Make A Mistake With Me - Interlude: Wake Up, Dead Man - by MistakeAnon
>Sun breaks over the horizon. >Dirty stench of mid-April fills the room, along with the incessant, forlorn cry of the cicadas. >You scratch the last mark on the wooden bottom of the top bunk. >Wooden splinters under your nail. >But the words remain. >”Never Again”, it reads. >And you mean it. >A tap on your shoulder wakes you from your melancholic stupor. >It’s the guard, his cap throwing a harsh shadow over his eyes. >All you hear is the mocking laugh of a crow somewhere outside. >It’s five in the morning, an hour before other guys will wake up. >And once they do, you’ll be long gone. >The two of you, you and the guard following three steps behind, cut through the courtyard. >You see the burn spread across the sky, across the fields, licking the chainlink fence that separates you from the rest of the world. >Step after another, clicking rhythm on the stone panels emerging from the grass. >You look up towards the sky, where no cloud is waiting for you. >It’s pale blue, not yet feeling the warmth of the sun. >Once it does, you’ll be long gone. >As you walk past the benches flanking the path towards the main house, you offer a silent nod to the only other boy that’s awake. >Trouble Shoes, as usual. >Guy’s freakishly huge for his size, but in those big clammy fingers, his guitar weeps like no other. >Even today, he’s there. >Playing you off. [Embed: Warren Zevon - Prison Grove] >Your polished shoes give him a lonely beat. >His guitar and his voice, both gravely and quiet, do the rest. >Your eyes meet, momentarily, and you know that he’s saying his goodbyes in the only way he knows how. >You never did hear him talk. >Only sing. >And so, accompanied by Trouble Shoes’ song, you reach the end of the yard. >The big metal door that leads to a corridor. >Corridor that leads to a gate. >A gate that leads beyond it. >And once they close that gate, you’ll be long gone. >Before he opens the door, the guard turns to look at you. At least you think he does. >You still can’t see his eyes. >”Ready?” >You have no answers for him. >Mostly because you have no idea. >So, in silence, you push on forward. >Beyond the door, into a place where you can see your face staring back at you from the waxed floor. >Smell of old house permeates the place, despite its new appearance. >You arrive to the desk at the end of the corridor. >It could be worse. >Marble floors, red wood on the walls, and an airy atmosphere. >Even this early, it has warmth lacked by where you came from. >What scars it, though, is the lack of any people, of any sound, of any sign of life. >It’s like a world where only you and the guard following you exist. >No, you have to correct yourself. >As you step on the line on the floor, made with black tape, another person appears to your field of vision. >You’re separated from him by a wall and a strengthened glass. >As if you were gonna try anything. >You don’t need to. >Even though you don’t do anything, you’ll be long gone soon enough. >You recognize the thick-rimmed glasses on the man. >Superintendent, of course. >You never did bother to learn his name, in the end. >Guess it’s too late now. >And it’d be awkward to ask. >”7474505B.” >The guard informs you to the superintendent, who looks over his papers. >Oh he knows who you are. >But it’s all about the procedure, the tradition. >”Unit?” >He asks, even though he’s already opened the right page. >”A-6.” >No other words are exchanged. He slides open the glass and disappears into the room to fetch your box. >What you left behind when you came here. >And as you wait, you look at the plaque fitted above the small window. >You take in the name of the place for one last time. >Because when you forget it, you’ll be long gone. >Long gone from Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility. >The superintendent slams the black, plastic box against the surface of his desk. >He opens it, putting aside the lid. >And from the inside, he starts picking up your items. >Your history. >”One Timex digital watch. Broken.” >He puts it aside on the metal table. >A clock forever stopped at the hour of 02:00. >Cracked glass and slightly burnt leather strap. >”One Zippo lighter. Engraved.” >With words to live by. >”One soft pack of Lucky Bastard cigarettes, with 9 cigarettes remaining.” >You almost immediately reach for the pack, but the guard catches your wrist before you do. >Not yet. >”One pair of jeans. Stonewashed. One belt. Leather.” >You should really get a smaller buckle for that. That longhorn on it is kinda hideous. >”One pair of men’s motorcycle boots. Brown.” >Finally. You were so sick of the shoes you’ve had to wear in this place. >”One pinch front ten-gallon hat. Brown.” >Wonder if that still fits you? >”One