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A thick thing called a Textbook and a thin thing called Hope
“Hey Crew!” the somewhat squeaky voice drew my thoughts and eyes away from my gray sneakers. It was Maddie, her brown hair splayed all around her shoulders like some sort of shawl thing. She wore, as usual, pajama pants and a tang top. Nothing else, obviously not much modesty there. She was more of a tomboy anyway, so it suited her just fine. Whatever floated her boat I guess. I really didn’t care at the moment, or at any moment for that matter. I was just trying to avoid making eye contact with Alyson.
“Yeah?” I asked sheepishly. Maddie pointed to Alyson’s book. I could feel Alyson’s blue eyes shooting heated beams of inquiry onto my face.
“Alyson got your older brother’s textbook.” I looked down. Sure enough, right under the bolded title of “Economics, fourth edition” was scrawled the words: “Eddie Pastid.” I shrugged.
“That’s cool.” I turned away and walked back to my desk. I hadn’t made eye contact with Alyson, but I felt her eyes following me as I sat down. What was her problem anyway?
I had been keeping tabs on her ever since I started “dating” Gabby. Technically we’re not officially dating. We did hang out though, almost every weekend it seemed. Gabby’s best friend, or one of them (she’s so friendly she has to have at least ten), is Alyson. Alyson Radon to be exact, although most people just call her Alyson, except for teachers on the first day of school, which is when I found out she had Eddie’s book.
I was shocked to find out that Gabby and Alyson were best friends. I mean here was Gabby, the exact person I wanted to be with. She was smart, funny, and of course beautiful. She had these blue eyes that I got lost in every time I saw her. She made me laugh and open up to her. I’m a pretty secretive person. I always wanted to be with Gabby. But Alyson on the other hand, was a complete psycho. She was really artsy and loud when she was with her friends. And she had this thick head of curly hair that seemed to never settle down. It went well with her personality. I told Gabby what I thought of Alyson. She was insane, quite literally insane. I mean what kind of person would want to write an essay on William Shakespeare? What person would read William Shakespeare for fun and enjoy it? I didn’t understand Alyson at all. Gabby didn’t really say anything when I told her about Alyson. She just nodded.
Gabby and I hung out over the summer a lot. We went picnicking and played video games and that sort of thing. I guess I’m not a good boyfriend when it comes down to the activities we do on dates. We just…hang out. I think it’s fine and so does Gabby. It works.
But once school started again, things just got weird. Alyson started acting weird to me. She just wouldn’t talk to me, which I thought was fine. But it was like she knew what I had called her. She just gave me these weird looks and acted really weird around me. Things just kept getting awkward. To make matters worse, I had three classes with her. And some of those classes weren’t big either.
In fact, one of those classes had a required presentation at the end of the year. I just loved the thought of standing up in front of everyone and presenting something to them. I wanted to do it as much as I wanted to be bitten by a rattlesnake.
I guess you could call me one of the popular kids of the senior class. I have a lot of friends I hang out with. Gabby doesn’t go to my school so I can’t hang out with her. But I seem to always have someone to talk to. Maybe it’s just my personality. I think I’m a pretty funny guy when it comes to it. Plus people have called me a genius over and over again. I did get a 36 on the ACT so I guess it must be true.
“That’s really ironic.” Eddie’s voice crackled as it pushed its way through the speaker on my phone. It was Saturday. I always tried to call Eddie on Saturday. He went off to college last year and we started this thing where I would try to call him every weekend. Sometimes he told me to shut up and leave him alone because he was studying or something. He wasn’t being rude; I could tell he was exhausted.
He liked Gabby, so did my parents. But Gabby’s parents were the strictest I knew. A lot of ideas we had weren’t approved of because of her parents. I just went along with what they said. I wasn’t about to cause any drama. Gabby’s little sister, Kate, liked me though. I was cool with that. It was better than her hating me.
