payday (an excerpt)

“I have got to get out of here,” was my first impression of high school. I didn’t know anyone in this school. “I need to go home where I could be myself,” I muttered as if I were Popeye while speed-walking to my first class. I was a quarter of an hour late.

Who gets marked tardy on the first day of class?

It was P.E. class

God knows how I hated P.E.

I arrived at the locker room, and the teacher felt the need to glance over at me shooting that look while unlocking the door for my tardy ass.

The teacher’s name was Albert Albert. Who would name their child like that? I wonder how much bullying he received because of his given name. Albert Albert was an old, white man with Christmas-season-all-year-round-bald-fontanel hair whose belly was melting in front of him. Another train of thought stopped by: How does he clean it? When was the last time he saw it? Is he married? How does he pleasure his woman? Or man? I don’t know. He needed a wheelbarrow for his belly dripping over his athletic shorts.

He had to wait for me to finish changing out of my Squirtle shirt and black jeans ripped at the bottom like a cow had just grazed on both ends and into my new P.E. clothes: a shirt, which was as green as the trash bin by the bus stop and black silky shorts. Both garments had the same logo: a variety of athletic balls surrounding the different types of athletes and printed with the words Fit for Life underneath.

I didn’t know how lockers worked, so I Hulk-smashed everything into my small locker because I was being driven out of the building by the strong mixture of body wash, deodorant, unclean clothes, and the stench of sweat. Watching me struggle, Albert Albert with both hands resting on top of his food blender, murmured to himself, “Dis kid ain’t smart as Ah thought he wuz.” He later told me that I could use the bigger lockers as long as they were empty.

***

I was in the gymnasium walking around the perimeter like a sucker because I could not shoot a ball into the hoop, and I can’t do any physical activities due to having a pair of lungs that suck at doing what they were there for, when these two other students in class “conducting” a survey about fairies, probably just killing P.E. time, came up to me. One of them, a skinny, hazel-eyed girl with a purple mohawk and a black shirt that had a golden kitty on it and P.E. shorts asked, “Do you believe in fairies?”

I smirked. I thought, Who believes in fairies in this stage of life? Oh, what’s next? Santa Claus? The Tooth Fairy? That ugly bunny that lays eggs? WHAT THE HECK?

“I don’t know?! I think so,” I answered them while trying not to giggle.

The other student, a tall and scrawny guy with glasses and a grey Orlando High School sweatshirt and a pair of silky basketball shorts, asked “Soooooooooo—,” emphasizing the “oooOOOooo,” “—is that a yes?” Both of them laughed clamorously. I think one of them fired missiles at me with their mouth. I hope I don’t get herpes.

I didn’t know how to answer. I just wanted them to go away so I could mind my own business. I subtly raised my right eyebrow and said, “Yes, I guess.” They set out to walk toward other students while laughing. I continued walking around the perimeter.

***

The following class was English. Everyone was talking, shouting and doing immature things. They covered all the classics, such as throwing paper balls, shooting rubber bands at each other and even wasting their efforts on flying short-lived paper planes. At last, the teacher came in, and the class went silent for the first time. She assigned an in-class assignment while she was preparing her stuff. “Write a paragraph or two about yourself, like your hardship and how you overcame it,” Ms. Turner explained calmly. The class booed the teacher. “After that—,” she said and then she muttered to herself, “If I could just find this USB…” “—you’ll need to introduce yourselves in front of the class.” She looked at us for a moment with a bright smile on her face. She tried inserting her flash drive into the computer, but she failed; she flipped the USB over but still failed. She finally successfully inserted the USB at her third try. The booing of the class got louder.

It took me a minute or two to decide on which topic I should write about. I started writing, “I have been through lots of ups-and-downs in this rollercoaster-esque life.” I stopped for a moment. “And I am not sure where to start, but I would like to talk about my sexuality, and how I got bullied,” I let hot air come out through my nostrils while thinking what word I should write next. I was tapping my pencil’s eraser on the desk defaced with obscenities, mostly with fuck you’s, overly-sized penises, I love Helen, the names Craig and Sofia engraved on the desk to represent their love with a heart placed between both names, more penises, and that funny-looking “S” made out of two rows of three vertical, short lines connected by other geometric lines. I just didn’t know how I would start elaborating on that experience without crying.