leather jacket. Brown. One cut-off. Brown.” >You could smell the familiar stench of motor oil and sweat across the corridor. >”Fourteen assorted badges for the leather jacket and the cut-off, bearing the symbols of Motorcycle Club El Forastero.” >You cringe as you see your colors. >Your shameful, shameful colors. >”One T-shirt. White. One pair of socks. White. One pair of underwear. White.” >... No comment. >”Three rings. Engraved.” >They might not be real silver, but they were still important to you. >”One ribbon. White.” >... Huh. >You never did figure out why you carried that in your backpocket. >”And..” >The superintendent is now waving a brown envelope before you. >You can hear a couple of coins clink together within it. >Not much. >However, more than you remembered. >”Six dollars and five cents.” >Should be enough to get you a coffee. >Damn you missed coffee. >You missed it even more than smoking. >”Sign here.” >And so you do. >You change into your civilian clothes in a side room. >By the time you throw your white dress shirt to the locker, you start to feel it. >It’s like something very old and very stiff started moving from your shoulders. >It doesn’t bring happiness. >Only fleeting emptiness. >But it’s still an emotion you’re going to ride. >As you throw away your old clothes, the clothes of this place, you hide the badges with them. >Those ain’t coming with you. >They got you into lot more trouble than they got you out of. >Now, when you look at them, you don’t feel proud. >You just feel wracked by a sense of shame. >Shame that doesn’t make you shiver, but makes you gag. >Rest of the stuff you have, the stuff you aren’t wearing, you throw into the dirty sailor bag which you then proceed to sling over your shoulder. >Another weight, but it’s physical this time. >Something you can deal with. >Double-checking everything for the third time, you take one last look in the mirror. >What stares back at you is a pair of tired eyes, five o’clock shadow and unruly hair that really should’ve been cut a long time ago. >It’s not much, but it’s you. >An unlikeable young man with an unlikeable attitude. >But unlike before, you’re not proud of that attitude. >Instead you threw it out along with those badges. >When you first came here over a year ago, you promised to leave it here. >And now the time has come. >Funnily enough, it couldn’t be easier. >Making a mental nod to yourself, you head back to the corridor. >The superintendent is gone, but the guard who guided you this far is still there. >He gestures you to lead the way, and the two of you move to the second big, metal door. >This one leads forward. >This one leads to the gate between you and freedom. >And it smells of sand, dust and just another day in this place. >The last door swings open, and you find yourself standing on the front yard of LCJF. >The last stretch of path across the greenery, all the way to the chainlink fence and its gate. >Your boots strike against the concrete. >Impact. Impact. Impact. >Behind you, the guard follows in your footsteps, the noise masked by yours. >Stray streak of sunlight breaks through the fence, slicing across your face. >For a moment, just for a moment, you feel more alive. >Far away, the song of Trouble Shoes still continues. He’ll probably continue until he hears the gates close. >But for you, that song will continue much, much longer. >Suddenly, you realize that the footfalls of you and the guard are joined by another pair. >And another. >When you finally look at what’s going on, you see that you are flanked by two guards at each side. >And then two more arrive, making it six. >All in synch, marching like soldiers to the beat you give them. >One look in their eyes tells you it’s out of respect. >They’re giving you a send-off they think you deserve. >... Too bad you don’t share that sentiment. >The marching feet stop before the gate, guarded by a single man. Old and grey, he eyes you all up. >Behind him, the sun finally vaults over the horizon. >Soon, the light will come. >But by that time, you’ll be long gone. >Getting an affirmative nod from your guard, the old man turns and blows into his whistle. >Slowly, the electrical wheels start turning and the gate slides aside. >Like the boulder at the mouth of cave, it announces your rebirth. >And as it moves, your hand moves. >It reaches into your pocket. >It draws forth a soft pack of cigarettes. >A tap. >You catch one between your teeth, pulling it out. >And with a flourish of your zippo, you light it up. >The moment the gate hits its hinges is the moment your take your first drag off a cigarette in over a year. >The way is finally open. >You raise your gaze into the empty countryside that awaits you. >Nothing moves. >All eyes are on you. >For a second that seems more like