“Yeah, I think it’s really weird how she ended up with your book.” I replied. I had told Eddie all about Alyson. I remember last year there was some drama between Alyson, Gabby, and this other girl named Savannah. I don’t remember what exactly it was about; I knew that I had something to do with it though. Alyson emailed me late one night, telling me how I “led Savannah on” and hurt her feelings. Why Alyson emailed me instead of Savannah, I’ll never know.
After that, things just got weird. Alyson seemed really tough to me. She was just always with Savannah and she just didn’t seem to like me. That was fine. I saw her as a psycho so the feeling was mutual. It was just really hard when I started dating Gabby because she’d talk about Alyson sometimes. I felt like Alyson was always watching us, or keeping tabs on me through Gabby.
“What?” I clenched the phone with my hand. Every muscle in my body seemed to stand on end. I was like that one person waiting for the alarm clock to go off at any second. I was tense, anxious. “What Eddie, what is it?”
“You know what I just realized?”
“What Eddie?” I was all in now. I totally forgot that I was sitting in the lounge. My dad was half-heartedly watching the T.V. I had no idea where my sister was.
“I just remembered that I put a bunch of drawings in there.” That was it? I began to relax again.
“What do you mean by drawings Eddie? Is it really that bad?” I asked.
“I mean, sort of. My friend Trent, you remember him; he decided to draw some…organs in the cell respiration chapters. I tried crossing them out but they were in pen.”
“I mean it really isn’t that bad, if this Alyson girl can handle dicks and stuff like that.” I stressed up again. So that’s what the “organs” that Eddie had mentioned earlier were. That surprised me at first. But I didn’t want Alyson getting the wrong idea, thinking that my brother was some sort of pervert.
“I don’t know Eddie. I don’t want her thinking you’re addicted to porn or something.”
“Look Crew, it doesn’t matter. She’ll just scan over them, it’s fine. She’s been around people like that if she’s still at your school.”
“Yeah I guess…” I still didn’t feel right about that. I felt unsettled. There was this gross feeling growing in the pit of my stomach.
That night I lay in bed. I traced some of the textured drywall with my finger. I thought. I do that a lot actually. It shouldn’t surprise you. Gabby sometimes talks while I just sit there and think. But I was thinking about Alyson. I really did think she was a psycho. I really did. But at the same time, I didn’t want her telling Gabby that she knew my brother was a perv because he drew dicks in her textbook. No way.
Alyson was a kind of an enemy to me. Not in a huge way, but things were just tough between us. There was this silent tension between us whenever we were in the room together. I felt like we were both fighting over Gabby for our attention. I tried to see Gabby every weekend, but sometimes I couldn’t because she was with Alyson. Alyson had once written this play thing and invited Gabby and me to do it with her. I declined. Why would I want to act in front of a psycho? Gabby did it though. I’d have to ask her how it went.
I needed Alyson to see that I at least wasn’t a perv and neither was my brother. I needed her to respect me, as Gabby’s boyfriend. If anyone was going to make threats to me about “if I hurt Gabby” it would have been Alyson…or Gabby’s dad.
I needed to get that book away from Alyson and use white out, or tape, or something to cover up the pictures. I needed a plan.
I started out with the basics: get the book away from Alyson. I only had three classes with her, and Economics was one of them, so that might be a problem. I had other classes with her, but we didn’t sit near each other in Biology. She sat kitty corner from me in Logic class. I could feel her eyes sometimes in that class, staring at me. Perhaps I seem a bit paranoid, but it is true. I could feel someone staring at me. I don’t know, maybe she was looking at Mr. Johnson, our teacher, who happened to pace right in front of me. Either way I caught her face pointed in my direction out of the corner of my eye.
I couldn’t sleep very much that night. I woke up the next day sore, exhausted, and somewhat strained. I had to figure out a way. I watched Alyson’s backpack carefully out of the corner of my eye. She always kept it tucked up against the leg of her desk. Then she curled her foot behind the desk leg so it was touching the back pack almost the whole time.
