A/N: So, this is whiny and sort of urban, I guess. There's nothing interesting to say about it. I guess, read it? Oh, and instead of normal quotations, I think most of the time I'll be using these individual six-word memoirs. Right. Yes. Good. Okay.
Someone across the street is endeavoring to set off fireworks. This will end with someone having one fewer eye than he or she started out with, y/n?
I threw away my teddy bear.
- Margot Loren
He couldn't feel things. They would penetrate the surface, and no deeper. The abandonment of a friend was a sort of passing worry, taken selfishly to mean he was not entertaining enough. He could never find it in himself to care. His insides were the surface of Mars.
Zexion was a sociopath.
Not a dangerous one.
But he sat at home and read books which went in one end and out the other, in a bored attempt to find something that might stick to the insides of the wind tunnel that was his mind. He had no need to manipulate people. He wasn't demonic. Maybe he wasn't even a sociopath. Either way, his apathy was astounding. He hated melodrama and people who needed to vent. It was somewhat insensitive, he knew, to call people silly for not dealing with their problems privately and silently, but he didn't and couldn't understand them. Passion did nothing but embarrass him at movies. "God, those two need to get a hold of themselves."
He laughed at the existentialists who tooted that there was no meaning to life, more at the people who said it was futile to look. They did not believe what they said. If they did, they'd be like him: listless and bored and tired. Mind swelled, mind bruised, mind useless. He had made it a game to find goals for himself, but so far the only goal he could find was to find a good goal.
The truth was something he liked, to an extent. Facts did not cease to exist if they were ignored. They could be discovered again at any moment. He liked that idea, but not an awful lot. It was this literal-mindedness which made him so bad at English class. He couldn't shake the feeling that everyone was just projecting their own beliefs onto the words. And then they took any hints they assumed they found and twisted them to fit no matter how they had to bend.
Which was just it. He could find something wrong with anything.
The bath was starting to cool down. He sighed and slid further into the tub, letting his hair float up around him. The film of water tickled the skin around his mouth and nose. That was nice. Sort of.
He was spending a lot of time underwater recently. That traffic cop had mentioned something about being a scuba diver. Zexion decided to give it a try. If someone else liked it, he might like it just as much. He stuck all but his nose under the water, so he could hear nothing but the blood rushing in his ears, and felt the film of water tickle his skin. Being underwater was so…quiet. So he let tendrils of hair swirl and tugged them under to see the strands dissipate. But this did not work.
Perhaps if he could find something he was good at. So far, all he was good at was moping and English class. Moping came naturally. English meant lying, using words and insincere phrases spat out about the meaning of the author's careful organization of events and telling of thoughts. The teachers gobbled it up greedily and wrote book recommendations on the sides of his papers. He'd read somewhere that sociopaths were amazing liars. Maybe this was why essays came so easy to him. He just had to take what life had taught him to feel and spit it back out of his mouth. He didn't have to mean any of it. Or even understand it.
Science was something he did like. He was terrible at it, though. Barely scraped by as average, but he liked it in principle in that it did make sense to him. His like wasn't an active one. It was more of a healthy respect.
The bath was barely lukewarm anymore, so he ran a bar of soap over each of his arms and washed them off once more just to feel the sensation of going from soft dirty skin to the rough, clean kind. He unplugged the drain and got out, wrapping a towel around his waist, running a hand through his hair and glancing at his reflection in the mirror. He wondered if he should brush the grayish mop. Running a finger through it so it parted sideways, staring at the wet strings of hair, he decided it wasn't worth it anyways.
He kept a hand around the towel when he walked to his room, remembering the old appreciation of the thick carpet in the hall on the second floor. He closed the door to his room, walked over to his closet, opened the door with the quiet hush of wood on rug. He hadn't bought new clothing since seventh grade. In five years his body had grown larger but his taste had grown more tired, and he no longer cared that his shirts were a little small and the brightest color he owned was a sort of dead dull blue. He had thrown away the soccer team shirts and the ones with the slogans. They struck up conversations he couldn't perpetuate or support.
So he put on a fraying black shirt and dark brown cargo pants, and a sweatshirt over that because it was cold out today, and put no more thought to the thing.
"Zexion!" his mother called from somewhere downstairs.
"What?" She tended to ruin his moods. He knew he was being a teenager about it, but he couldn't help thinking the worst of her at times, of her unobservant tendencies and the way her emotions would dictate her behavior. A bad day had her snippy and cruel.
"Are you finished in the bathroom?"
Of course he was finished in the bathroom. He'd taken his clothes out and drained the tub and turned off the lights. How could he not be finished? She was a professor but she never noticed anything.
"Yeah," he said, in a way that left little confusion that what he was really saying was more like "Are you stupid?"
