On our first day at Saimre Joseph Prep, we miss our first four periods—Gus forgets what time classes start. I’m put in the seventh grade, and Remi’s good enough for ninth. After eating lunch alone, I’m instructed to head out to the open blacktop with my cohort. Where to walk, what to do, and who to approach, I freeze at the sight of scattering outdoor activities—to discover a learning sea of kids inherits the same walking habits adults uptown practice.
The difference came by them looking up to greet me.
“Rigil, are you Rigil? My friend thinks you’re hot!” Three curly-haired girls, one brunet, and a boy standing behind me mull over.
“What? Who’s saying that?” I ask.
The kid, who I presume is this group’s leader, responds, “Do you like it here? You’re not from here, huh?”
I remain quiet as they examine my corduroy blue and white-collar half popped. The brunet steps closer. “Oh my gosh, can I feel your hair?”
I let her.
Annoyed for not knowing which girl says I’m cute, I accept their invite anyway to play a hopping-in-the-box-like game.
This is where I hop.
“You’re not doing it right; you have to hop, hop, step into this square, and then jump with one foot to finish inside the lines.” The boy instructs with each foot.
“Okay, cool, I’ll try again.”
“Back in line and wait your turn, again.” With his finger in which I wish to snap, it points past five kids to the end of the line.
“Do you play basketball?” A kid asks, standing in line. “No. I’ve never touched one.”
Relieving edging gas at the school’s double door entrance, I peek back around the brick wall, and the boys are back at it without me. I figure it’s safe to wait here until the lunch bell sounds off.
The moment it rings, kids scatter out of a recess scene to gather inside for class. As the first to enter my sixth-period classroom, I find my assigned seat at the far left with a clear view of the clock.
The teacher enters. “And you must be?”
“Um, my name?”
“You’re Remi’s younger brother, aren’t you?”
“Yes. She’s my sister. I’m Ahliko.”
“Rigil?” She asks.
“Great to meet you, Rigil. I’m Mrs. Schmidt. Today’s lesson should be exciting.”
Kids outside the classroom get louder, slamming locker doors as their shoes thump closer through the hallways. A group of six enter the room, and Mrs. Schmidt tries to quiet them. The last kid of the group walks in with his hat backwards, pointing directly through me, giggling to the others. “Guys, guys, we get sloth hands.”
“Tokaiya, not today,” Mrs. Schmidt warns.
One girl remains staring, covering her mouth. And her two friends looking down remind me of a free breath to take.
Mrs. Schmidt approaches my desk and kneels to ask. “The earlier class had your sister get up to introduce herself. Would you mind?”
“Great. Just tell everyone your name, where you’re from, and how—.”
“I meant no; I don’t want to.”
“Why not? It’ll make you feel welcome and let everyone know you’re friendly…Alright, I know a shy eye when I see one. I’ll let them know who you are.”
I raise my hand after she announces my presence. With a polite welcome from the class, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad getting up there.
But then three more kids at my seven o’clock spit an earful of chuckles.
The monster says they’re laughing at me.
So, I can’t help but dream up each of their colluding corpses lying in our most recent passing caitya out of Bhavana.
Budd’s unsure when Rigil journals this. Maybe two months after Rigil watches his nomadic best friend from college commit a tragic oops above SouthStation’s tracks? This scene drives him to string these insignificant moments leading up to the happenings beside tracks two and three. Or he cares to let you know he’s an asshole. His attitude’s how he chooses to protect his solace—a mystical happy place he abstracts in flight to TheDistrict’s Port Avanti airport. That’s the territory of states along our Atlantic Coastline where nine states conform. West coast sounds next.
As of today, the places he writes about aren’t found on the internet. And America seems to be experimenting with new ways of well-being for thriving citizens. So, he’s writing decades from tomorrow.
Anyway, back to Rigil. This disruptive refugee. Aloof to his trauma.