Because I wanted to quit more times
than there are words in this book and
you always said, “Keep writing.”
I don’t know what fell first, me or the football.
In theory, it was the football because good old me, all meat and muscle, can’t be trusted to walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone rescue a misthrown ball. Glad no one saw me climbing out onto the roof, because I’d never hear the end of it. Same stupid stuff, like Don’t do that, You’re too big, You’re too tall, You’re too furry. Everyone loves to remind me about what I look like. As if I don’t own a mirror. But it was quiet up there. Nothing moved, not even the wind. I edged toward the corner where the gutters met and stood on a row of shaky tiles. My shadow cast itself on the grass below, long and lean.
I shouldn’t have looked.
It’s bad enough I’m closing in on six foot four and have enough body hair to insulate a small town. No, I need to shop in the Minotaur department too. Regular standard-sized uniforms don’t fit. Before the new school year kicked off, my mom had to sew the stupid school patches onto maroon jackets and white polo shirts the size of baby grand pianos. I look like an ogre who drifted in from under the Fremont Bridge and decided a reasonably priced Catholic education was the way to go.
Today didn’t start off as the worst day ever. When I ate a small breakfast of six pancakes, four pieces of toast, and a quick fistful of bacon, I thought maybe Mom was onto something when she said, “This is your year, Dylan, I can feel it!” Because, I don’t know, perhaps after this epic crapstorm of foot-long growth spurts and shaving since the sixth grade, sophomore year would be my year. It’d be a nice change. I even saw a good-luck penny lying heads up on the sidewalk on my way to the bus stop. A sign from my dad that he was thinking about me. But that false hope of One Good Year shattered when St. Lawrence had to go and ban hats and long hair on guys. The whole entire school turned around and gawked at me.
Every day my hair is the same. Part it down the middle, comb it down so it covers as much of my face as possible, put the hat on. Mom hates my hair. It hangs in my face, she says. Hides my eyes. My hair is my thing.
Correction: was my thing.
Madison blurted out, “Oh my god, now we’re going to have to see the Beast’s face every day.” She really did say that. Right in the middle of the school assembly. I sat one row behind her. Of course JP laughed. When Fern Chapman rolled her eyes at Madison and told her to shut up, my chest bounced off the floor like a rubber ball.
Thank you, Fern Chapman. This is why I’m so stupid in love with you.
She’s so pretty, it’s hard to be in the same room as her. The air tightens.
“Take Madison back to your cave first, Beast.” JP elbowed me from his chair and waited for me to laugh. I gave in because, screw it, that’s what you do when the principal is standing on the stage announcing to the world that St. Lawrence Prep is hell-bent on exposing you for the genetic wasteland you are.
Sitting next to my best friend, JP, only proved my theorem. Not in some crazy quadratic reciprocity way. No, more like: one of JP’s freckles > my entire physical everything. Squared. If we’re going on looks, JP is the gleaming hero in shining armor mounted on an all-white horse, who unleashes his broadsword from its gilded hilt and slays me dead while the townsfolk cheer. Which is pretty much the truth. His motto is “Simul adoratur,” which if you plugged that into Google Translate, it’d humble-brag: “He is worshiped.” Watching how he gathers up girls like a butterfly collector kills me every time he pins one through the heart.