It was 1998, the Year of the Tiger, and I felt like prey.
Band nerd, speech and debate, theatre, chess club, choir, and math/science club were just the beginnings of what would be an overall horrific successful high school career.
Backpack in tow, my best friend and I navigated past pubescent uncertainty and headlong into outright confusion of adolescence.
I was lucky, looking back, to have moved from Colorado a couple years prior, to wind up in a school that celebrated hard work and work ethic, that trusted the students to build their own educational experience and strive to perfect it.
Things changed in April 1999.
April 20th to be exact.
In one fell swoop, two high schoolers changed the course of educational safety. They brought up questions like "What does it mean to create a safe space?" and "What rights do students have in their environments?" and "What are the legal ramifications of protection?".
Once that sun sets, the stars come out, and the Englishmen
get quiet. The wind makes the sails swell a gentle cascading rhythm with the
waves. During the night, I am well. I am free.
"Up, apes," the monstrosity of a man shouts from
the top of the stairs. I have not revealed that I speak and understand English.
English was mandatory in my home. "No, son," my
father would correct. "It is pronounced Free-dum. Write it out, f-r-e-e-d-o-m."
He would smile at me while his gentle hands guided my clumsy fingers. "We
will leave our home, Chichi," he would whisper. "We will leave, and -
make sure your 'o' closes at the top - and you will see the land of plenty.
There will be grain and milk, and you will be full."
The last light of dawn fell to the contours of his face and
made laurels of his greying temples. "I will be there with you, Chichi.
Now, pronounce it like Dr. Wellesly."
We would sit in the dark corner of our home, l…
Sequencing was the job of Harper Sigma, and getting him to shut up was more difficult than Splitting. So, we brought him along only when we needed him. Of course, hindsight’s 20-20, and now I was staring at a rotary dial phone with an ornate cathead receiver and a noose for a cord.
843, I try.
8.4.3, I try again.
The line was dead as far as I could tell; the only response I got was a single, unconvincing tone, but it was all just the same. His mind was a steel trap. Quite literally.
“What we got, Alpha?” Tau startled me.
“We got… squat,” I mutter.
Tau holds his hand up to his face to block the filtered sunlight that bounded through the broken windows and crumbling parapets. “You think he’s in there?”
Robert Cutcheons. Man made of money. Man made of fame. Man made of death.
“Yes,” I say, the gravity in my voice making me sound more confident than I felt. Beta sidles up next to us and reaches around my shoulders, hugging me reassuringly. He was kind that way. Kinder than I was.