria during 8th grade lunch and just set her down there and tell her to find where she belongs, she would wander like a lost duckling. She doesn’t know them. But I, I have grown up with these kids. I could still point out to you each and every one of the kids in that cafeteria that went to the same elementary school – the same pre school as I did. Over there, Jackson Grady, he’s always been popular, he was in my 2nd grade class. There’s Cory McCauly, he punched me in the stomach in 3rd grade. Ryan Schaller, he was voted “best handwriting” in our 4th grade yearbook.

To this day, I still miss Dylan Bell, the kid I used to call “Barf-farts-a-muel” because of the role he got in our 4th grade play. I still scan the cafeteria and wish to see his face every single day because he made a difference in my life, he was part of my life and part of my school and part of the people of my grade, part of the picture I saw every time I opened a yearbook, even though I never talked to him, even though the only thing I remember of him is when he held his breath during lunch in 2nd grade and passed out in front of the entire cafeteria. I didn’t realize I would miss him until he moved away, but I do.

Each kid in my grade belongs to me. Point to me any kid in that grade and I could tell you their name and their eye color and maybe even who they were dating because even though I blend into the background of that school and that grade and that cafeteria, each person there, each person I pass in the hallway makes a difference to me. They all matter to me even if they don’t know who I am or what my name is or what elementary I go to, even though all Cory McCauly remembers me by is the fact that I was smart, I still remember every detail of him and when I saw him and when I thought about him on the playground mid – March of 2006 when I was on the bouncy triangle and he was playing soccer and I watched him kick the ball. And maybe Molly Moore doesn’t remember when she wasn’t popular and we were best friends but I do, and I remember giving her my Bobby Jack stuffed animal and how heart broken I was when she came to school the next day and she had covered it in makeup and refused to speak to me. Maybe Nick Bolton doesn’t remember that day when I called his house and asked him to come and play but he had “just gotten back from a baseball game and was too tired” even though I had just spent two hours searching my house for something, anything, that a boy would want to play with. And maybe that one lunch lady doesn’t remember when she came and yelled at me when she saw me with a little castle made of legos, because she thought I had stolen them from the cafeteria but really it was a symmetrical castle my big sister had made and I was going to show it to my class and she made me cry and it broke and I cried more.

But I do.

The white van with tinted windows, Dec 11th, 2013.

Sitting in living skills. There was a substitute teacher that day. We all were going to visit homeless shelters. Since the bus didn’t have time to come and pick us up, we had to take three vans.

I sat and prayed and hoped that the teacher would put me in a van with Alex and Ryan, since we’ve always been a little trio in our class, but she just told everybody to get in a van with the people in their row.

This means I was placed in a van with six people that I know far more than they know me.

Brenna Smith, the overly optimistic girl with the pretty brown hair and big eyes who has a nice voice and smiles all the time and isn’t enemies with anyone, whose mother works at the highschool, who never talks to me and hangs out with the popular people but isn’t a jerk like they are.

Morgan Klineman, the popular girl from my elementary school who is pretty but is a total idiot and hangs out more with the guys than with the girls even though she doesn’t act like it, and the guys dote on her like the brainwashed puppies they are.

Alex Kline, the weird girl that just got to our school this year, whom I hate because she hasn’t given me a reason to hate her yet even though I want to desperately, and I draw but she draws better and I sing but she sings better and I write but she writes better and the only difference between us is she cusses and invites herself in and everyone loves her, everyone but me.

Kaitlyn Overton, the girl that arrived at our school halfway through the year this year, whose hair is bleached blonde and who wears pajamas to school and I didn’t know why until she told us during our drive in the van that she lives at an institution because she attempted to run away from home, who is strange but deep and understands the separation the same way I do.

Brayden Frieden, a jokester kid who listens to rap music too loud and plays sports and is just a little bit too short and tags along with the sporty kids like a little dog.

And the one and only Cory McCauly, the boy from my elementary school, the boy who punched me in the stomach while I was doing stealth exercises in gym, the boy whom I was paired with for a project in 3rd grade and I tripped over his chair and it moved backwards and he went to sit down at cut his back up it and started crying, the boy who always fell when we ran the mile and I remember he got the bloodiest, nastiest skinned knee I’d ever seen but didn’t even shed a tear, and the boy who plowed his way through life like he owned planet earth.

And the seven of us sat there, in that van, me, the weird, nerdy girl, and Brenna, the optimistic one, and Morgan, the popular one, Alex the copy cat, and Kaitlyn the runaway, Brayden the tag-along and Cory the boy that owns planet earth, and sitting in that van I experienced the most amazing thing in my lifetime.

Because we all talked to each other. We all wrote “Help” on the windows. Kaitlyn made jokes and we laughed. Cory and Brayden listened to a rap song way too loud, which angered the teacher. And we all joked that we were being kidnapped and cast ourselves into a horror movie and decided who would be the main character and who would die first and how and for the first time in my entire life, in the 13 years that I have been alive on this planet, I felt the separation vanish. It was just us, just the 7 of us in that van. Nobody in that van was part of the same group. Nobody in that van had anybody to impress. When we removed those barriers, we talked and joked and laughed like a normal group, like a normal white-van-with-tinted-windows full of normal people. I felt the life.

I felt the humanity.


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