Veronica Genesis sat nervously in class trying to focus on the puzzling geometry book spread out before her. She lifted her head and painfully watched Mrs. Anderson’s back as she scratched something into the green blackboard with a thick piece of white chalk. She was wearing a yellow blouse and black pants that were too tight for her and Veronica thought she looked like a bumblebee painfully stuffed into a sausage casing.
Her blonde hair was pulled back tight into a ponytail, and it bounced as she frantically worked to complete whatever equation she was trying to complete. It was all a foreign language to Veronica. She hated math. She hated equations and formulas and calculations that to her seemed so meaningless in the scope of real life. She wanted to be in art class drawing pictures of hopeful summer days with colored pencils and inky markers that somehow only smelled good to her; every other girl in the class crinkled their nose and said, “Eww,” when she would push them toward a face. Maybe she was destined to become some sort of non-traditional and pushy drug addict. The boys never smelled their inky markers for some reason, and she never forced it upon them. She didn’t know why.
Veronica looked across to the side of the room near the windows and there sat an empty, cold desk. No one had seen or heard from Andy Bliss recently, and at that very same moment as the girl thought about it and how she was practically involved, his parents were a few blocks away at the sheriff’s office on the square and they were sitting at the desk of a detective and reporting their son as missing. His mother was crying. His father was pained with worry. A younger brother somewhere else didn’t care.
And then all that dissipated in Veronica’s mind as the door to the classroom opened and Adam Longo stumbled in.
Heads shot up and turned in unison toward the front corner of the classroom. Geometrical-minded Mrs. Anderson stopped what she was doing and lifted her chalk away from the board. She was puzzled, angry, and emphatic all at the same time. “Adam?” she said. “Is everything okay?”
He looked at her and then he turned to look at the sea of faces lined up neatly in rows and he felt their mocking stares and he heard the whispers and he caught onto the teasing, muffled laughs. But he ignored all that and his focus bore into Veronica like a huge drilling machine on a mission to the center of the Earth. “Everything is fine,” Adam said to Mrs. Anderson without really seeing her.
The teacher looked him up and down. His clothes were dirty and torn in places. His shoes were muddy. His black as night hair was uncombed and flat from not being shampooed. His face displayed a draculian pallor of death. And then she noticed his hands. There were streaks of what looked like dried blood on them, as if he had tangled with a rose bush. “Adam,” she repeated. “Will you wait for me in the hallway?”
He broke the mental connection he had with Veronica and sleepily gazed at his teacher. “The hallway?”
Giggles rippled through the classroom. “Yes. Please,” Mrs. Anderson answered. “Right now.”
“But I’ve come to do my math lessons. I need to learn how to do my problems.”
“He’s got some problems all right,” someone in the crowd murmured, and there was more laughing.
Then Adam patted at himself and looked around in a sudden state of confusion when he realized he didn’t have his schoolbooks with him. “They must be in my locker,” he said aloud.
Mrs. Anderson pointed with a stern finger and repeated herself. “In the hallway, Mr. Longo.”
Again, snickers rose among his classmates, and he looked into them deeply and recorded and filed the memory of who they were before turning and stepping out of the room.
“Do you get a kick out of disturbing my classroom, Mr. Longo?”
Mrs. Anderson had him backed against a wall on the opposite side of the hallway. She was so close to his face that he could smell the abundant makeup that nearly dripped from her own face. Her mouth was thick. Her eyes looked like watered space jewels, and they contained all the colors of an English garden somehow. Her skin was seemingly flawless beneath the masking powder. He almost loved her.
“I’m sorry I was late,” he said. “And that I didn’t have my math book.”
“And what is all this?” she wanted to know, taking a step back and gesturing with her hands. “You look like you crawled out of a garbage dump. Don’t you have more self-respect than that?”
He just stared at her oddly and didn’t know how to answer. But instead of telling her that he had an inkling that she was right, it was all still too foggy to him and he instead said nothing.
She clamped her lips tight and shook her head with frustration. “You certainly are an odd young man,” she said. “I want you to go to the restroom and clean yourself up. And then I want you to report to the school nurse. You don’t look well. Don’t come back until you do. Understand?”
“I understand,” Adam Longo answered.
She shot a wondering sigh in his direction, turned, and went back into her classroom.
It was just a short time later when she turned from the blackboard to address the class about some sort of puzzling triangle, when something out the window caught Mrs. Anderson’s attention. It was Adam Longo, and he was power walking across one of the playing fields behind the school. He was recklessly waving his arms around and it appeared as if he was arguing with the oxygen. She excused herself and quickly went out and cautiously ran down a corridor, the bottoms of her shoes making an echoing tapping sound against the glossy school tiles as she went. When she reached the end at the exit, she pushed on the metal bar of the door that led to the back side of the school. Sunlight and air burst in as she stepped out.
“Adam!” she called out to him. “You can’t just leave! Adam! Get back here! You’re my responsibility!”
He paid her no attention and he just kept on going. When he reached the low chain-link fence at the boundary between the playing field and the wild lands of a fresh yet downtrodden suburbia, he leapt over it like an animal and disappeared down into a mound of brush and trees and into a ravine the depth of a tall man and it bore through the landscape brown and crooked like a jungle river with the light of day looking down upon it through the canopy thoughtlessly rearranged by man. He moved through it like a piece of electricity.
MORE TO FOLLOW
You can read the previous part of this story HERE.