a minute, you’re framed within that open gate, glowing horizon drawing you in soft silhouette against the blue. >To the guards, it’s a new beginning. >To you, it’s a new ending. >With a shrug, you put the cigarette back to your lips and begin walking. >No goodbyes, no gestures, not even acknowledgment. >All that needed to be said, you said during the last year. >What begins now is something you don’t even understand. >And so you cross the threshold between your prison and the world that welcomes you back. >Not with open arms, but with spit in the eye and a somber song of a highway. >Your first step to freedom is accompanied by the full force of the morning sun finally driving away the pale light of last night. >Step after another. >Alone. >With no one to follow you this time. >It’s like clapping of hands, only against asphalt, and in a minute, dirt road. >Maybe some fledgling blues musician could get a song out of it. >Cigarette smoldering on your lips, you head north. >Behind you, the metallic rattling of the gate informs you that there’s no return. >Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility is behind you. >It’s had enough of you. >And the way the gate locks, it’s like it’s telling you to never come back. >That’s why you wrote those two words in your bunk bed. >Never Again. >In the case you ever forgot. >Past the yards, past the mental institute, past the park. >You make your way while smoking your cigarette. >As slowly as the sun climbing the horizon, weary as the old drunkard that must be falling asleep somewhere right now, you walk forward. >Sailor bag slung over your shoulder. >Song of Trouble Shoes in your ears. >Clouds of dust kicked by your feet. >By the time that dust settles, you’ll be long gone. >The silent road holds you no company. >Neither do the two wheatfields that flank you from both sides. >Somewhere far away, a dog barks. >Large bird hovers high up in the sky, searching for prey. >And you walk. >And walk. >Down the road that leads to somewhere you don’t know. >You open your bag and fish out your hat, putting it on. >Finally, something to shield you from the burning spot on the sky. >April was unnecessary hot this year, making it a pain to be walking out in the middle of nowhere. >The nearest town, Larned, was over an hour walk away. >But then again, you had nothing but time. >Eventually, the dirt road gives way to proper asphalt which isn’t nearly as pleasant to walk upon. >Heat shimmers above the blacktop, creating a mirage of faraway water. >A tractor slowly makes its way across the field to your right, the farmer eyeing you suspiciously. >You pay him no mind. >Your eyes don’t even meet. >Your focus is on your cigarette, your long-awaited cigarette, and the road that leads you on. >Maybe to someplace where you can have coffee. >You haven’t had decent coffee in forever. >And the phone call you got last night promised you that sweet, black liquid, rich in taste and aroma. >You have nothing better to do. >Not really. >So you might as well go there. >Thus, when you arrive to the intersection of 264 and 156, you take a sharp left. >Soon, you are greeted by a sign that confirms your direction. >”Larned - 2”, it says. >So you keep putting one foot after another. >All the while keeping the song of Trouble Shoes in your mind. >You have to. >This silence might make you mad if you didn’t. >Nothing but fields everywhere you look, cut by a single blacktop lane that heads towards civilization. >Or whatever passes for civilization in dear ol’ Kansas. >Even the one car that drives past you just speeds up when the driver notices you. >You don’t blame her. >There’s a clear sign some mile or so back, telling people not to pick up hitchhikers. >After all, they might be juvenile escapees ready to rehash their crime spree. >Or they might just be nobodies like you, looking for a decent cup of coffee. >One or the other. >Both are equally dangerous in their own way. >And so your walk must continue without help, with only your own legs to propel you forward. >Past Santa Fe Trail Center. >The old Pawnee guy sitting on the veranda eyes you as you walk, and your stares intersect. >He chuckles to himself and takes a drag off his cigar. >His eyes are hidden by the smoke. >You continue walking. >Past the Larned cemetery. >Far away, you can hear a priest reciting some passage of the bible. >The day someone dies, someone else gets his life back. >The irony is not lost to you. >You continue walking. >Past the old farmstead to your left. >From behind the trees, two suspicious kids eye you up. >You don’t even look at them. >Instead, you finish your cigarette and flick it against the asphalt, killing the fire. >You continue walking. >And so, after a long hour, you eventually reach the intersection of KS-156 and