Gary is bored.
Admittedly, he's always bored. As an ADD-inflicted fifteen-year-old self-proclaimed boy genius stuck in the worst school in the USA, he has every right to feel that way. The lessons, the teachers, the students - they're all beneath him, to put it bluntly. Dull. Stagnant. Nothing ever changes at Bullworth, especially the people. It's thoroughly depressing.
... And boring.
It's driving him absolutely nuts, and not in a good way. What Gary needs is simply something to do. Something brilliant. Something needs to happen that'll distract him from the mind-liquifying monotony, something that will challenge and inspire him and actually make him feel something through the constant haze of medication. Just something...
Nothing does happen, of course. Instead, Gary gets double math homework and a migraine.
When Jimmy Hopkins is expelled from his seventh school, his mother declares that she's had enough. Okay, so she's been saying that since the first time it happened, but still... Today, it's almost like she actually means it.
His brand-new stepfather has to offer his own solution to The-Problem-That-Is-Jimmy, naturally, even though it's none of his god-damned business. He suggests a boarding school, an expensive one geared at reforming snot-nosed little ruffians, and he smirks at Jimmy in the kind of way that makes him want to punch the interfering old phony's mouth right off his saggy fucking face. He manages to restrain himself, thankfully. The last thing he needs is to get in any more trouble right now.
Surprisingly, Jimmy's mom disagrees with the old coot. After years of pawning Jimmy off on anyone who'll take him, after the multiple reform schools he's been sent to over the years, she's finally decided that they don't work. She's going to keep him near home, she declares, where she can keep an eye on him.
It's odd. It's like she's actually decided that after fifteen years, she wants to be a mother after all. A small, buried little part of Jimmy can't help but wonder if this is going to be the moment that his life turns around.
It's only after Hallowe'en that Gary realises that he is now officially Tired Of Everything. Even the sight of Petey squirming uncomfortably in his fluffy pink rabbit costume isn't enough to raise a genuine smile from him. He'd really been looking forward to Hallowe'en in his own way, eager to experience anything different from the norm, but...
It's still the same old shit, isn't it? Kids picking on other kids, except with costumes and candy.
His own costume goes unnoticed by everyone, teachers and students alike. It's a travesty, he thinks, and he feels a little burst of indignant rage foaming up inside him, bubbling underneath the numbing fog of his medication. He's dressed as a Nazi, for God's sake - a fucking Nazi! - and nobody even blinks. Putting the outfit together had been a complete waste of time. He should've just worn that dumb old skeleton costume and saved himself the effort...
Gary heads back to the dorms earlier than he'd planned, the night soured beyond all hope of redemption. It's like he's invisible, or something. The most acknowledgement that Gary gets from most people is a kind of vague disgust. Okay, the nerds are afraid of him, but there's a vein of contempt pulsing away beneath that. The fact that even Pee-Stain Algernon feels superior to him on some level is intensely insulting. It's the cliques' fault, of course. Everyone knows that. In Bullworth Academy, if you don't belong to one of the cliques then you don't have an identity. You're nobody. You don't fucking exist.
That's definitely what he needs. An identity. Infamy. If he can be someone, if he can attain some kind of power, then he can do things. Stir things up. Break out of the routine. It's just not happening, though - half the school doesn't even know his name. He's just 'the Smith kid'. That's the worst, he thinks. Smith is common and boring and generic and everything that Gary hates in this world.
People shouldn't just know his name; they should fear it.
As he and Petey walk through the dormitory doors, Gary elbows him none-too-gently in the ribs. "I'm so sick of this shit. It's driving me fucking insane," he says, in a rare moment of complete honesty. "Why doesn't anything ever happen around here?"
Petey shrugs sleepily and gives him a sympathetic little smile, but he isn't really listening and Gary despises him for it.
After the divorce, Jimmy gets expelled yet again and simply never bothers going back to school. He was hating it anyway, and it wasn't like he was learning much, but it's still slightly worrying to think of himself as a dropout. A fifteen-year-old fucking high-school dropout, no less.
"It's your fault," his mom hisses, and he isn't sure whether she's talking about the expulsion or the divorce. Probably both. She'd cancelled the honeymoon that she'd planned with Mr. Phony in favour of staying at home with Jimmy, see, and then the arguing started. The arguments were mostly about him, from what he could tell, and about how his mom should've just sent him to boarding school like his stepdad had suggested.
Hah. Like some fruity old private school could've ever kept him in line, anyway. James Hopkins isn't easily tamed, as he's proved so well over the years.
The rational side of him reasons that the divorce wasn't his fault - his stepfather was a moronic control freak who didn't respect his mom one bit, and she'd been bound to disagree with him and piss him off at some point. One argument about one problem can't destroy an entire marriage. Jimmy still feels guilty, though. He's not a malicious kid, it's not like he wanted this to happen, even if he did really hate the guy...
So he tells her that it doesn't matter, that she doesn't need that ugly old jerk anyways because she's better than that, and he'll help out however he can. It doesn't do much. His mom just gets angrier, and then Jimmy gets angry too because he was only trying to help, and they shout and scream and then —
"I wish you'd never been born," she screeches, and means it.
Things are never the same again. How can they be, after that?
Gary's having migraines and trouble sleeping on a regular basis, these days. It's the medication. He knows it is. He stops taking it for a short while, which helps. The only problem is that then he's able to think, and contemplating the shitty hopelessness and drudgery of his situation is more than he can handle right now.
(Do you know what torture it is to be thinking all the time?)
