A glass of crazy, p.25
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.25

           Tina Laningham
 
I arrived at school with one goal: Get Rafa back.

  I didn't exactly have a plan, but sitting next to him in Mr. Oliver's class would at least put him within chatting range and I'd worry about the rest after I got there.

  But even before then, everywhere I went, I searched for him, my boyfriend, feeling a rush of freedom in finally admitting it. Getting out of Mom's car, I scanned the area, hiking up stairs, I kept looking back, maneuvering through hallways, I checked every face. And just when I acknowledged how truly pathetic I was, he appeared right in front of me and my heart stopped. Without a word, he squeezed by.

  "Rafa!" I had practically screamed, but he disappeared in the swarming hallway and my eyes darted everywhere, hoping to keep him in sight among the droves of fast paced kids.

  He was gone.

  With my head hung low and my hands shoved deep in the pockets of my jeans, I trudged to my locker, exactly eight lockers down from Megan's. The tip of my finger felt a tiny object in the deepest crevice of my pocket. Megan was there, the traitor. She was too busy rummaging through her locker to notice me and just when I was about to open my mouth and go off on her, I rolled the little thing in my pocket between my fingers. A beautiful flash of light filled me inside-a painkiller! If I swallowed it now, I'd feel euphoric in about ten minutes and then I could handle Megan, Rafa, anything. I dug the pill out, but it was only the tiny, hand carved wooden heart the curandera had given me in Mexico.

  My shoulders slumped. "She's worried about your heart," Gabby had translated for the curandera. I groaned.

  At this point, I pretty much hated everyone, especially Mom for getting all clean and sober at the worst possible time in my life. Okay so I didn't hate Rafa, but he thought I did and that was just as bad. Maybe there was something wrong with my heart. I wanted to hate Megan, but when my eyes rose from the tiny heart in the palm of my hand to Megan's droopy face staring blankly in the locker, it hit me: I knew exactly how she felt.

  When Priscilla and Presley sashayed by and sneered at Megan, I stuffed the heart back in my pocket and drew a deep breath. Megan gently shut the locker and kept her head down.

  "Weird, huh?" I said to Megan, approaching slowly.

  She didn't respond.

  I leaned against the lockers. "Your dad wants you to hate your mom and your mom wants you to hate your dad."

  Megan lifted her eyes and cocked her head, with that why-are-you-being-nice-to-me look that I knew too well.

  "Kinda like being a double agent," I said. "You have to please both of them without the other one knowing." I scanned the crowded hallway. "No one understands, so you keep it all inside."

  Megan's eyes got all watery.

  "Look at them." I squinted at the kids rushing by. "They go home and everybody's still speaking to each other."

  Megan sniffled and said, "We go home and can't say anything because everyone's so angry."

  I made Megan look in my eyes. "The air's so thick you can't breathe."

  "I'm still in trouble for telling Mom I liked the necklace Dad gave me for Christmas." Megan touched the silver and gold chain draped around her neck. "I have to take it off before I go home."

  "That's crazy," I said.

  The bell rang and kids scattered through doorways. That's when it hit me. "We're not the only ones," I said to Megan before heading off to history class.

  While Mrs. Goldstein went on about the criminal court system, I began devising a plan to break out of prison. Megan and I had been handed life sentences for crimes we didn't commit and it was obvious no one was going to save us. By the time I got to Mr. Oliver's English class, my plan had taken shape.

  Rafa slid down in his seat, sulking, but cute, having gotten better looking over Christmas break. His brown eyes seemed rounder, those lips, fuller and that dimple on his chin, deeper. After not seeing him for two weeks, he looked hot.

  "I'm sorry," I whispered. "I'll wear the ring."

  Rafa's eyes slid sideways to me then back to Mr. Oliver, who was lecturing the class on a book we had to read about the civil rights movement since Martin Luther King Junior's birthday was just around the corner. Even though it was truly pathetic, I placed the tiny hand carved heart on Rafa's desk. He stared for a moment and flicked it off like an annoying piece of lint. Getting Rafa back was going to be harder than I thought.

  "Martin Luther King dramatically changed the course of history in the United States of America," Mr. Oliver was articulating, British style. "But is it fair to say he changed the world?"

  Someone actually raised their hand. She went on about how Martin Luther King could have inspired people in other countries to stand up for their rights, but her voice sounded vague because quite frankly, I had bigger things to think about.

  "If you could change the world, what would you do?" Mr. Oliver paused, like he was deep in thought or something. He swallowed some tea and said, "This is your writing assignment today."

  Oh, please. No way could I wrap my brain around that topic, but with Rafa so angry, I needed something to do that would help pass the time. I started writing whatever.

  How I Would Change the World

  I would stamp out hate and try to bring peace to every country in the world. A bumper sticker once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I agree. The world can only be as good as the people in it. I do not believe it is possible to change the world from the outside in. The world must be changed from the inside out.

