David sits in the chair. Legs tucked under the table, swinging. Then lifeless.
He sits there and his brain twitches, trying to realise what it is he’s meant to be doing. Is he meant to be doing something? Of course. Does he have a purpose?
Every other student seems to know exactly what they’re doing. But they won’t tell him. At this moment they’re probably not aware he’s there. They’re all having too much fun. David wants a piece of it, too. But as he looks around at all the surrounding faces, his mind assures him that surely there could be no more fun to be had in the room. None for him.
I’ll have to go without now, he thinks to himself.
He feels like standing in front of the blackboard, in front of his fellow students, and tearing off his head so all the pain, all the pressure, all of life’s little fears could just be lifted from his head, from his insides, from deep within his frozen heart and be disconnected. Even if it were for a moment, so he will no longer feel anything. And the other students. And the teacher. They will, at last, be able to see it all.
You’re such a worthless fool, he’s still thinking.
He curses himself for today’s daydream session. David knows they’re no good. Just a waste of time. He’s been told that so many times.
A better world doesn’t exist, thinking again.
He sees this as being it for him. This, right now, is life, his life anyway, and there are no improvements to be made. Not even if he wants them to be made. And he does. More than he’ll ever know. More than all those expensive worthless toys his parents have already promised for Christmas.
It was good, though. It felt good to be wanted. To be a person. To be included in their games. To be p. . . Oh, what’s that word? Think, David! I’m so hopeless, I can’t even. . . Why can’t I know that word? I know I know it. It’s in my head. It’s been there for a while. I haven’t used it in a while. Maybe it feels neglected? It starts with P. The letter P, that’s what it starts with. P. . . I need a dictiona. . . Popular! I was popular. I had popularity. So much of it that I had to give some away to my classmates, to my family, to people I had never even met. It felt good to have it. It felt good to give it away. It feels good. I feel good, don’t I? Just another thought, another daydream.
He looks up from his desk, looks around him. I guess he woke up again, because his face drops a little. He knows now that nothing has changed since his last visit to reality.
David is still lost.
And his digital watch, wrapped tightly around his right wrist, tells him the end is in sight, but his vision of it is blurred.
What are all the other children doing? What am I doing here? Why don’t I just look over someone’s shoulder? Just a quick glance at the paper in front of them couldn’t hurt. But what if it’s a test? I can’t risk getting in trouble. That’s not the attention I want.
His whole body is tensed up. His right hand is a fist. His left hand holds a grey lead pencil which he uses to tap the tune of his favourite song on the blank sheet of A4 paper in front of him.
This is his way of thinking out loud.
He should put his hand up.
I should put my hand up.
. . . And get the teacher’s atention.
I need to get Miss Forster’s attention.
‘Yes, David?’, Miss Forster asks.
He motions with his hand for her to come closer, right beside him. He doesn’t want to yell across the room. He doesn’t like it when they all listen. When they stare. They’re staring now.
They have no right.
He doesn’t understand why they stop working and watch closely as he speaks, and listen even closer.
Especially the girls. Gossip queens. Like their mothers. Like mine. Imagine if their mothers were my mother. They’d know everything about me. They probably already do.
‘What is it, David?’, Miss Forster asks.
please don’t look at the lack of work I’ve done, his thoughts are aimed at her.
‘I really need to go to the toilet’, he says quietly. So quietly that his teacher has to focus on nothing else to hear him.
‘Certainly’, she says. She smiles to him.
I’m proud of you, David. You didn’t stumble over your words. They didn’t hear you. Most of all, you’re going to make it.
He gets up from his chair, slowly. Now he feels their gaze. Forty eyes, all looking at him.
Don’t worry about them. Just walk out the door.
He passes one desk, another.
Just seven more footsteps to the door.
Then it happens.
He stops. Then stumbles. Then vomits all over the gossip queens. And for a moment, during their screams, he smiles.
That’s good, David. Now I feel so much better. And my head is clear.


brendan harkom

Melbourne, Australia

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