Chapter 13: Social Pariah
Mike spent the rest of the day with his head down. He had a lot of thoughts running through his mind, and few of them had to do with his school work. As a matter of fact, the closest thing he had to that was an excuse, just in case a teacher called him out for sleeping.
As time passed, and Mike's thoughts festered in his head, he was slowly feeling worse and worse about what he had said to Paulo. What right did he have to say what he did? Mike had to admit to himself that it wasn't all out of anger and some of it was true, but still, Paulo was his friend. Sure, he was a jerk to him sometimes, but if Mike really had a problem, he could have talked to Paulo on his own, instead of in the company of the whole cafeteria. Then again, who was to say Paulo would have listened? Mike had made it clear before that he was getting sick of Paulo insulting him, but how clear had he been? It didn't really matter now though, since there was no way he could take back what he said.
Mike couldn't decide whether or not he was completely too blame for the incident, but it didn't matter. Paulo was his friend and he needed to apologize. He dreaded it with a passion, but he had no choice. He had enough things to deal with, and he just wanted this whole incident with Paulo out of the way. Mike glanced up at the clock. School would be getting out soon. He would catch Paulo and apologize to him then.
Mike's depressed reflections slowly became planning, as he strategized the best method for him to go about giving his apology. Honestly, Mike didn't know what he was going to say. He figured he would just walk up to Paulo, tell him he was sorry, and pray that things didn't go downhill, but there was no real way of telling. Paulo was a touch hard to read, and things could get very complicated very quickly with him. Regardless, no amount of planning could adequately prepare him for the encounter anyway, so he just tried to relax, and do his best to think of a good excuse… just in case Paulo asked him why he had said those things in the first place. He also hoped Abbey kept his promise about keeping the cancer a secret. Mike wasn't ready for everyone to know about it, not yet.
Finally, the bell rang, and everyone in the class quickly made their way out, with the exception of a few stragglers who took their time. Mike was among them.
"… I guess this is it." Mike thought to himself after a heavy sigh.
Mike made his way out of the room and down the hall to his locker. He would quickly grab his stuff and leave to catch Paulo.
"Hey Mike!" David said as he passed Mike, ignoring the events that had happened in the lunch room with innocent obliviousness, most likely heading for his locker as well.
"Oh, hey," Mike responded with a tired tone starting to unlock his locker.
"Hey Paulo! Hey, what's wrong, buddy?" Mike heard David's voice ringing just a few feet away. Sure enough, Mike looked up from his locker to see none other than Paulo walking towards him, and he definitely did not look happy.
"Oh hey, Paulo, I –"Mike began
"Save it Mike, I'm not interested in anything you have to say." Paulo said interrupting him. "You know, you sure have a lot of fucking nerve to call me a wimp, especially since you're nothing but a selfish asshole."
"I-I-"Mike stuttered, stunned by Paulo's up front reaction.
"Shut up!" Paulo yelled in his face, also attracting the attention of the students in the hallway. "You think I'm a wimp? You're the wimp, Mike. You do nothing but bitch about your happy, perfect, little life, and be an asshole to your friends!" Paulo yelled as he walked closer and closer to him, causing Mike to slowly back up into the row of lockers, wide eyes locked with Paulo's. "Look at Lucy. She has been nothing but nice and caring to you, and look at how you repay her. You go and call that… that… skank Sandy." Paulo continued. Mike could feel his hands ball up into his fists as he felt tears of anger forming in his eyes. "Why are you so interested in some long distance relationship anyway? News flash, it's not going to happen!" Paulo screamed in his face.
Mike could feel his heart beating heavily as adrenaline flowed through his body. He wanted to hit Paulo, to tell him that he couldn't talk about Sandy like that. Paulo could say what he wanted; as long as it wasn't about her. But Mike just stood there, every word that came out of Paulo's mouth was another thought, another insult, another dagger into his heart. Was Paulo right? Was everything Mike wanted just a pipe dream? Was everything he ever thought to be true simply a self-imposed lie? "It's because she's a model right? Is that it? Is Lucy not high class enough for you? It amazes me you could get somebody as good as her… and it disgusts me." Paulo said beginning to quiet down, the people in the hallway staring at them intently. "It's amazing a piece of shit like you could ever get any girl for that matter. I just hope they realize how big of a loser you are, Mike. No, I don't hope, I know. They will realize it one day, and you won't have anyone. Then maybe, just maybe, you'll grow the fuck up and be a real friend." Paulo said as he left Mike to think about all the things he had said.