He knew it would piss her off, but he said it before he could remember not to. So it was somewhat unsurprising to hear her creak slowly up the stairs one step at a time, muttering to herself about his rude tone and adding passive aggressively before she closed the door, "There's no need to be so snippy, Zexion."
There wasn't. She was right. But if he weren't related to the woman, he would hate her, roll his eyes at how she fawned over the dog and acted like a teenager and couldn't manage to understand that just because he did something didn't mean she was justified in acting the same way.
He found her hypocrisy stifling. That was the teenager talking. Most of the time she was the only thing he could muster frustration for.
With a grunt he sat down on his bed, pulling his backpack closer to look through his homework. It was so full that zipping it closed was a struggle, and unzipping it was like sliding leather pants off of someone's leg. It shouldn't have been that tight in the first place, and when the seal was released the contents burst forth like they were panting from the constraint.
His math teacher never checked the homework, so he would only do half of it, and that only after dinner. He didn't have physics tomorrow. He had to do that worksheet for Chinese, which wouldn't take him more than half an hour, and English was marking up some photocopied passage from a story and history was…studying. Fuck history. So many people were famous he didn't know half their names.
He was feeling one of those frequent Zexionic urges to be seen, for no reason other than that he wanted to be taken out of context. Since his sister had left for college the idea of family dinners had somewhat lessened in discipline, so if he went out for half an hour and "forgot" to come back for an additional hour after that he doubted his parents would get all too mad at him.
"Mom, I'm going to the coffee shop."
"Do you have money?"
"Yeah, I have some left over from before." He didn't have more than seventy-five cents on him, but he wasn't leaving the house for the sake of a cup of overpriced tea. He checked his appearance in the mirror, because he was objective. The idea of going out was that he was no longer Zexion, the high school kid going through senior slump with an interest in interests and a childish mother, but that kid with the dark, funny-cut hair wearing pants with chains in and a sweatshirt carrying around the autobiography of a no-name zoologist. He fancied he was an interesting-looking person, at least, and he wanted to control what he did to control how he was perceived. Quiet boy who sat outside and read his nerdy book. He would smile at people.
Zexion never technically made it to the coffee shop (not that he'd had his heart set on there in the first place). He ended up walking to the somewhat more pretentious part of the city, away from the suburbs and toward the arts college and the two music conservatories, where all the restaurants had French names and every other twenty-something guy had a guitar on his back. He'd taken cello lessons at the nearest conservatory for almost eight years by now (no reason, anymore, but it had seemed like such an exciting idea at ten). Played in a few of the orchestras there after a while, and had gotten used to waiting outside to be picked up by his parent or his sister.
On either side of the stairs leading into the building (fuck but it was a grand building, with marble in the halls and thick red carpeting and gold filigree on the seats in the concert hall, and still managed to seem depressing) was a stone wall, starting the height of the first step and continuing on to shield the stairs until they ended. He hopped up on one of these, careful to avoid the cigarette butts near the drain, and cracked open his book.
Autobiographies were good for reading. At least, the first half always was, before they got into the stories of their current professions. He liked the parts where they talked about school and college. All the stories began to sound similar after a while: they glossed over grade school in thirty pages, made no mention of drama or dating or worrying over grades. College was a little more detailed, meeting so-and-so and something about their future wives or husbands or whatever. More often than not, the authors skirted around the fact that they hadn't been able to choose majors. They scavenged for things. "I was always asking for an ant farm as a child, so I knew I'd be an entomologist!" Yeah, right. Anyone who wants an ant farm is an entomologist.
Zexion didn't want anything. Did that mean he had to be an accountant?
He hardly focused on the books. He was out in the open, perched carefully on a stone wall in an artsy place with young, idealistic people who might be looking at him. So he was shallow. He wanted, at least for the sake of his own convenience, to understand how people worked, and the conversations around him could help, sometimes. It had taken him until he was thirteen to understand that television was not really indicative of reality. The sad thing was that he just regurgitated the sympathetic crap he read in books in real life and people assumed he was a nice and caring person.
A quick glance around provided him with theater kids parading their colorful clothing down the sidewalks, a student parking his car by the curb, a bored traffic cop, a man with a box of refills for the vending machine entering the dorm building opposite.
The traffic cop was the same one that had said something about scuba diving last time. He was always just around. The only time the guy had said anything to Zexion was last week, when he'd been reading a book about Cousteau. "You like fish?" Zexion had nodded, raised his eyebrows, and scanned the crowd of cars for his mother's for the look of the thing. "Hey, me too. Actually, I'm big on scuba diving. You ever done it?" A shake of the head. At Zexion's unresponsiveness, the guy had smiled awkwardly and turned to have a conversation with someone else.
It would have been creepy if the cop hadn't been in his early twenties, probably just out of the police academy or whatever. Old guys talking to eighteen-year-old boys was weird. Young guys was just camaraderie.
