Monday, March 1, 2010

Palms and Pockets Chapter 2: Normalcy

Palms and Pockets
by Paul Diaz

Chapter 2: Normalcy

Thursday morning John was rushing and his mother noticed him acting funny. “Why do you keep running to window every minute?” Linda asked. “I am waiting for someone” the young man replied. “Is Rick coming over? It’s a school day” his mother said.

“No mom, a new friend. She lives nearby and she goes to the same school I go to” John explained. “A friend and it’s a girl. Arent you rushing things? I remember four days ago you were still sulking and being depressed about Sarah” Linda teased. “Mom, I said she was a friend” John reiterated as he again went to the window.

“Why don’t you finish your food and let me wait by the window. What does she look like?” Linda asked and his son sat down in front of the table. “She walks funny, I am sure you wont miss her” he said. “That’s no good to start a friendship if you say things like that behind her back” his mother told him.

“What’s the fuzz all about so early in the morning?” Bob asked as he took a seat in front of the table to eat breakfast. “Hurry up and eat dad, I don’t want to be late for school” John told him. “Hey we still have thirty minutes and your school is only ten minutes away from here” Bob said.

“I know but she goes to school early” John said and the couple looked at each other. “Oh my what happened to her, why is she limping?” Linda suddenly asked as she was staring outside the window. “That’s her! Dad quick eat your breakfast. Can she ride with us? Wait I am going to call her” John said as he rushed out of their house.

“Anne!!” the young man shouted and the limping girl paused to and saw John running towards her. “Hello John” she said and flashed a smile. “Whew, I was waiting for you to pass by all morning” the young man told her as he tried to catch his breath. “Why were you waiting for me?” she asked.

“So we could go to school together” John said. “Okay but I don’t see your bag with you” Anne replied. “Yeah I was eating breakfast, come on lets go and get my bag” he told her. “Why don’t you go get it and I will wait for you here” she told him. “No, you have to come with me because my dad is taking us to school” John said.

Anne shook her head and started to walk. “That wont be necessary, I will see you in school then” she said. “Hey come on Anne, I know you are hard up walking. Its not good going to school tired you know” John said. “Don’t worry I am used to it, thanks for your concern” she told him.

John frowned and bowed his head, he slowly turned around and started to walk away. “If you don’t want me as your friend you could have just said no yesterday” he uttered. “What are you saying? That is not true” Anne said. “You don’t have to lie, it all clear now. I am sorry for wasting your time” the young man added.

“Okay I will go with you” the young woman said and John quickly turned around and flashed a smile. “Gotcha! Come on now you cant take your words back, you already agreed” he told her. “You were acting?” she asked and John laughed. “Yep and it works everytime” he told her. Anne looked at him and shook her head. “So this might be a big act too then” she said softly.

“What? What are you saying?” John asked. “You being too friendly to me. Its all an act. I should have known” the young woman said. “No! Its not! I really want to be your friend” he told her. “Gotcha!” Anne exclaimed and she started laughing. The two of them shared a laugh as they walked towards the car.

“Remember the girl I told you we saw yesterday that brought out his serious side? That is her” Bob said as he drank his coffee. “So we are good parents after all, we raised a good son” Linda softly said. “Exactly what I thought off yesterday” Bob said. “Come on hurry up and we don’t want them to be late” Linda told him as she took the cup away from her husband.

Bob and Linda stepped out of the house to meet the two. “Oh mom and dad I would like you to meet my new friend, Anne” John said as the young woman smiled and nodded her head. “Oh she has a crooked left leg and she has a birth mark on her cheek that is why she covers her face much with her hair” John added.

“That’s rude to say John! Where are your manners?” Linda snapped. “Its okay maam, I am used to it” Anne said. “No dear, he should not have said it that way” the older woman said. “Mom, if I didn’t tell you then you would have not known because she wouldn’t say. You too would be ashamed to ask so I said it. Its nothing to be ashamed about, I just said the truth so there would be no more awkwardness when you see her” John explained.

Anne nodded her head and smiled as John’s parents were surprised with their son’s explanation. “Well we better get going then” Bob said. “It was nice to meet you maam” Anne said as she looked at Linda. “Same here dear, please forgive my son if he says nasty things” Linda whispered as she hugged her. “Its okay maam, he is my first friend. So I don’t care if he says harsh things, its better having one friend than no friend at all” Anne whispered back.

The car reached the school and John quickly got out to open the door for Anne. “Thanks for the ride sir” Anne said. “Youre welcome dear. You will be coming with us everyday from now on okay? I wont accept no for an answer” Bob said. The young woman was surprised and lost for words and she shyly agreed and stepped out of the car. John heard what his father said so he smiled and Bob gave him a thumbs up sign.

The two watched the car speed away and they saw a crowd of students gathered at the gate. “Come on lets go” John said. They began to walk towards the gate and Anne immediately bowed her head. As they crossed the gate John could hear the murmurs and could feel the cold stares. He looked at Anne and now he understands what she has to go through everyday.