Morris Avenue. >Here be dragons of civilization. >You just hope they don’t catch you. >In this burning light of overzealous April sun, you’re easy pickings both for vultures and dragons. >Even now, you can feel their eyes upon you. >As you pass the dilapidated school bus garage, you see a lone mechanic stopping his work to glance at you. >The woman coming out of the small liquor store hurries to her car. >A trucker passing you by in his 18 wheeler tries his damnedest not to stare. >You don’t blame them. >You stick out like a sore thumb. >A guy walking on the side of the road, carrying all he owns in a bag? >You’d be curious too. >Still… you are relieved when you reach El Dos De Oros. >The small Mexican diner sits out on the side of the main road, dressed in red colors. >As you enter the yard, your eye catches something else that’s red. >Namely, a banged-up 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express. >The truck sits there like some sort of old, grouchy man, glaring at anyone who’d be stupid enough to park next to it. >The chrome stacks jut towards the sky like horns. Still, they’re just as rusty as the rest of the vehicle. >There’s only one Lil’ Red Express in such a bad shape you know. >And your suspicions are confirmed as the door opens and a familiar-looking man steps out of the pickup truck. >Not that tall and with some gut hanging, dressed in denim and dirty hunting clothes. >Small piercing eyes that peer at you from worn-out face. Rough jawline covered in bushy beard. >On his head, there’s that trucker cap with ‘Wonderbolts’ written on it he never takes off. >Not even to wash. >Yeah, you know this man alright. >The two of you stare at each other for a moment or two. >It’s been well over two years. >Last night you heard him talk when he called you. >Now you see him. >When you left it wasn’t on the greatest of terms. You shut him out of your life even though he only tried to help after your father… after your father… “Uncle Bobby.” >You greet him with those simple words: his name. >Your voice sounds harsh and raspy. It’s been a while since you spoke. >”Kid.” >He answers. >Bobby Pin. Your father’s brother. >Your last living relative as far as you know. >Rough and no-nonsense guy who owns a salvage yard in another state. >While your family stayed in Kansas because of who your father rode with, Bobby took his stuff and headed south. >Had a big argument with your dad. >You remember the yelling and slamming of doors. >At one point there was even a shotgun being cocked. >And yet, now… >”Happy Birthday, kid.” >He’s here to celebrate your eighteenth birthday. >”So, how’re you holding up?” >You dug into your beef fajitas with all the fervor of a man who’s had to eat homogenized Christian values institutional kitchen food for the last year. >Oh dear Lord yes. >Fatty grease, onions, peppers, spices, all that lovely, unhealthy glory. >It’s time pig out as much as you want. >You keep shoving the things in your mouth so fast you barely have time to answer. >But you try your best. “Mhm mhnhgn.” >Your best, as it turns out, is not much. >Uncle Bobby chuckles and takes a bite out of his own burrito. >Immediately, he grimaces and takes a swig of his beer. >”Oh, that’s just heinous.” “That bad, huh?” >”Nah. I’m just surprised this tex mex crap can actually taste good.” >You decide not to worry about your uncle’s eccentricities, instead focusing on destroying the contents of the plate in front of you. >Twenty minutes later, you’ve done that and had another plate while you were at it. >The after-meal includes two things for you and your uncle. >Cigarettes. >And, finally, the thing you’ve been waiting for like hunter’s moon. >Coffee. “Oh Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ! That hits the spot…” >The ash-flavored, brown nectar goes down your throat and straight to your stomach, filling your body with the familiar burn. >It’s like someone just filled your veins with ambrosia. >If there’s one thing you missed, it’s this. >Actually decent coffee. >As you lean back in the faux-leather seat, your eyes turn towards your uncle. >He’s smiling at you over his own cup of coffee, but his eyes tell of serious thoughts lurking in that moonshine-rattled brain of his. >Thoughts you might not want to face. “Well then…” >But, still, you’re gonna let him deal the cards. >You’ve come this far. >Afterwards you can decide whether or not you’re gonna even play. “Why’d you call me over, Bobby?” >He snorts and sips his coffee, his own cigarette smoldering between his fingers. >”Why? Well, couple of reasons, you idjit. First being that while you were in juvie, you weren’t exactly the calling type. Figured you’d have question or two about what’s going on.” >He’s got you there. >Never once did you call while you were behind