It just wasn’t sitting in the classrooms that I loved. It was the whole process taking place before I sat down on the uncomfortable wooden chairs in elementary school that became even more uncomfortable plastic chairs in middle school. Every year I got a new box of Crayola Crayons. You know the one with the sharpener in the back of the box. How a kid could ever use it is beyond me because I was never wanted to peel away the paper. Besides, it was much easier to go back to one of my old boxes and pick out the used color I needed. I liked a brand-new crayon as much as the next kid, but very few of us wanted to take the time to sharpen it after breaking it.
Every year I got a new Trapper Keeper, wanting to show it off to my girlfriends, but never doing it because I feared they wouldn’t approve. I sat in my first class on my first day, glancing at all the other Trapper Keepers. I had convinced myself that mine was the best. Mine never sparkled like some did, but they didn’t have the compilation of puffy unicorn stickers. I might not have been my class leader, but people did listen when I talked.
When I reached high school, everyone focused on things you couldn’t talk about in front of teachers. I realized no one gave a damn about what chairs they were sitting in anymore. The shortened, dull pencils were replaced with mechanical pencils and BIC pens that everyone wrecked their teeth on when pulling out the end. Hardly any freshman focused on what the teachers were saying because they wanted to be thought of as cool especially those that were starving for that higher level of reputation. If you weren’t part of the cool crowd in middle school, there was little you could do in high school to reach it. No one dealt with it that well.
There were many chances to embarrass oneself. It didn’t take much. Stand on stage in the auditorium during Homecoming and fart. Everyone will remember that. Grab the microphone before classes started and tell a dirty joke over the airwaves. Everyone will laugh and remember that too. In all honesty, when I decided to show Henry how I really felt about my future, he wasn’t all that surprised. He was a playful person. He juggled. He mimed. He joked. He was what you called the class clown without having any class or the clown uniform. He was bright enough to be accepted into the best universities. The only problem was he belonged with his own kind and his parents made sure he wouldn’t linger far from his origins.
I didn’t care how many people you kissed or slept with. He didn’t care who was dating whom. I didn’t care about your popularity. He didn’t notice what you participated in or if you were part of the in crowd. I simply didn’t care. It wasn’t lost on him that freshman break away from loser friends and sophomores and juniors act beyond their age to impress seniors. He understood as graduation approached, everyone was fully absorbed in their futures and wouldn’t see me for what I was inside. Nothing I absorbed through his skin mattered anymore. Henry didn’t wonder what would happen at my twentieth reunion or even his twenty-fifth. He wasn’t going, plain and simple, because no one would invite him. I wouldn’t be going to my tenth reunion either because he wouldn’t be in the vicinity. This I promised myself when it was my turn to graduate.
As much as he secretly wished his dreams to come true, a worm was always a worm. It wasn’t fair to the worm to be stepped on when it rained, but kids do that. Well most kids do, but not Henry. He was never here nor there but somewhere. He sat outside everyone and looked around for someone. I sat outside too but looked for no one.