A familiar face somewhat ruined the feeling of being a stranger with no connotation. But the self-absorbed part of Zexion wanted him to come over and talk, to show he was the kind of guy who could talk to cops. At the same time there was something completely nerve-wracking about even the idea.
He was…an objectively attractive guy. His hair was a little wonky, and obviously dyed blond, but he smiled a lot. Zexion noticed this all the time. For a policeman, he sure never scowled. But it was kind of unnerving, because you couldn't talk to a policeman the way you could talk to someone else. He always felt like he had to prove he wasn't breaking the law.
But it didn't matter. Zexion shouldn't have worried. There was no reason for the traffic cop to come over and talk to him, anyways. If he were a traffic cop, he wouldn't go around talking to random strangers.
"Hey, it's the book kid!"
Then again, Zexion generally assumed that there was no reason for anyone to talk to him other than to ask about homework assignments. Assuming anything else was just hope and whining, and he was usually right, anyways.
The traffic cop laughed and came to stand closer. "Am I interrupting? You didn't seem like you were reading all too closely."
"No." He wanted to know the guy's motives. "It's fine." Do you need something? What do you want from me?
The cop tilted his blond head a little to the side, still smiling, but daunted with a curious confusion. What would I want from you?
All people ever do is want things.
"You were reading a book about fish last time, right? What's it today?"
Not wanting to answer, Zexion only held up the book so the cop could see the cover. See? Nothing illegal. I'm a good, law-abiding citizen. I'm smart, too, I read these sorts of books for fun. Acknowledge this.
"Ants? Cool. You like ants, I guess?" He got a little closer now, taking a couple of steps up to lean against the wall and smile right at Zexion. What did he want? Zexion couldn't give him anything.
He laughed, a good, copper sort of laugh, the kind that would turn big and booming as he got fat with age. "So why are you reading that book?"
Zexion shrugged, feeling more than done with this conversation. He was ready for the guy to leave again. He was disappointing. He asked boring questions for the sake of conversation.
"You don't know?"
Stop putting words in my mouth, you bastard. I know. I know why I'm reading the stupid fucking book, okay? It would just take way too long to explain, so drop it. A small human part of him inside curled up and hardened around its edges, his vulnerability smashed. He was put off by the strangest things.
"I guess I just wanted to." If the traffic cop was insinuating that he was an indecisive teenager, then fuck him.
"Ah. Sorry, didn't mean to piss you off there." Piss him off? Yeah, he had been, but was that really something you just acknowledged out in the open like that? With a total stranger on a street corner? Well. It wasn't like Zexion knew any better, anyways. He could only assume it was normal, or it was different for the city, or it was different for the police.
He just couldn't function like that.
Zexion was a sociopath.
He didn't understand when people said you shouldn't do certain things, like talk about parties in front of people who hadn't been invited.
"So, you a student here?"
It occurred to him, after he muttered in the affirmative, that the traffic cop probably meant a college student. He'd lied to a policeman. Good going, Zexion. Go ahead, try correcting yourself, see how smart you look then.
"Cool. I have some friends who go here, so it's a good thing I get this shift all the time, huh?" He laughed again.
"Oh. That's cool. It must be nice to have your friends around while you work," Zexion offered, getting in some practice with the whole small talk thing. But no, he couldn't even do that right, could he? As soon as he tried, the cop fell silent.
"Well," he started, at which point Zexion felt an irrational spark of irritation at the correction, "The problem is that they've always got classes around this time…evening classes to avoid morning classes, you know? Lazy music majors." Chuckling.
He grinned at Zexion, sideways, and scratched his neck. "But hey, at least I've got my new buddy…uh…"
He stared at him blankly for a while, letting the man think. "What was your name?" Oh.
What? Why did he need to know Zexion's name? Why were they friends? They'd barely shared a conversation. Did that make them friends? Who decided? He must have been joking.
"Right. I've got my buddy Zexion to keep me entertained!"
"Oh. …sorry." He didn't know why he apologized right then.
"You're a real quiet guy, you know that?"
"What?" He'd heard fine, but hadn't taken the time to process the information; it seemed like the right thing to say. People did that all the time. "I'm going to go grocery shopping tomorrow." "What?" "I said I'm going to go – " "Oh, no, it's fine, I heard you." That sort of thing.
"Never mind. It's not important." The cop yawned and swiveled his head around to look at the source of the honking horn behind him, then turned back. "I'm Demyx. Not that you asked." He laughed, presumably to show he was joking. Zexion let himself wonder what it meant to have a friend who wasn't in high school. Not that he did.
He wouldn't see this guy again – or at least not talk to him, probably – but for now it made him feel important, having a police officer stand there and talk to him like he was something worth talking to.
Zexion was a sociopath.
He didn't understand how people worked.
He was eighteen and he didn't know the difference between banter and flirting.