I walk towards the exit, beneath the Homecoming decorations. Shoulders crash into me, feet tripping my steps. They call me ugly. Gross. A freak.
On good days I’m ignored by the monsters. By teachers, by girls, hopefully by Tate Spiller. In the locker room, I dodge spitballs and wads of toilet paper thrown at my back. Then I go outside, walk the track and wait for the whistle.
I want to go back. To sail for weeks and through a day. To leave this forsaken place, where they are all the same. The same wicked smiles and the same stupid faces. The world all around is the same.
The things warned me not to leave. And I should have listened. I told them to be still and they stilled. They were frightened, rapt with wonder. I should have stayed and been a great king. In the wild I was a magician. A showman. A tamer.
In the wild I was what I was meant to be. But I gave it all up.
So many nights I’ve stared at that wall, waiting. Waiting for the vines, for the walls to turn inward, then outward, for the saltwater breeze to tousle my hair. For weeks, a year, through night and day. I dream of going back. To the wild.
“Hi Max, how was your day?”
My mother carries a heavy burden. She’s carried it under her eyes since that fateful evening. She blames herself for my exile, for what has happened since. Perhaps things would have been different. Maybe I would have been the same as them.
But I would have never been a king.
I remember her face, when she walked in and caught me panting, sweating, roaring at the moon. I was soaked through and growling. She backed away, from my unblinking yellow eyes. She dropped my dinner to cover her mouth. She didn’t know, couldn’t have known, that what was one half hour for her for me was lost at sea. Part of me never returned.
I tell her my day was fine. It helps her in some way, if I play this game. It crushes her to know the truth. Crushed her every time she had to pick me up, when I roared terrible roars, when I was the wildest of all. And it crushed me when she didn’t believe me.
Now I seldom roar. But I might, if I’m punched, or kicked again. If they keep calling me a freak. I think about making them still. I may roar again.
But for now, I tell her my day was fine.
“Good, sweetie, I’m making soup.”
My mother and her soup. She thinks it heals the soul. My soul needs healing. But my soul is lonely. My soul wants to be where I’m loved most of all.
Therapy taught me not to talk about it. Not to tell the stories no one believes. Of the magic and wild and well, the unhealthy make-believe. I was told there were no wild monsters. Even though I see them at school every day.
A quiet supper with my mother. She smiles and talks about her day but her eyes ooze with disgust. She too thinks I’m a freak. She too is afraid of me.
I lay my head on the pillow. And I wait. I wait for the vines to weave their way down my bed, for the leaves to tickle my face, for the forest to grow and the walls to turn inward and outward. I wait for the crash of the waves, for my boat to rock. So that I can escape, through the moonlight, and reclaim my throne.
I wait for the rumpus to begin…