Lunch time came and John was with Rick and friends at the cafeteria. Again there was silence as Anne entered the door. John immediately stood up and approached Anne and accompanied her to get food. He carried her tray and they proceeded to the table where John’s friends were. “Ah I can eat at the vacant table over there” Anne said. “Its boring to eat alone, you will eat with us from now on” John told her.

“Hey guys, this is Anne” John said as his friends shyly looked at the girl. “Anne, this curly dude is my friend Rick, this thin guy beside him is Jerome, and four eyes over here is Kevin” he added and Anne flashed a smile.

As the two were seated John noticed silence so he tapped the table and everyone looked at him. “Anne here limps because her left leg is crooked. She has a birthmark on her left cheek that is why she hides it with her hair. Anne show them your birthmark” John said and the young woman was surprised.

“Go ahead show them” he insisted. Anne slowly moved her hair away to show the others her birthmark. The three guys looked for a moment and then nodded their heads. “Now you know so is there going to be a problem?” John asked and the three shook their heads in unison.

“So Anne, your leg…has it been that way since you were a baby?” Rick asked and Anne paused and looked at John. “He is asking a question, why are you looking at me. You can speak right? Oh yeah guys she can speak by the way” and all of them laughed.

“Nope, I started limping when I was ten years old. We thought it was nothing so we just ignored it. Then it just kept getting worse, in short my leg isn’t growing straight” Anne explained. “Yeah my uncle had the same thing. His leg was bending outwards so he had a knee replacement. Now he has titanium knees and his leg is now straight” Kevin said.

“So why don’t you have an operation to fix it?” Jerome asked. “Hmmm they said I am still growing. And its quite expensive and we cant afford it yet” Anne replied. “Yeah and we are waiting for Kevin to grow up too, he has been short since grade school” John said and everyone laughed.

“How about the mark on your face?” Rick asked and John shook his head. “Did you hear me say birthmark? You are supposed to have that at once at birth dude. That’s why its called a birthmark. Its not just something that grows as you grow up” John explained and again they laughed.

For the first time Anne enjoyed lunch at school. She was enjoying listening to the four guys tell stories and jokes and she had never laughed this much in her whole life. Amidst the joy she was having still there were lots of students staring at her that is why she again bowed her head. “Hey, focus on us. Don’t mind the others. Keep your head up, I don’t want to see you bowing your head when you are with me” John whispered.

Even if those words of his were good to hear, Anne could not just do so. She still feels shy and could feel the cold stares all around. “Didn’t you hear me? Or are you ashamed because you are with us? Is that the reason why you are bowing your head, because you are ashamed to be seen with us?” John asked and Anne immediately shook her head.

“You are using reverse psychology again on me” she told him. “Guys I think Anne is ashamed to be with us” John exclaimed and the three looked at her. “No that’s not true” Anne replied. “Oh yes it is. Look even if we have accepted her she still bows her head. There can be only one reason…she is ashamed to be with us” John insisted and the others nodded their heads in agreement.

“No, I am not. Its just…the others” Anne said. “What others? We are the only ones here” John said as he pretended to look around seeing nothing. “Can you see dead people? We don’t” Rick added as he followed what his friend was doing. Anne felt happy, she understood what they were trying to do for her.

She took a deep breath and slowly raised her head and smiled. “Hey Anne I know what you are feeling. They call me a geek because I love reading and doing geeky stuff I guess. I know we don’t have the same situation but I know what it feels like to be different. I was a loner before until I met these guys” Kevin said.

“Well said four eyes” John said and Anne looked at him. “I thought he was your friend, then why are you calling him names?” she asked and the others laughed. “Its alright Anne, welcome to John’s therapy” Kevin said. “He calls me curly tops” Rick added. “Yeah and I got the monicker of flag pole” Jeremy quipped and everyone laughed.

“And you guys are okay with that?” Anne inquired. “Well that is what others are calling us behind our backs. John just makes sure we hear it everyday so we can get used to it” Rick explained. “Yeah, it hurts when you hear it from others but when a friend calls you by that name somehow it sounds as a joke” Kevin said. “Yup and eventually we got used to his name calling, and when we hear it from others it has no effect anymore” Jeremy told her.

“I see. So what do you call John?” she asked. “And you had to ask” John said and looked at her. “Of course, you call them names so they should call you names too” she explained. “They do trust me but you don’t need to hear them” he told her. “I want to know” she insisted. “Mega mouth” Rick said and Anne laughed. “Yappy” Kevin added. “Because he talks too much?” she asked and everyone nodded.

“So what are the other students calling me?” Anne asked and the guys looked at John. “Go ahead tell her” he said. “Well I heard someone say scarface” Kevin said and Anne nodded her head and touched her birthmark. “And others call you…” Rick was about to say but John tapped the table and looked at him. “What? What do they call me?” Anne asked but Rick just shook his head.

“John? What is it?” she asked. “You should finish your food its almost time” he told her and she noticed that he was angry. Lunch time was over, John walked Anne to her classroom. “I am just three rooms away. Wait for me here after class okay?” he told her. “Arent you going to hang out with your friends after class? I can go home alone you know” she told him.