the bars. >Mostly because there wasn’t anyone to call. >It wasn’t until yesterday that you even knew Uncle Bobby had been worried about you. >So part of it might have been your own fault, but rest of it was just natural. “I suppose, yeah.” >You scratch your chin, watching the lithe trail of smoke rise from the cigarette towards the ceiling fan. “Any word on what happened to my car?” >”The thing’s totalled, son. We towed it over to Turner’s harbor after what happened but, look… the frame’s a pretzel, there’s half the engine left. Ain’t no way that thing’s gonna be usable again.” >You feel an odd lump in your stomach. >Something you feared just came to pass. >Your baby, your Saturn Yellow comrade, had met its end. “That bad, huh? No way it can be fixed?” >”Sorry. There ain’t nothing *to* fix. You’d have to replace just about every part, and that just ain’t worth it. Would take half a year, at least, to boot.” >You pinch the bridge of your nose and sigh deeply. >Well, it had been a lost cause, and you knew it. >Hoping for a miracle only made you that much more disappointed when the truth was revealed. >”Still, it ain’t all that bad. You still got your bike, don’tcha?” >You shake your head, taking a drag off your cig. “I gave it to Liz before they locked me up. It’s in better hands with her.” >”Oh. Okay then.” >An awkward silence falls upon the table. >You know that your uncle knows you have nothing else to ask about. >Rest of the questions you might have, he can’t answer. >And what he can, you have no interest in. >Thus, you decide to grab the bull by the horns. “So, Bobby… why are you really here?” >That seems to catch him by surprise. >Those beady little eyes of his narrow a bit, staring sternly at you. >You just gaze at the cracked table separating you. >It’s been a while since you could meet someone’s gaze. >And you don’t think you can look your uncle in the eyes now. >”Well… you went straight to the point.” “I guess I got a little blunt during my stay.” >He snorts again, exhaling the smoke from his cigarette upwards. >”A little? Son, you look like a castrated bull, and talk like a junkie in rehab. What happened to you?” >A forlorn smile plays on your lips, thanks to his similes. He’s not exactly wrong there. “I had time to think. What I did, how I was. I decided I didn’t exactly like who I’d become. So… here I am. I threw away what I’d turned into during the last four years.” >To your surprise, Bobby reaches over the table and puts his hand on your shoulder. >It’s rough and coarse… but surprisingly warm. >”Takes a lotta guts to admit that, you know? Your old man never could. Looks like you’ve got one on him now.” >You chuckle, but even to your ears it sounds forced. >So you mask it by sipping your coffee once again. >”In any case…” >Your uncle leans back in the seat. >”I guess I came here for two things. First, to give you a warning. Second, to make you a suggestion.” >This catches your interest. “Warning?” >”Yeah. See, son… bah. Blast it. Well, the thing is, it ain’t a good idea for you to head home now. It’s been over a year, but that ain’t enough for some folks to forget. They still remember what happened. Grudges like that run deep, see?” >He gestures with his cigarette. >”If you went back now, who knows what’d happen?” >You sigh. “I’d get chased out of town?” >”At the very least.” >Stumping your cigarette in the ashtray, you lean against the table and bury your face in your hands. >It doesn’t help, but it makes Bobby unable to see what sort of expression you are making. “Well, that’s fine. I get that. But… that doesn’t change the fact I got nowhere else to go. I got no money to move or find a place of my own. All I have is that busted old trailer. If I wanna go somewhere else, I’d need to sleep on the streets.” >You hear Bobby shift in his seat. >When you look at him, he’s digging through his pockets. >Eventually, he finds what he’s looking for and slaps it on the table. >For some odd reason, you find yourself looking at a brochure. No, make that two. >”And that’s where my other reason comes in. See, I told you I was gonna make you a suggestion, idjit. And this is it.” >You pick up the first brochure and look it over. >It greets you with big bold letters that spell out: >”Welcome to Canterlot City: Where Friendship Awaits You.” >The brochure spreads out, giving you an overview and plenty of pictures of this place. >Mild, pleasant seasons, plenty of natural beauty, bustling urban area… it looks practically nothing like your hometown. >To be frank, it looks far too good to be true. >But then again, that’s probably the point of brochures. >”I know it looks like a bunch of crap when put on a piece of paper, but Canterlot’s a really nice place.” >Bobby taps the brochure with his finger. >”But then again, I