I wake up the same. On the same day as any other. Tired as I roll out of bed, my alarm taunting me from the corner. I envy the shadowy corners of dawn in my room, as I float into my clothes and through the house, slogging through my tasteless breakfast as Mom scrambles around huffing and searching for a blouse or shirt or something in a midst of sighs—the language of the defeated.
I sigh too. Just to see if she hears…
At school I drift down the halls, through the knots of smiling faces and laughter. A bell herds us to class. I watch people who don’t see me, my desk a secluded island, as I sneak glances at the delicate features of Stacey, Dawn, Treena, and Delia. The musky bravado of Jackson and Miles.
I eat in the hallway, away from the buzz of conversation, the scraping chairs and the rapping knuckles. Maybe it’s the way I look. My nervous blinking and nodding. How I can’t stand to be touched. Maybe I’m just better at walking through people than to people.
I miss the way my dad saw me. How he’d bend low, duck his head and find my eyes. How he gently nudged me with his foot, listening patiently, like he wanted more than anything to hear what I was trying to say. Then he died, and it was like my mom died too. Some part of her, anyway. When Dad left it set her off in a restless hurry. It took her eyes and ears. It took her soft voice and her patience. It sent her searching for something to keep her hands busy.
To avoid me.
I watch the kids. How they talk to each other. The way they smile and roll their eyes and shake their heads and giggle. How they laugh at the right times, triggered by some signal I cannot see or hear. Stacey and Dawn and Treena and Dalia like to tease Jackson and Miles with mock disgust but delightful smiles. The boys laugh and high five without a hitch or pause. They all know what to do and how to do it.
I am invisible. A boy without instincts.
I dump my pizza crust in the trash and slink along the walls of the hallway to my locker. I count the minutes as they pass, feel the quiet clicks and hums of empty classrooms. Ten seconds until the bell blasts. And there they go, stampeding through me, over me, around me without notice.
Dinner is leftover chicken. The cream of mushroom sauce is old, runny and lukewarm, but I cannot waste another minute to get up and reheat it. I log onto the computer, pulse thrumming as I sign onto Dragonslair. The clicks and chimes that tickle my ears and settle into a pocket behind my jaw. The messages flood the screen, urgently, demanding my attention.
The forums, where my instincts are keen. Where I know what to type and when to type it. Where there is no secret code in the manners or nod of the head. Where what is said is interpreted without subtle gestures or coy smiles. Where I’m funny, smart, and maybe most of all, where I’m noticed.
They’ve been waiting for me. I find my place in the forum. My scalp tingles. They take notice. I’m online. I’m seen. And with Mom out, searching for a shirt or a solution to her restlessness, my fingers take action.