When I asked my creative writing teacher how to make a story feel real, she told me "That's simple. Write what you know." -TPP
"You'd have to walk a thousand miles in my shoes
just to see what it's like to be me
I'll be you, let's trade shoes,
just to see what it'd be like to feel your pain,
you feel mine, go inside each other's minds,
just to see what we find."
I chew my cereal slowly, eyes focused on the scratched plastic top of the kitchen table. I live in a shit hole. It smells like one, looks like one, feels like one.
I can hear coughing through the thin wall that connects the kitchen area to my mother's bedroom, a wet, desperate hacking cough.
That means more blood.
I chew and chew and chew.
My mother has never been a strong person. She is the opposite of strong. The pills have made her a skeleton, blue eyes sucked back in her head, eyes that should look like mine but don't.
The cancer has spread to her stomach.
The doctor told my stepfather she has a year at best.
The meds fuck with her mind. Sometimes she cries herself to sleep, thinking I'm dead. Other times, she wants to stroke my face and tell me how I am the greatest son in the world.
When I see her, she's always curled in on herself in the fetal position in her bed, complaining of the cold when its easily ninety seven degrees and our single wall unit air conditioning is broken.
I don't sit with her as much as I should.
My stepfather doesn't sit with her at all. I don't know where he goes, what exactly he does, and I don't care.
I wish he were the one dying of cancer.
The front door opens and closes, the sound of shoed feet coming in my direction, "You here, Grimm?"
I hate when he calls me that. I told him not to fucking call me that. I remember the first time I met him, smelling like cigarettes and expensive cologne, back before my mother started getting sick.
I'd been six or seven, hating him instantly. I didn't like the way he looked at me, touched me. He always touched my hair, saying how beautiful it was, how unique. He had been sad my mother didn't have my blue hair, how it was so fascinating.
"Oh, so you are here. Good," he said, entering the tiny kitchen area. He's bigger than me, taller than me, stronger than me. He never lets me forget it.
I nod, not saying anything. My stomach burns. I don't want him to be here. I can't be here. I don't want him to touch me.
He looks like he's been out drinking all night. He smells like he slept in the street.
It's probably true.
He goes to the refrigerator and ruts around inside, pulling out a can of beer, "What the fuck? Why is there never anything to eat in this shit hole?"
I say nothing, set my spoon down, push my chair back, and stand up to leave.
"I don't remember dismissing you," he said condescendingly, making me halt my progress.
If I don't leave now, I'll be late for school. He knows I have class.
I pick up the brown messenger bag I've had since secondary from the edge of the table, communicating my urgency.
He looks at the bag, then at me, "Come here."
My legs don't move. I feel sick. I can't look in his eyes.
"I said come here."
I know what happens if I don't.
One foot in front of the other until I'm standing near him, near enough for him to slap me hard across the face once, hard enough to jar my head to the side.
I want to scream as his other hand slides into my blue locks, tugging it hard.
I'm not in my body anymore.
His lips are hot against the hollow of my throat.
I can't close my eyes, can't scream. I haven't screamed in a long time.
All I can do is wait for it to be over.
His mouth is by my ear now, his stubble scraping my cheek, "Turn around."
I shake my head violently, fighting panic.
No. No. You haven't touched me in months.
He tugs on my hair harder, the pain in my scalp searing.
I have to go to school. I'm going to be late.
"Sousuke?" a weak voice calls followed by a fitful cough, "Sousuke, my pills…"
I stare at my shoes, sweat damp on my forehead, my fingers curling into fists.
Aizen releases me, a smirk on his lips, "Study hard. I'll see you after school, Grimm."
I leave the house.
Inside, I'm screaming and screaming until my whole body goes numb.
Lunchtime finds me on the school roof.
I took a sandwich from an under classmen, my face and eyes doing all the talking for me, daring him to do something about it.
He doesn't. They never do.
It's something I do often. The prescriptions and rent suck up all my cash. Aizen pays the rent sometimes, but I can never count on him for it.
I'm lucky he helps out at all.
Sometimes, only sometimes, the thought of the money he always has in his pockets, always seems to have no matter how long he's gone from the house, is enough justification, is enough to make my brain shut down for the times he's touching me.
He hasn't touched me in months...
I finish the last of the sandwich.
...but he did.
Then I fish two painkillers out of my pocket and swallow them dry.
