The teenage boy, huddled in an over-sized, sweatshirt, stumbled through the halls, making himself as small as possible. He kept his gaze averted, staring only at the shoes he passed. Converse, riding boots, flip-flops, heels. He knew each pair well. He had been staring at the ground for a long, long time.
The bell rang, and the hallway cleared, but he continued walking his sorry path, searching for secrets in the tiles, searching for a reason to survive. They had yet to give him any; the faded-white, grey-speckled answers had not come. He wasn’t sure if he could continue walking. In fact, it was as if the world pulled his bones into the earth, as he shrunk down, leaning against the lockers, his knees slowly allowing him to collapse to the floor. He sprawled himself onto the ground, and then collected himself, making his limbs neat, a straight line. He wouldn’t want anyone to think he were lazy.
Opening his eyes, he found a new sight: the ceiling. The straight beams ran the length of the hallway, disappearing into the wall. Where did they go? He wondered. What happens when we can no longer see them?
His hood fell away, his face exposed at all sides. So engrossed in thought, so distracted, he failed to hear the steps echoing through the hallway, approaching him.
“Yo, man, you okay?” A husky voice asked. The boy closed his eyes and imagined the face it could belong to: a wide chin, strong nose, stinging eyed type, or a soft-featured, feminine, mouse. Did it really matter?
The boy didn’t respond. Why would he give his voice to someone who doesn’t matter?
“Seriously, are you okay?” The voice was closer, his shadow covering the boy.
The teenager wondered how to escape the situation, how to avoid discovery, how to avoid talking, how to avoid facing the world once more, the cruelty that is human nature, the hopelessness that is life, the purposelessness that is living, an unanswered question that would never have a solution. Why live a question whose only solution is death?
The voice sat down next to him, and began talking.
“Just one of those days, ay? I get it, I really do. I’ve had too many of those, yknow? Most people wouldn’t expect it of me, but sometimes I just want to collapse into myself, and drink the world away, hide from reality, because sometimes, I find that it lacks a purpose… that’s usually what I think, honestly. Sometimes I blame my parents for that, their arguments, the safe-haven that was never home, but it comes from nothing but myself. Hell, I don’t even know if you can hear me… I don’t even know if you exist. I don’t know that I’m not crazy, locked up in a psychatric facility, living out this life in a drug-induced coma. I guess I’ll never know. Just know that I assume you exist, that you’re not alone… that I understand. You’d be surprised how much of oneself a person manages to hide…”
The voice stood up, and as it walked away, the boy turned and saw his back, the back of his English teacher, walking through the door into the other hallway, out of sight, and maybe out of existence… but does that really matter?