Thursday, March 25, 2010

Third Person Thursday: Exceptional - Part 1

Today's post is the first part of a story to be told in several installments. It will be continued each Thursday and concluded within three to four weeks. Please Enjoy.

James woke up to his parents arguing in whispers down the hall.

“It’s too much for him. Besides, how can you be sure he’ll be like you,” his mother said.

“He may not be exactly like me, but something’s coming. I’ve already seen the signs,” his father answered, seeming calmer than his mother.

“What signs? What have you seen?”

“You wouldn’t understand. You’re blind to them, but please trust that I’ve seen them. You know I only want the best for him.”

“It’s dangerous!”

James decided he would get no sleep if this went on too much longer, and he wanted his rest. When he woke, he would be thirteen, finally a teenager. He wanted enough energy to celebrate properly. So, he yelled, “Mom! Can I have a glass of water,” in his most pathetic, sleepy voice, but loud enough to be sure they’d hear him.

Without answering, his mother came in with a fresh glass of water. “What woke you up?” she asked, fishing to see what he’d heard.

“I don’t know,” he spared her and drank his water. “Thanks, mom.”

She kissed his forehead and left. He was asleep again within seconds.

The next thing he knew, his mother, father and younger brother were singing Happy Birthday as they stormed his bedroom. Then it was downstairs for his father’s pancakes, which he only made on special occasions. After the table was cleared, he opened the new iPod he had wanted from his parents and the new video game he’d wanted from his brother, which he knew his parents had also paid for. Soon, the morning became like any other and it was time to head to school.

Usually, his mother drove his younger brother to school while he took a bus. “I’ll drive you today,” his father insisted instead.

His father drove the most ordinary of cars. It always bothered James that his father’s vehicle of choice did not fit him. He thought a car was like a pet, it should resemble its owner. His father was a tall man with a muscular physique, a build James had yet to grow into but hoped he might someday. Yet he drove a Honda Civic. A beige one at that. James felt white or black or red would at least be bold and decisive. Beige was the color of one who couldn’t make up their mind.

He got into the passenger seat and watched his father struggle to fit behind the wheel and then adjust his mirrors. The first ten minutes were silent but for the AM radio in the background, too quiet for James to hear what the monotone voices were saying.

“I wanted to have a talk,” his father said, his gaze remaining out the windshield. “You’re a teenager now. You’re becoming a man.”

Oh, no! Not the sex talk, James thought. Couldn’t this wait a day? Couldn’t he enjoy his birthday as much as possible and endure this later?

“I know you think this is going to be about the birds and the bees, but it’s not,” his father reassured him. “But it most certainly is about growing up, and it is about changes.”

James was bored already and he knew the meat of this lecture had yet to start. He found it funny how parents told you they want to talk with you but ended up talking at you. He shifted in his seat to get comfortable.

“Every parent thinks their child is special,” his father began, “but I know you are special. Tell me, have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in at school?”


“Tell me more,” his father said. “In what ways did you feel different from everybody else?”

“I dunno,” James shrugged, not knowing where this conversation was going. “If I do better than other people like with grades or sports, I guess.”

“People give you a hard time for doing better than them? What do you do when that happens?”

“I kind of wish I was more like everybody else. More normal.”

His father sighed and furrowed his brow. James’ response seemed to have caused him pain, like it was the worst possible thing James could have said.

“Don’t worry about normal,” he said. “Normal is easy. Normal is being overlooked and obscure. Normal people drag down the exceptional. That’s what you are. You’re not normal, you’re exceptional. Embrace that.”

“What’s wrong with being normal? You’re normal,” James said with a hint of defensiveness.

His father’s eyes met his. The pained expression was still there. “I know that’s how you see me,” he said slowly, “and I regret that in many ways. But, someday, you’ll understand that I’m more than what I’ve shown you thus far. As your father, you see certain parts of me and there are other parts that…” He sighed again. “The hardest part of all this, James, is that I know you will not understand this now. It will take time.”

He paused, sighed yet again, and put a heavy hand on James’ shoulder.

“Buddy, some people are smarter, stronger, faster or just better at things than other people without knowing exactly why. They are exceptional. The important thing is that you don’t stifle this just to fit in. It’s who you really are. People will be jealous and try to tear you down, but don’t let them. Being exceptional is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Suddenly, they were in front of the school and the car was silent again.

“So, is that it?” James asked.

“Yeah, that’s it. Just remember we had this talk and promise you’ll come talk to me if anything feels different soon, okay?”

“You or mom, right?” he added, feeling his father needed to know he trusted them.

“No, just me,” his father said, and James jumped backward slightly in surprise. “I’d really rather have you come to me. I think you’ll find I understand the changes you’re going through better.”

“Okay,” James responded and grabbed his bag. His father was being weird and he just wanted out of the car now.

“Happy birthday,” his father called after him as James exited and headed toward the school building. Then he drove away.

James barely noticed his surroundings as he walked the same path he walked every day to his locker. If that wasn’t about my body changing sexually, what the hell was that about exactly, he wondered. He drifted through the rest of his morning routine without focusing. The conversation with his father seemed so odd.

He hadn’t realized he was moving slower than usual until the bell rang, signaling he should already be in his homeroom. As James grabbed his last book from his locker and shut its door securely, the top textbook slid from the pile under his arm. As he bent suddenly to catch it, he felt his head glance lightly off his locker. After replacing the book on his stack, he looked up to see a large dent in the metal where his head had hit the locker door.

“Aw crap,” he said and touched his hand to his forehead. While it didn’t hurt now, he imagined he’d have quite a headache later.

A few hours later, when he returned to his locker prior to lunch, James noticed the dent again. Hmm, no headache, he thought. Then he said out loud, “Cheap lockers,” and went to lunch.

To Be Continued…

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