Before Narcotics

I’m standing in front of the Hampton Township School Board.  There’s a small crowd of doctors, lawyers, CEOs. I can see Ms. Lewellen towards the front, my neighbor, and board member. She keeps licking her thumb and index finger and stroking her right ear, an obvious tic. Luckily mine are easier to hide.

The superintendent hands me a wooden plaque with my name on it next to ‘Highest Score in Reading on Standardized Test for Eighth Grade”. I mumble a thank you and try to smile at my parents. My face is burning, and I just want to go home. The kitchen wasn’t cleaned after dinner and I know that something terrible is going to happen if it’s not spotless before I go to bed. I’ve moved on from putting nail polish in my hair and picking it out strand by strand to making sure all of the papers my mom keeps lying around are in perfect alignment. They keep catching me throwing away bills and magazines and yelling at me. My mom thinks I’m punishing her.

My father isn’t impressed by much. His Dad was a brilliant chemist and if he brought home ‘B’s there was hell to pay. The same sentiment has carried over to my house, but now it is said with a laugh. But he’s impressed by the award and he and my mom talk about my brilliance in the car on the way home. I stare out the window and wish they wouldn’t say such positive things about me. At least while I’m in earshot.

We pull up the concrete driveway my father coats in linseed oil every three summers. Light is pouring through the 19 picture windows and 6 skylights that make up the center of the cedar house on the hill. “Fucking kids keep leaving the lights on” my father mutters. My mother let Tim Taylor’s sister-in-law convince her to paint the center atrium a warm terra cotta color. The scaffolding is still up, but I’m in love with the color. It looks like it would taste good if you licked the swirled plaster.

My Dad goes to bed so he can get up at three to manage the chain of dry cleaning stores. Per usual my mom stays up doing work and watching Law and Order. She is the chief financial officer of a pharmaceutical company and has problems telling her boss no. Fortunately, the same behavior has carried over to her dealings with me, my little brother, and older sister. Eventually, she falls asleep with fat-free cheez-its next to the English bulldog on the floor.

When I’m finished in the kitchen I retire to my bedroom to read and watch The Nanny. I put a towel in the crack under the door so my Mom won’t see the light when she goes to bed after my father leaves. I stay up until 4am, sleep through three alarms the next morning and miss Lacrosse practice. I’d rather be alone at night with my thoughts than throwing a rubber ball around anyways. Not being rested for school isn’t an issue either since I usually nap during class.

I don’t like talking to my classmates, and I sit in the back, disinterested in what the teacher is saying. I’ll read it in the book later in my room after rearranging my furniture.

I’m missing something.

But can’t articulate what it is yet.

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