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"The halls and the lunchroom were crowded and noisy, but still lonely, somehow. It seemed that everyone had friends and plans…I never had either."

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08 – Reticent

The summer was winding to a close.  It seemed like an eternity.  I reflected back on my summer break and realized with embarrassment that I hadn’t done anything useful or profitable the entire time.  Well, on occasion I had done the laundry and the dishes.  I guess that’s useful.  But this had been the year I was going to get a summer job.  Now the only experience I could detail on my resume was that I had conducted research on the nature and effects of psychotic and anti-social behavior.

School would be back in session in less than a week.  I was absolutely dreading it.  Though I enjoyed learning and the classroom environment, I loathed the times in between.  The halls and the lunchroom were crowded and noisy, but still lonely, somehow.  It seemed that everyone had friends and plans…I never had either.

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Of course, it was my own fault.  The year before my mom had brought home “How to Win Friends and Influence People” from the library self-help section, and required that I read it, which I dutifully did.  And I did garner some useful relationship skills there.  The hardest part for me was lack of confidence in a group dynamic.  In a one-on-one situation I could function tolerably.  But if ‘people’ were listening, the reticent side of me would invariably take over.  The adrenalin would trigger my flawed fight or flight instinct, and coward that I am, that dysfunctional cataplexy (quiet statue) response was involuntary.  My insecurities just couldn’t handle the audience.  Also, I found that, in general, the people who made good friends weren’t sitting alone waiting for me to make contact.  They were already surrounded by interesting, informed, intelligent companions, and had no need for anything less, which my addition would certainly be. 

It’s amazing how many people you could be friends with if only they’d make the first approach.  But nobody ever did, so I viewed everyone from afar.  I would observe my schoolmates and form opinions and preferences, identifying the heroes and villains while perfecting the art of peripheral vision observation.  But it was all in secret and pointless.

It dawned on me, sort of belatedly, that because I still didn’t have my license (something else I was going to do this summer, but never did) that I would have to catch the bus to school.  I’d played the sympathy card the last several months of my junior year, garnering car rides from one or the other parent until school had let out, but I knew it was inconvenient for them, so I considered that gravy train officially derailed.  Being a senior bus rider seemed more embarrassing to me now that I had people watching.  I wondered what they would think about that.  Maybe that I was grounded?  No car, no friends, and no life…all summer.  Short of catching the library on fire, or engaging in grammatically incorrect graffiti vandalism, I couldn’t imagine a universe where Mom would ever be mad enough at me to shut down my whole summer like that.  Of course, giving off the false impression that I was being punished because I’d been bad was exponentially cooler than the truth of the matter:  a case of terminal lameness.

I really needed to get my license.  I already had a car.  My grandpa’s Jeep Cherokee was parked in the third bay of our garage.  It had been sitting there patiently waiting for me since wintertime.   I had gone with him to the dealership to ‘help’ him pick it out the previous spring.  He always joked about the Jeep belonging to me and that he was just borrowing it until I got my license.  So I was shocked when my mom showed me the title.  She had found it among other neatly filed important documents while she was going through his things after he died.  The Jeep had been paid for in cash, and was registered in my name.  Apparently it was no joke.

Mom insisted on taking me school shopping; an annual event that I was glad would be over after this year.   We began and ended at Old Navy.  She wanted to hit every sale in the mall but I assured her that a few new items were all I needed since it didn’t appear I was growing any more and my collection of new school clothes from last year were still perfectly good.  Appealing to her practical side always yielded favorable results, especially when money was on the line.

I enjoyed my last few days of sleeping in and tried to prepare my mind for the new environment ahead of me.  This was my second year at this school, so at least I would know my way around.  It was large though, with about two thousand students.  On the first day of school the traffic out front was a nightmare.  The buses were able to go around into a separate buses only entrance.  If I had driven, and hadn’t shown up an hour early, I would have been late.  So my transportation situation wasn’t completely without its benefits.

I could not have imagined the reversal that awaited me in regards to mobility…and society.

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