So he goes to the doctor to talk about it and hopefully get the offending meds swapped out. Simple. No big deal. He's switched his medication eleventy-billion times before, after all. Except instead his doctor asks him a million irrelevant questions about feelings, smiles a very patronising smile and tells Gary that he's depressed. Gary is prescribed yet another set of pills to choke down every day, which is just lovely, and the doctor cheerfully tells him that things will be better now. The headaches and sleeplessness are a symptom of his depression, you see, and it's all just in his head.
In my head, Gary repeats, and the urge to spit in the man's face or headbutt him or something is so violent and sudden that he actually tastes blood at the back of his mouth. Of course they're in his fucking head, where else would they be? His foot?
He dumps the new medication in the toilets the minute he gets back to the school, and after a moment's hesitation he tips his ADD meds down there as well. They swirl madly in the water as he pulls the handle down and flushes, all the different pills spiralling around and forming a vibrant little spiral of colour. It's almost beautiful.
It doesn't make him feel any better, though. At this point, he's not sure what would.
Enveloped in darkness, Jimmy stares up at his bedroom ceiling in uncharacteristic, self-pitying silence.
It's stupid for him to be feeling so down. His life isn't so bad, he thinks. It could definitely be worse. He's been in some really crappy situations in the past, after all, and he has the scars to prove it. At least nowadays there are no asshole teachers giving him dirty looks, no psycho bullies hanging around who need to be taught a lesson...
Huh. Maybe that's the problem.
All his life, it's felt as though Jimmy was fighting for something. He's never been sure what that thing was, exactly, but he's feeling its absence keenly. What's that phrase? A rebel without a cause? Yeah. He's one of those. He can fight, he can keep going as he's always done, but somehow it all seems so... so futile. Nothing to fight for, nobody to fight against. What would be the point?
A thud from downstairs alerts him to his mother's return home. Jimmy keeps staring at the ceiling and tries to concentrate on the sound of his own breathing instead of the noises coming from below. It doesn't work. More thuds, the sound of breaking glass, a slurring, drunken moan...
He inhales, exhales, and tries to pinpoint the moment when things became so fucking bleak that he started having to remind himself to breathe.
When Gary turns sixteen nobody remembers, notices or cares. He spends his birthday seething quietly, and when Petey finally asks him what's wrong he snaps and punches him in the face.
The resulting detention is (of course) boring, but at least it gets him out of art class. It's been particularly bad lately. After all, Gary thinks, if there's anything worse than having to sit through Miss Philips imploring people to search for the colour and vibrancy in their universe, it's having to hear her whining about how dark the world is these days and how difficult it is to perform artistically when there's no spark of light to keep her going...
She's really not been the same since Mr. Galloway got himself fired.
Back in the dorm, all alone, Gary turns on the TV and slumps down on the couch. He knows Petey will eventually forgive him in the name of friendship, but he doesn't much care. Why should he? He doesn't want friends. Other people are annoyances. Mindless fucking cattle. He realises it, now - what Gary wants, what he needs, is a nemesis. The Sherlock to his Moriarty, perhaps; the ever-vigilant Batman to his unpredictable Joker...
He looks up at the TV, where a cartoon rabbit is setting fire to a short, bald, stupid little man. It takes Gary a few seconds to realise that he's actually jealous of Bugs Bunny, because at least he has Elmer Fudd to scheme against.
Bugs fucking Bunny. It can't get much sadder than that.
He sees Petey in the dorm later that evening, a bruise already blossoming underneath the femmey little twerp's eye. It's oddly satisfying - Gary has left his mark, quite literally. Pete won't be forgetting anyone's birthday again in a hurry. As the smaller boy scurries away, clearly not in the mood for confrontation, a tiny little seed of an idea takes root in the back of Gary's mind. If he could leave his mark on the entire school, then...
"Ain't I a stinker?" Bugs snickers from the TV, and Gary genuinely smiles for the first time in months.
Funnily enough, nobody in town seems to want to employ a fifteen-and-a-half year old boy with no qualifications and a well-documented problem with authority. The only job Jimmy is able to find is as a paper-boy. Hardly the stuff of dreams, he thinks, but he does it anyway.
You take what you can get, right?
So he cycles around the streets, mindlessly flinging newspapers in the direction of people's doors, and he tries not to think about his life. Okay, fine, it's not like he was ever destined for greatness. None of his old schoolteachers or ex-classmates would be surprised to see him now. But he can't help but feel like there should have been something more...
Everyone probably thinks like that, he rationalises sensibly. Kids grow up thinking they're going to be firemen or astronauts, then grow up to land a shitty nine-to-five office job that they hate just like everyone else. It's not just him. And besides, he's only fifteen, it's not like his life is over. Right?
... Why do the words sound hollow, even inside his own head?
He has a spare copy of the paper left over when his round is finished. Jimmy flicks through it without much interest. Same old, same old. A story about a kid who burned down a school catches his eye. Now that, Jimmy thinks with a certain level of admiration, is a stylish way to get expelled. Going out in a blaze of glory. He's almost jealous. He's been expelled for arson himself once before, though not on such a grand scale: he'd been ten years old, fallen in with the wrong crowd (as usual), taken up smoking, then accidentally set his own desk on fire by stashing a not-quite-stubbed-out cigarette inside it.
Stupid mistake. Still, it cured him of the habit quickly enough. Jimmy hasn't touched a cigarette since then. Hell, despite his many problems, he's a pretty clean-living kid. He doesn't smoke, never uses drugs, and he's not even had a sip of alcohol since his mom started —
... Well, since he's seen the kind of thing it can do to a person.
Jimmy folds up the newspaper and dumps it in the trash. He's never been much of a fan of reading, after all, and the pyromaniac story was the only interesting thing in there. The name of the school - Bullworth Academy - seems familiar, but he can't quite remember why...
He shrugs. Ah, well.
It's not like it matters or anything.