guess you already knew that?” “Huh?” >Your eyes dart from the pictures to your uncle. >He raises his eyebrow in confusion. >”Why that look son? Don’t tell me you forgot?” “Forgot what?” >He chuckles and finished his coffee in one big gulp, placing the cup back on the table. >”I guess it’s been almost eleven years, but still… you used to visit my place every time your father got in trouble with the law. Remember?” >As absurd as it sounds… you really don’t. >You try to think back to your childhood, but are met with nothing but vague recollections and memories. >Of summers spent at the beach. >Of autumns spent in the woods. >Of winters spent in the city. >Of springs spent at the lake. >You remember a place that certainly ain’t your hometown… but you have no connection to those memories. >They feel almost like someone else’s. >Has it been that long? >Really? >Did your childhood slip through your fingers just like that? >Or does the young man who went through what you did not recognize the boy he used to be anymore? >”You know, son, it’s alright. Even if you don’t remember, that don’t mean nothing. Still… I suppose your friend’s gonna be sad when she hears.” >Friend? “W-what… what are you talking about?” >”Don’t tell me you forgot her too? You idjit, that girl and you used to be glued from the hip! When you left for the last time, she even gave you her ribbon, didn’t she? Shouldn’t a gesture like that leave some impression?” >Those words catch your attention. >Like a man possessed, you turn to your sailor bag and begin to shift through its contents. >Needless to say, there’s not much. >Therefore, you find what you’re looking for with relative ease. >Pulling out the white ribbon, you gaze at it with newfound interest. >So… even though you had forgotten the reason… you still instinctively carried it with you, to this day? >”Well I’ll be. Didn’t think you kept that thing for so long. I guess you didn’t forget after all.” >Bobby smiles at you, but you find yourself unable to smile back. >Your eyes are glued to the ribbon. >At the fragile thing in your clumsy hands. “No. I… I still don’t remember. Everything from those times is hazy. But…” >You grasp the ribbon and bring it to your forehead. >Memories inside your head are going at a speed too fast for you. >Of days spent, of days lost, of days gone by. >They are hazy at best, and offer nothing concrete. >Like Bobby said, you spent time in Canterlot when you were little. You did. >But what did you do back then? >How did you live back then? >You just don’t remember. >All the years between that innocent time and now are just too much of a barrier to overcome. >But even through all those misty memories, you see one constant to your days spent away from home. >One thing that was always there. >Always by your side. >A girl with a smile that could warm your heart to the brim. >A girl with eyes that were both strong and kind. >A girl with a white ribbon tied to her hair. “Uncle? Do you… do you remember her name?” >Bobby sighs, scratching the back of his head. >”Sorry, son. It’s been so long, and honestly, I think she was afraid of me. And who can blame her? I ain’t exactly a model citizen. But I do remember you and her were inseparable.” >That’s enough for you. >Even if you no longer remember her name, no longer remember her face, no longer remember your time together… >It all still happened. >And that’s enough to tell you that in Canterlot, you were happy. >You offer your one final thanks to the nameless girl in your mind, and put the ribbon back into the bag. >It’ll probably never find its owner. >Just like you’re unlikely to ever meet that girl again. >But the memories they both created helped you, even after all these years. “So, what? You want me to move to Canterlot City with you?” >You turn back to your uncle and light up another cigarette. >He nods sternly. >”That’s the idea. I think it’d do you good to get away from Kansas. Broaden your horizons a bit.” >You had to admit, the idea was tempting. >There was nothing left for you here, anyway. “And what would I do? Work at your salvage yard? I gotta earn my own pay, Bobby. Sorry, but I’m not gonna freeload off of someone.” >He shakes his head with a grin. >His index finger points towards the other brochure, forgotten at the table. >”Nah, son. You’re still young. You got more important things to do than work. And I’m gonna help you, whether you soddin’ like it or not.” >A little taken aback by the strength in his voice, you pick up the other brochure. >Just like the one for Canterlot City, this one’s advertizing some place as well. >But this time… it’s a high school. >Canterlot High School. >What greets you first and foremost is a picture of a large, old building with a statue of a rearing horse on its lawn. >You don’t even