“We only hang out once in a while but mostly on weekends. You see we have to adapt to Kevin’s schedule, his geekiness has rubbed into the rest of us so we go home after school” John explained and Anne laughed. “See you later then John” she said and he smiled at her and walked away.

Anne stood still and kept watching John’s back. Every night she wishes that everyone would treat her normally and even if he is only the one that has done that so far, she was happy. As soon as John entered his classroom, Anne felt low again. She slowly walked inside her classroom where her classmates were again staring. She took her seat and bowed her head, again she felt different.

Anne was listening intently as the teacher in front spoke. Every five minutes she would check her watch and wished for time to move faster. An hour later the bell rang and all her classmates were racing towards the door. Anne slowly packed her things and walked towards the door. As soon as she stepped out John was already there and the frown on her face immediately turned to a smile.

Side by side they walked along the campus, she could feel others staring but she didn’t bow her head. She knew as long as she was beside him everything would be okay. Once they exited the gate she glanced back and looked at the students and smiled at them. She bade the world of indifference goodbye for she was about the enter the world of normalcy.

“John, about lunch. Why did you stop Rick from talking?” she asked. “Because I didn’t want you to hear what he was about to say” John told her. “So why don’t you be the one to tell me. I am sure it would be okay if you said it” she said. “No it wont and I don’t like them calling you that since its not true” he explained.

“Which is?” she insisted. “Scarface I could let them call you that because its true and maybe crippled too but that moniker I am against it” John said. “Tell me, if its from you then it will be okay” she told him. “They are calling you freak show. You are not a freak, it just so happens you have crooked legs and a scar on your face. You are still normal like the rest of us. You are not a freak of nature” John told her.

“Freak show” she repeated and John noticed the sudden sadness on her face. “See, that is why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you would feel bad” he said. “Yeah it hurts hearing that” she softly said. “Oh no, I really didn’t want to tell you but you forced me to. I am really sorry Anne. Please don’t get hurt when you hear that, its not true. You are not a freak. You are normal trust me. I can get my leg injured by accident and start walking like you. I don’t think they would call me freak show. Or if I get my face burned and there is going to be a scar, I don’t think they would call me freak show either”

“You see they don’t know the truth, people are like that. Once they get to know the truth then they stop calling you names. But we really cant do anything about how people think. There will always be some who will be borderline bad and call you names and all you have to do is forgive them and play deaf” John said.

Anne started giggling and covered her mouth. “Whats wrong?” John asked. “You are talking too much again” she said and they both laughed. “I want you to call me freak show” Anne told him and the young man was surprised. “I want to get used to it and if I hear it from you its okay with me because you are my friend” she added.

Halfway from home Anne suddenly stopped and massaged her right hip. “Whats wrong?” John asked. “Oh its nothing come on” she told him. “Nope I don’t believe you” he said. “Its okay its just my hip. It aches whenever I walk a long stretch” she explained and John felt sorry for her.

The young man knelt down on one knee at patted his back. “Come on get on, I will carry you the rest of the way” he said and Anne laughed. “You don’t have to do that. I will be fine, I just need to rest a bit” she told him. “Then we rest a bit” he said as he stood up and looked around.

John took off his jacket and laid it on the grass nearby. “Come have a sit here” he told her. Anne obliged and sat down and tugged on the young man’s pants to let him sit down beside her. “It didn’t hurt yesterday?” he asked. “It did but I was too shy to say so because I was too busy listening to you talk” she replied and they both laughed.

“Hey Anne, I do understand what you are going through. I don’t want to think that I am being a friend to you because of pity” John said. “Im sorry that’s what people like me would instantly think” she replied. “Yeah I know that is why I am telling you” he told her.

“A while ago you said I am already your friend so help me understand you better” the young man added. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Just like this, you get tired after a walk. I want you to be honest with me. Of course I will keep in mind you have a shorter leg but there may be times that I could forget that because I would be treating you as a normal person, and you would think I am insensitive. So I want you to be honest with me at all times” he explained.

Once again Anne did like the words he spoke, her faced was getting achy already for she was not used to smiling and recently she has been smiling a lot. “How I wish all people were like you” she softly said.

“The world would be a very very noisy place if that happens” John quipped and they both laughed aloud.

The following day at school Anne was beginning to bow her head as they entered the gate. John cleared his throat and looked at her so Anne remembered and kept her head up. There were lesser students gathered at the gate and fewer people staring and Anne was beginning to like it.

John stopped and faced the young woman and looked at her eyes. “You know what, you look better this way” he told her as he fixed her hair and clipped it behind her ear. “But John my scar” she whispered. “What scar? I don’t see any scar. All I see is a pretty face” he said.

For the first time in her life she felt her cheeks get warm. Anne couldn’t help herself smile as they began to walk again. She could not believe she walking along campus with her face fully exposed to everyone. There were still those who stared at her and she could still see some who would whisper but it didn’t bother her anymore.

She was with him, he was different, so everything will be okay from now on.

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