Somebody sees me.
It's not unusual for kids to be up on the roof during lunch. It's not unusual for kids to stare at me. It doesn't bother me anymore. I don't know if it ever really did.
The Kurosaki boy is on the other side of the roof, sitting with his back to the chain link fence that wraps around the edge. I recognize two or three other boys from our class and a girl with big tits and a goofy smile.
He's still watching me, almost scowling. His hair is very bright in the sun, very orange.
I stare back, not sure what my own face looks like. The boy sitting closest to Kurosaki nudges him in the shoulder, his mouth moving a mile a minute, forcing Kurosaki to engage with him.
I tilt my head in the direction of Gin, another loner. He's a real creep with strange silver-lavender hair and slit pale eyes that are almost never open. He holds out the lit blunt, smiling.
He's always smiling. He does enough smiling for the both of us.
I accept it; take a few deep pulls before passing it back to him.
This has been going on for the entire school year. This is pretty much the extent of our relationship. I've never talked to him, but he seems to accept my silence. I thought after the first few failed attempts at conversation he would get the hint and float off to bug somebody else, but he never did.
He talks, but not a lot, and he usually has drugs on him. I think this is the only real reason he feels comfortable with me.
Maybe he feels safe with me. I'm a loner, too, been one most of my life. People don't react well to my silence; makes them uncomfortable.
"Shut the fuck up. Stop crying."
I take what's left of the blunt from Gin's bony fingers, finishing it myself. The fuzz swarms my brain, making me warm.
For this single moment, I'm at peace.
"Oi, Ichigo, did you hear anything I just said?" Keigo whines, making me tilt my head in his direction.
I'm annoyed with him, so I'm blunt, "No."
This starts him up on another tangent about friendship and loyalty, but I'm already tuned out again. My eyes look past stoic Chado to focus on the blue-haired boy I'd just watched pop pills.
He wasn't looking at me anymore. He was sharing a blunt with that kid everybody called Snake Face. He was bad news. He'd been transferred to our school after being expelled from the other local public high school for drugs and assaulting a teacher.
So nobody had really been surprised when he'd seemed to bond with Jaegerjaques, another rumored delinquent. I knew Grimmjow had been suspended for fighting more than once and, obviously, he was an avid drug user.
"Delinquents," Ishida said, adjusting his glasses, "Why do they even bother coming to school?"
"Stop staring! What if they hear you?" Keigo said worriedly, looking wildly from me to Ishida.
"At least we wouldn't have to worry about a verbal confrontation," Ishida said, plucking a shrimp from Inoue's bento box, "The blue dog doesn't talk. Maybe he's mute."
"He must be shy," Inoue said offhandedly, sipping from a can of tomato juice, "Maybe he just doesn't know how to talk well. He looks foreign. Oh! Maybe he needs to work on his Japanese…"
"Hm," Chado hummed, stopping Inoue short of one of her classic mindless tirades, "We have a few classes together. Never heard him speak."
I looked at Chado, feeling like the topic was a bit ironic for the notoriously quiet giant.
"Maybe it's brain damage from all the drugs," Ishida said, his tone haughty.
I frowned, "That's not cool, man."
"It's probably true."
"You don't even know him," I said, fighting my famous temper. Sometimes Ishida could be a real prick, although after having met his dad, I'd become a lot more lenient with his personality and attitude.
"Well, 'ta be fair, Ichigo, neither do you," Keigo said, rubbing at the scruff he'd been trying to grow on his chin, "Well, really, if 'ya think about it, nobody does, I guess."
I folded my arms over my chest, relaxing back against the fence, fighting the urge to itch at my forearms.
To be fair, nobody really knows anybody.
"There are worse things than drugs," I mumbled to nobody in particular, hoping the subject was dropped.
My stomach rumbled, hollow. I'd learned to ignore the burning feeling.
"Kurosaki, aren't you going to eat?" Inoue asked innocently, staring at my untouched homemade onigiri.
It's okay. Everything will be fine. Don't think about it.
I took a small bite. My gums ached, the rice feeling like razorblades as it slid down my throat.
When the bell rings and the group splits up in the hallway I head to the nearest bathroom.
I stick my finger down my throat.
I don't have a gag reflex anymore.
My stomach heaves.
I flush my lunch down the toilet.
My arms itch.
Don't think about it.