need to take a look inside to know what it’s gonna say. >So instead, you shoot an incredulous look at your uncle. “Seriously? Bobby, I’m eighteen.” >”I know, but hear me out. I talked about your situation with the principal. Nice woman. She said CHS would be happy to take you in so you could finish your education after… well, after what happened.” >Before you know it, Bobby’s hand is back on your shoulder. >Its grip is strong, and his eyes are firm. >You instinctively avoid eye contact. >”I ain’t gonna let you make the same mistakes I did, idjit. You need to finish high school, for your own sake.” >High school. >You hadn’t even thought about such a ridiculous thing. >Frankly, finishing it now, after all that happened, sounds ludicrous. >Could you really fit back in with teenagers younger than you? >And to be honest, did you want to? >You had no desire to study anymore. You didn’t see the point. >You just wanted to do something, anything, that’d let you disappear back into the mass of people known as general population. >Because by disappearing, you could forget yourself. >Just be another nobody. “It’s not gonna work, Bobby.” >You inform him, shoving aside his hand. “You know I don’t have interest in going back to school. And what would I even do there? Start all over again? That’s just a waste of time, and you know.” >Bobby shakes his head, jabbing his index finger towards your chest like a sword. >”I talked this over with the principal already. You’d get to start from where you dropped out. You’d repeat the sophomore year and move on like the rest of the kids.” >His eyes narrow and he adopts an expression even more stern. >”Because that’s what you are, idjit, even if you don’t wanna admit it. A kid. Just like the rest of them. All because you forgot to grow up.” >You growl at him, trying to stand your ground. >But it’s hard when you can’t even bring yourself to look him in the eyes. “I had better things to do. I was making something out of my life, and high school just wasn’t for me.” >”And look where that landed you! You spent over a year in the juvie, lost all fame and fortune you managed to scrounge up, ruined your own reputation and your girlfriend-” >You slam your fist down to the table. Hard. >Hard enough to crack it some more. >Hard enough that everyone in the diner is looking at you two. >And just like that, you’ve deflated your own anger. >You slide down the seat, wanting nothing more than to hide from the questioning glares of the people around you. >”... Sorry, son. Didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just that… well, I wanna see you make the right choice. And I think this school could really help you.” >Bobby pushed the brochure back into your hands, and you open it. >What you see is smiling faces, groups of teenagers hanging about and warm hallways full of laughter. >Nothing like the high school you remember. >But wasn’t that the whole point? >A fresh start? “... I don’t know if I can do this, Bobby.” >You finally admit it, heaving a heavy sigh. >Coming face to face with all of this after your time in the juvie, it’s… it’s overwhelming. >And it’s scary. >”You’ll do fine, son. And you don’t have to make the decision now. It’s almost May, and the school year won’t start till August. The principal said you could think all you want, and the doors would always be open to you.” >August, huh? >That’s four months from now, roughly. >Is that really enough? >You don’t want to go to Canterlot City just for this school. >You need to find yourself a place to live, scrounge up enough money to support your daily life and, well… >... You needed to prepare yourself, mentally. >You doubt you could get into the high school spirit like you used to. >Hell, you’d rather just cruise through it alone, without bothering with others. >Just focus on studying, working and getting back to your feet. >Filling your days with stuff to do would be another form of disappearing into the crowd. >It’d be hilariously easy as well. Who’d try to get chummy with an ex-juvie? Especially in a high school? >You turn to look back your uncle… and this time, you look him straight in the eyes. “Alright. On one condition.” >”That is?” “Give me time till October. I want to find my own place to live and work for my own income.” >”But-” “No buts. I’ll let you help, but I wanna do this right.” >Right, as in, alone. >For a moment, you find yourself under your uncle’s scrutinizing gaze. It’s almost as if he’s testing you. >Finally he relents. >”Fine, you idjit. But you’ll be sleeping at my place till you find a decent apartment.” “Yeah.” >By the time you were ready to stand on your own, you’d be long gone. >Long gone into the nameless masses. >Without having to worry about anything. >After all… you’d never make another mistake again.