  If people want to change the world, they have to make sure they are not fighting with the people in their own families first. Gandhi once said, "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change." (yes, Mr. Oliver, I used my phone in class. When are we getting internet access???) Gandhi changed himself first by getting inner peace. After that, he changed India, which inspired Martin Luther King to do the same thing in America. Martin Luther King was also spiritually enlightened before he tried to change anything in the world around him.

  Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King changed the world from the inside out. That means if I want to change the world, I have to get inner peace first. Then and only then can I help the rest of the world. Therefore, the only way to change the world is from the inside out.

  Thank God for the stupid bell. My writing has gone from progressively worse to making practically no sense at all. This paper is proof that journal writing destroys creativity. I started to write a note to Mr. Oliver about that, but stopped. I truly didn't care about the stupid Teen Fantasy Writers novel writing contest anymore. I passed the paper forward and analyzed my real world. Rafa hated me, Megan's whole amazing persona had been demolished, and my family had elevated dysfunctional to a whole new level.

  At this point, I could use a little inner peace. Perhaps this paper would somehow magically come true and one morning I'd wake up feeling all enlightened. I could, you know-stranger things had happened. Like the two stories I wrote at the beginning of the year; they both came true. First the hurricane story, then the one about getting a bunch of money for a new castle. If those things happened, it's entirely possible that whatever magical powers I possess could cause me to change the world from the inside out. But truthfully, I would be happy with a little inner peace.

  On the way to lunch, my idea started taking shape. I ran the plan past Megan and she was in. But I warned her it wasn't going to be easy convincing other kids to participate and if no one did, we would definitely be super embarrassed.

  "We're already embarrassed," Megan said.

  She was right. We had nothing to lose.

  The text message Megan blasted to every kid at school went like this:

  Megan: Student poll by Abby Alexander and Megan Applegate: If your parents are divorced, wear your clothes INSIDE OUT on FRIDAY. This is IMPORTANT!

  We sent it exactly one minute before school got out, since practically everyone checked their messages the instant the bell rang. That night, I posted the message on friendworld, but no one added any comments.

/>   I laid in bed obsessing about it for hours, mostly thinking how stupid Megan and I would look as the only two people wearing our clothes inside out tomorrow. I envisioned a lot of pointing and snickering, which I was certainly used to, but somehow self inflicted humiliation was ten times worse. It's not like I could blame my parents for this.

  The second my alarm blasted, I checked friendworld one more time. Nothing.

  I called Megan.

  "You're still in, right?"

  "Why wouldn't I be?" she asked.

  Clearly, Megan had slept.

  "I was up 'til midnight," she said, "calling all the kids I could think of with divorced parents. They're all in."

  "How many?"

  "Fifteen."

  I kept my mouth shut. At least she had done something. "See you in an hour."

  Friendworld still had nothing. I turned a sweater inside out and pulled the arms through, then did the same with a pair of jeans. With every inside seam showing and pockets flaring out, my fashion statement definitely reflected how my parents' divorce made me feel: Exposed-ugly side out. I flung the backpack over my shoulder and headed to the living room where Mom was sitting on the sofa, waiting.

  With her eyes glued to me, she set the cup down, completely missing the coaster. "New trend?"

  "Apparently," I said, not wanting to explain.

  She grabbed her keys. "Nice pun."

  I had no idea what she was talking about and was too tired to figure it out.

  Usually I jumped out of the car the second we got in the drop-off line, but I squeezed the door handle and glared out the window instead. A group of guys walked by wearing their clothes the regular way, like sane people would do. Behind them, a group of girls dressed normally, too.

  "Bad idea," I mumbled.

  "What?" Mom said.

  Mom's Mercedes crawled up another car space and two girls strolled by chatting. Not just two girls, two seniors-the two prettiest and most popular seniors-and their clothes were inside out. I finally started breathing again and got a panoramic view of the swarms of kids coming from every direction. Counting those with their clothes inside out, I stopped at a forty and let out the biggest sigh of relief.

  I shot a text to Megan:

  Abby: You seeing this???

  She didn't answer and when I got closer to the building, I could see why. Megan was holding court on the steps, surrounded by dozens of kids wearing their clothes inside out. Passing by, I gave her a nod. She winked back and in that moment, our friendship was fully restored to the place where we could read each other's minds. Big smile?

  In my morning class, I got fist bumped by countless of kids of divorced parents. A few girls actually grabbed me for quick hugs and told me stories that were almost identical to mine, except for the part where they broadcast my Dad's affair on TV. The bell finally rang and I was out in the hallway enjoying my natural high until Priscilla got in my face and in a monotone voice said, "Your boyfriend had boy sex behind the curtain in the auditorium." She held up her phone and showed me a photo of Rafa and some older kid looking all shocked. And then she walked away.

  By the time I got to Mr. Oliver's English class, I'd heard it again and again. The more I heard it, the madder I got. Unable to sort it all out, my brain went fuzzy, but one thing became clear: Rafa and Dad were exactly alike and I wished I'd thrown that ring a lot harder at Rafa.

  - 26 -

 
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