Mike's thoughts seemed to stop moving as he stood in front of the large crowd of people staring at him, all their faces reflecting astonishment, or for some of them, enjoyment. He could feel tears well up in his eyes, as he looked back at all the people, all the people judging him, all the people pitying him, all the people laughing at him. Every muscle in his body seemed sore, his arms shook profusely, and he felt sick to his stomach. For an instant, Mike didn't feel as though things could get any worse, until slowly a clap broke out among the people. Slowly it grew, supporting Paulo and mocking Mike. As if they had any idea what they were cheering for.
It was with that Mike couldn't take it anymore; he quickly pushed his way through the crowd, tears in his eyes and thoroughly embarrassed, and made his way for the boy's bathroom. He entered, and unfortunately there was an individual in there washing his hands, but Mike paid no mind to him or his gaze. Mike simply entered the farthest stall; this time rather compacted in the small space. He could feel tears beginning to build up more intensely as he fell to his knees and began to dry heave into the toilet. Mike wanted to vomit; he wanted to vomit up all the pain and misery in his chest. He couldn't stand it anymore. He needed something, anything to set him free. He didn't want to live like this anymore, and if getting better wasn't an option, he didn't want to live.
After one large, final dry heave, Mike had realized that he wasn't going to vomit, and if he forced himself too, he would only feel worse. He broke out in a stifled sob. He could tell the person from before was still in the bathroom, listening to the pitiful display in the stall, but Mike couldn't take it anymore. He didn't care if the person heard it. He just prayed the boy would take mercy on him and kick in the stall to cut his throat. Set him free of this world and all of its torturous ironies, to free him from Gods never-ending voyage to destroy all that he was.
It wasn't long until the boy left the bathroom, most likely to talk to his friends about the event. Whether it was to judge, pity, or to make fun of Mike, surely, it was one of those. Mike stayed on his knees, sobbing. He had nothing to go back too, nowhere to escape. Whether literally or figuratively, everything had turned against him, whether it was his friends or the denizens of wherever he went. Even his own thoughts failed to grant him any relief. What did Mike have left to cling on too at this point? He had nothing. He was a terrible friend, a terrible person, and he didn't have any time to fix his mistakes. He had to live the rest of his life as a failure. Slowly he would walk into the gates of hell. Then again, who was to say he wasn't already there?
Mike heard the door of the bathroom open.
"Wonderful." Mike thought to himself. He knew it was probably just another spectator. Someone who had clapped at his pain, cheered at his misery, and forged hope from his demise. It didn't matter now anyway, it's not as if any meager reputation he may have had before the event could possibly remain. Now, all that remained was a social pariah. Or maybe this was his problem, the fact he cared at all. Maybe he should care more about his friends. Like it mattered at this point anyway, it was too late.
"Mike, it's me." Lucy's voice rang out, catching Mike off guard.
"Lucy… What are you doing in here? This is a boy's bathroom." Mike responded, his voice showing he had been crying.
"I don't care about that, Mike. I want to know if you're okay." Lucy asked him coming up to the stall door.
She wanted to know if he was okay. Would he have gone into the girl's bathroom if he had been worried about her?
"No Lucy. I'm not okay." Mike replied, still in tears.
"Mike… Please come out here so we can talk." Lucy begged through the door.
"Why? So you can help me? I'm beyond help… Just let me die in peace." Mike replied, trying to keep from sobbing again. Lucy felt tears building up in her eyes when she heard that. What could she possibly do? She knew Mike was desperate, she knew he was depressed, and she knew he was angry, but this? Had he lost all hope?
"No, Mike. Please God, no." She said beginning to sob into her hands as she placed them on the door.
"Lucy, why are you crying?" Mike asked almost angry.
"… I don't want you to die." Lucy said with utter desolation in her voice.
Here he was again, hurting his friend. Mike started off feeling even worse, but soon it dawned on him, she needed him. She cared about him wholly, and he still had a chance to make things right, with himself and his friends. He clawed his way back to his feet, although utter exhaustion was almost consuming him. He unlocked the stall door and as soon as he opened it, Lucy grabbed him in a hug sobbing. Mike was still crying, but he had managed to get a slight bit more control over it.
Mike didn't know why, but something was different. This wasn't regular old Lucy. This wasn't the same person he knew. Or rather, it was the same person, yet he knew, and understood, more about her than ever before. As if they had never been quite able to connect on a certain level. Everything had always been a competition. Lucy trying to prove she had a place in this world by being better than someone like Mike, and Mike trying to hold his title in this world by not being beaten by someone like Lucy. Now, all that meant nothing, they were on the same level, the same mind frame, and the same status. There had always been some kind of difference between them, something that always kept them from getting any closer then arms length, but now that wasn't there. Mike didn't know if it would last forever, but for a moment, he actually felt happy. And slowly, the tears stopped flowing as they held each other.