My skin plastered itself to the vinyl seat. Every movement sounded like fruit roll-ups being peeled away from saran wrap. The summer temperature rose above the pavement. The heat waves wobbled in front of me. Puddles of water stood on the highway in the distance. It was the first day of the rest of my life. I wanted it to vanish like a mirage.
The brace harnessed around my neck suctioned in the perspiration. I wore it as a mere guise to distract from the inevitable. Who was I fooling? This spongy apparatus became an irritant like lingering mosquitoes that one bats away to no avail. It clung to flesh as an adhesive to a wound. My pulsating bruise clawed much below the surface. I knew I could no longer hide no matter how hard I tried to disguise.
Those Viacom commercials had spun me into a deep depression. I owed that to being cocooned in blankets upon the hospital bed a few months prior. The succinct, riveting pitches in their tunes sent chills down my spine. I correlated those irrevocable sounds to the reality confronting me. Day-time television pacified me, but those days were over. And now, the click, click, clicking signal for the final left-hand turn dealt a punch in my gut. My high school stood on the right. Flashes of people in my peripheral sped by.
I’d rather had face the guillotine. Societal influences had my head in other ways. I permitted the few names lashed out to pigeonhole me into a categorization. I became captive to the perception of others, defenseless in the vicious cycle of mind games. I could not win. Defeated, I did not venture a rebuttal. The key to my self-esteem had been locked, thrown away forever. The messages communicated. Labels associated. I lived in a cesspool of lies. I floundered in stagnation. I enabled even misconstrued intentions to get the best of me. A look here…a nod there…I often misinterpreted what people were conveying.
The gears downshifted. The brakes applied. The drowned out noises resurfaced. The music on the stereo boomed. Voices heard from our rolled down windows came from the sidewalk curb. My stepfather pulled into the parking lot. There was nothing to say. I sat in the passenger seat hoping to melt away. Mortified, I had started counting down since the beginning of July. In a blink of an eye, this was now August. I listened to the bells ring indicating the start of a day, a year, a new life. I felt like a dead man walking. How dare I possibly live?
The first day of high school plucked me from any routine that provided comfort. It forced me out of seclusion to being exposed. The training wheels had disappeared. On my own without neck braces or other forms of masquerades, this was me. This was it. Was I going to walk? Or would I crumble in fear? Those questions blasted the rallying cry. Family and only a few committed friends sacrificed everything to speak love to me. And for the next six years, I relied on intensive counseling to revive truth back into me.
Life is an arduous road. I knew it before, but my traumatized high school experience heightened it. That day, I stepped from a vehicle of familiarity into a means that has transported me to other places. I have faced many dark days, sleepless nights, and hopeless tomorrows. It has been a long ride. And then…those irrevocable sounds chime. They resound, and more often than not I hear them ever so faintly. My tracks ahead may be muddied at times. Nonetheless, they still extend into the horizon.