I didn’t want to start all over again on a new piece of paper; I crossed out what I had written and eventually wrote, “On a second thought, I would rather just talk about being an immigrant student. During my first year here in the US, it felt weird not knowing the school system and not knowing anyone. It felt like starting all over again.” I stopped for a moment. “The language was obviously different, but it was not that big of a deal since I learned English prior to coming to the United States. I have not overcome this culture shock just yet, but I am planning to just be myself and be friendly.” I tapped my pencil on my temple thinking about what else I should do. “Also, I will be joining clubs to become an even more well-rounded student.”

“Wrap-up your writings.” Ms. Turner said. “This is an ungraded assignment, so there is nothing to worry about.” She started to collect the papers. “Now, who would like to come up here and introduce themselves?”

This one boy on the third row, in the second aisle counting from the door raised his hand. “I would like to introduce myself first.”

Miss Turner smiled with a noticeable shock that someone actually volunteered to introduce himself. “Okay, come on up here.” She immaculately grinned.

The boy started walking up front with his head down. He got in front of the class and didn’t say anything for a moment. I liked the Legend of Zelda shirt on him, the way he wobbled while walking like he had a porcupine between his legs (that would hopefully poke me in the future).  His clear, milky tan skin fit him well.

He adjusted his glasses, “Hi! My name is Jesse. I’m Mexican, fourteen years old, aaannnnd gay.” He said it so calmly, with no hesitation whatsoever. His dark-brown eyes gleamed. He flashed the class with his crooked smile on his amused face. I’d like to think the smile was directed towards me.

He started marching down towards his chair with his head held high.

He became the young-celebrity-guy-emerging-from-a-pond from my childhood.

My soul left my body momentarily.

I was no longer me. He quickly pinned me down on the dirt. Then his lips were on mine. He explored the wet warmth that resided in my mouth and wrestled the tongue that dominated it. I let out small moans which only seemed to fuel Jesse’s desires. A few seconds later, drops of water started falling from the sky; however, Jesse was much too distracted to notice. His right hand exploring what’s in my dirty, wet garment; his left hand flirtatiously touched my cheeks. He then tried to maneuver our bodies. I felt the sky’s dazzle as I laid on top of him. I craved to know how he smelled.

My arousals snapped me back in.

I pretended to reach for something in my backpack, and then set my backpack on my lap. I clutched it closer to me to conceal the ever-so-growing-cucumber in my pants.

The teacher was even more amazed. “That was very brave of you, Jesse.” She smiled at him as if she were forced to and started applauding, which was followed by every other student in the class.

I saw Jesse’s face turning red, thanking everyone with a big crooked grin showing off his tooth gap.

*                     *                *

I was the last one to go up.

Miss Turner looked at her roster and calmly called me, “Come on up here, Khalid. You’re the only one left”

So, I went up with my knees shaking. “Hey, my name is Khalid. You can just call me Cal. I came here to the United States from the Philippines seven years ago. I am thirteen years old, and I think I am gay.” I started walking toward my chair thinking about what I had just said. Well, I was proud that I did not stutter.

Everyone babbled about how young I was.

Miss Turner’s eyes widened faster than the road-widening freeway. Despite all the shock in the world, she smiled. “Okay, great. I guess that is everybody.” I was sort of sad I didn’t get any applause. She stopped for a moment and reached for a stack of paper and started handing it to students. “This syllabus explains what we’re going to be doing for the whole year—how I am going to be grading you and such things.”

“We’ll be reading Shakespeare?” A student shouted from the other side of the room “No one understands his language!”

“Yes, and you will be giving a speech at the end of each semester. No one gets to pick their own topic for their speech.” The teacher winked. “As of now, I want Cal… Cal, right?” I nodded. “I want you to deliver a speech about the stereotypes of the labels in our society, and I want Mr. Vargas to do something about feminism,” Ms. Turner added.

*                     *                *

Everyone was shoving their pencils and paper binders into their backpacks—some of them only had a binder and a pencil behind their ears. The bell rang. I was shocked that the class seemed so short. I put all of my things neatly into my backpack, I liked being organized. Freaking OCD, man!

*                     *                *

I saw Jesse outside of the classroom. He’s waiting for me.

The school bell rang once again, reminding the students to go straight to the gymnasium instead to their third period classes for the “Welcome and Welcome Back Students Assembly.”

Jesse and I walked to the gymnasium together.

Neither of us spoke.

I craved for his words.

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