I couldn’t do it while she was on bathroom break. Especially when we were in class. Everyone would be paying attention to Mr. Johnson and I would get judged really hard on what I was randomly doing in Alyson’s backpack. Then the rumors would spread. Then…I’d hate to think what people would think of Alyson and me.
I’d have to wait for the opportune moment.
Finally, a week later it appeared to me. Alyson had stepped her way out of the classroom and taken the pass with her. The rest of the class was spread about the room, each in separate groups discussing poster ideas for the three appeals of rhetoric. Boring stuff like that. Anyway, I saw my chance. Mr. Johnson was at his desk, his back to the class. Emily and Francesca, the two girls who sit by Alyson, had moved thankfully. Now was my chance.
I pulled my white out gingerly out of my pencil back and zipped it closed. My eyes never left the backpack. The noise around me, the chatter of the kids around me, it faded out of my mind. My eyes never left the backpack. I walked over, almost in a dreamlike state it seemed. My eyes never left the backpack.
I knelt down.
I unzipped the backpack.
I pulled out the textbook.
I flipped the pages.
Chapter 23, cell respiration.
I flipped more pages.
There was nothing until I got to page 545.
There it was. The biggest drawing of a penis I had ever seen. I went to work. I unscrewed the cap of the white out. I pulled out the top. I knelt down and held my breath.
I’m no artist, but I think I did a pretty good job with my brush strokes. Pablo Picasso couldn’t have done a better job.
F-i-n-a-l-l-y I was done. I exhaled and blew on the page. After a few seconds the white out had dried. Glancing around, I heaved a small sigh of relief. Alyson wasn’t back yet. The class hadn’t noticed. Mr. Johnson hadn’t moved.
I flipped the pages back to the front cover. The pages stopped on page 112. Something fell out. I frowned. What the heck was this? I picked it up. It was a piece of notebook paper, neatly folded.
It seemed to take an eternity to unfold it.
My eyes widened as I read the first line.
She was writing to Gabby? What was this about? I looked around. No Alyson. Keep reading. By now I didn’t care that I was snooping in Alyson’s stuff. If it was for my girlfriend, I felt like I was entitled to read it.
I hope you never get another letter like this…” Uh oh. This is bad news. I read on. The letter was quite sincere. “I just wanted to let you know I am battling depression. I never told you this until now because I never really knew what it was until now.”
I was shocked.
Alyson had depression?
The Alyson who I had always known? The Alyson who was insane? Gabby’s friend, Alyson? I couldn’t believe it at first. But I read on.
“I’m sorry, but I need to step back from our friendship. I’m not giving it up, but I can’t take this drama anymore. I know what Crew thinks of me, and truthfully…he’s right.” I looked around. I could see a wisp of Alyson coming through the door. Crap. I stood up and tip toed back to my desk. Thankfully she had a question for Mr. Johnson, she didn’t notice me.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about her. “I know what Crew thinks of me, and truthfully…he’s right.” That didn’t make me feel good in the least. I was a genius ‘n all, but this time, I hated being right. I’d rather be wrong in this case.
I didn’t know what to do.
Alyson had depression.
She wrote Gabby a letter.
She and Gabby weren’t friends anymore.
And then I saw it. Freedom. With Alyson not being friends with Gabby anymore, I wouldn’t have to worry about Alyson anymore. I wouldn’t feel like she was stalking me anymore. I wouldn’t have to keep tabs on her anymore. I was free. And so was Gabby. We could be together in peace. And Alyson would be gone.
Part of me felt bad, thinking about Alyson like this. I mean, the girl was struggling with depression. But since when was Alyson ever nice to me? I wanted to help her, I really did. But this wasn’t my problem. This was hers. I didn’t know what to do. I would just be friendly. It was for the best after all.
But now she had no more dicks in her book. That was one less thing to worry about. Hopefully Ms. James didn’t notice the whiteout the next time someone checked out that book. And hopefully I helped Alyson out. I hoped I made her see a bit of light in the world, that there were people who cared enough for her to take her away from the dirt of the world.
And that’s when I realized I cared about Alyson Radon.