As the abrupt chill of the outside air entered through the open door, he heard his mother yell, “Have a good day!” David nodded and shut the door behind him. He zipped his jacket higher and stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets. The sun’s rays had only just begun to peak over the horizon on this winter morning. Taking a deep breath, David walked down the pathway. He found his steps quickening as he went. After what seemed like a longer distance than yesterday, David finally reached the bus stop. When he approached the group of shivering adolescents, David caught a glimpse of her. The girl’s brown hair was tucked beneath a scarf and earmuffs, but he still recognized her. He approached her from behind. She must have heard him coming, or at least felt his sudden presence, because she turned before he reached her. She smiled, her green eyes warm.
David smiled at her and pulled her into his embrace. “Hey, Madison. Stayin’ warm?”
“Barely,” she said with a laugh.
When the “yellow limousine” arrived, the students hurried through the door. David followed Madison down the small aisle until they came to a familiar group. Madison plopped down on the seat in front of Richard and Charlie. David sat next to her, his back to the two boys. Richard leaned forward, hanging his arms over the seat. “What’s up, David?”
David shrugged. “Not much.”
“You ready for Ms. Kawalsky’s test today?”
David shrugged. He didn’t want to think about tests. It still stung when he recalled the biology midterm he’d bombed the previous week. Fifteen percent of his grade washed down the toilet. Truth is, he hadn’t even thought about Kawalsky’s English test—not enough to study, that is. He could hear his parents’ angry voices when they saw his progress-report card. They were going to ask why his A’s were slipping to B’s and his B’s were slipping to C’s. He couldn’t just say that it was high school drama, that wouldn’t make them happy. Not with all the 60 Minutes stories about kids getting high and participating in promiscuous acts. No, they would stress that it had to be something else. For a moment, he wished he had Charlie’s folks. They threw a party every time they didn’t see a D on his paper. They’d lose their minds if they saw a B on his report card.
His friends’ chatter disappeared into the static noise of every other group of voices on the bus. He just had to get through one more day. Today was Friday. Everything would be better if he could just get through the next eight hours. The bus soon pulled in front of the two story building they called the torture prison.
David passed through the first few hours with only minimal participation. He couldn’t help but watch the arms on the clock move ever so slowly. Before he knew it, he was in third period failing yet another test. David handed in his pathetic attempt at Multiple Guess and slid into his tiny desk. Why did teachers insist on harassing their students? They expected kids to enjoy school, and yet they seemed to find every way possible to punish everyone who showed up. Perhaps it was some endless cycle of retribution.
David stared out the permanently closed window at the trees in the visitor’s parking lot. Their branches rocked back and forth, shaken by the invisible hand of the wind. He thought about many things that didn’t relate to school. Some things were mindless attempts to fill the time. But these thoughts were the most dangerous. They lead to bigger issues for which he had no answers. The more he thought, the more his heart began to race with fear of unknown outcomes. Then, something made him awake from his thought-filled dream. It was a small kid with glasses sitting at the desk closest to the teacher.
His squeaky, I’m-smarter-than-you voice cut through David’s thoughts like a chainsaw. “How can I actually believe Othello, while being a strong military leader, would leave this great weakness to be exploited by Iago? It’s not logical.”
David blurted, “It’s perfectly logical.”
There was a long silence as everyone became aware of David’s sudden presence. Even the teacher seemed a little shocked at his contribution.
The boy pivoted in his seat, his blue eyes magnified by his glasses. “Have you even read the play?”
“Have you even hit puberty?” David shot back.
There was a slight snicker amongst the other classmates. “Let’s keep the insults out of the classroom,” Ms. Kawalsky said, trying to regain control. “While it’s nice to hear your opinion, David, maybe it would be best if you explained your reasoning a little more to Nicholas.”
David cleared his throat and sat up straight. “You see, Iago had his own agenda. He wanted something from Othello, and when Othello didn’t deliver, Iago decided to punish him. But he didn’t just take away everything Othello cared about. He made Othello ultimately responsible for the outcome. That’s worse—to be the cause of your own shitty life.”
“Language,” Ms. Kawalsky warned.
“But,” Nicholas objected, “the argument isn’t whether Iago’s plan was brilliant or not. The question is how could the audience believe Othello had such a fatal character flaw in the first place and still have achieved greatness?”
David shrugged, “Everyone has weaknesses. And there are beings out there who feed off those weaknesses until there is nothing left. They would haunt your dreams if you knew the ease with which they could destroy your life.” When the words left David’s mouth, he knew he had said too much. He had almost confessed his secrets in front of the entire class. Luckily, they didn’t know it.
After a moment, Ms. Kawalsky continued, “Let’s look at the theme of the play, shall we?”
David returned to his safe absentmindedness. During lunch, instead of meeting his group, he decided to hang out by the art exhibit. He couldn’t stand to hear Richard’s complaints about Jessica one more time. It all just seemed so pointless. After lunch, David drifted through his final two periods. When the final bell rang, he felt a sense of relief. Madison scolded him for ditching her at lunch, but all was forgotten within seconds. They rode the bus to their neighborhood, then he walked her home. He watched her enter her house, his soul finally at peace. Unanswered questions were becoming resolved. He knew what he had to do.
David entered the empty house, threw his backpack next to the door, and made his way to his room. He closed the door to the sound of the phone ringing. It was Madison, he knew. He turned his back to the door and took in the room before him. It looked much different during the day, when it was stripped of the cover of darkness. Heavy curtains hung over his windows—an attempt to prevent the outside world from entering—but sunlight still slipped through. The hot, stuffy air was evidence that the room had been isolated for a long time. A small bed stood beside the wall, a nightstand next to it. It was an empty room, raped of the love present there months before. Objects of life used to furnish it: dirty laundry piled on the floor, music sheets spread on the nightstand, trophies won in competitions. Not anymore.
David knelt before his bed and reached through the space between the mattress and the floor. When his hand felt the cool touch of the metal handle on his suitcase, his fingers wrapped around it and gently pulled it out from hiding. The suitcase held only a few of his personal belongings. He had packed light. He didn’t need to take much where he was going. There wasn’t much to take anyway.
Too many of his possessions were tainted with the memories he wanted to burn, like photographs in a fire. Nobody should have to live with such memories. Unfortunately, his mind was not a photograph and the past could not be easily burned and forgotten like ashes in the wind.
He stood, placed the suitcase on the bed, and approached the nightstand. A shaky hand opened the single drawer to reveal a silver gun. His parents never searched his room, thank God. But they might start if he decided to wait longer. He could no longer hide his problems, especially once the school contacted them about his falling grades and the fact that he had quit his band, something inconceivable last year. Then they’d have a reason to look—to see what they couldn’t before.
Hesitantly, he reached for it. It felt so cold against his hands, yet it welcomed him. It was his ticket home. He stood, positioning himself in the middle of the room. One last prayer was said, then, with one pull of the trigger, a loud crack filled the room. Silence immediately followed, settling over the body of fifteen-year-old David Casp until his parents returned home.