Please let me get from my house to the bus stop without running into any other kids.
And when I get to the bus stop, please let the kids there be embroiled in some kind of conversation, so they don’t pay any attention to me. I promise I will not say a word, and I will stare at the ground, trying as hard as possible not to exist.
If a kid does talk to me, please don’t let me say anything stupid, or anything that will give them an excuse to make fun of me. Like when that one kid asked me what I was listening to on my Walkman, and I said, “The Little Shop Of Horrors soundtrack,” and everyone laughed and laughed, because that’s not what you’re supposed to listen to.
When the bus comes, please let the seat behind the driver be available, because that’s the safest seat on the bus. If that seat is not available, then please let me get a seat in the first three rows, because the further back you go on the bus, the worse it is. And please let me get a seat to myself, so I don’t have to spend the next 25 minutes sitting next to someone who’s resentful they got stuck sitting next to me instead of one of their friends.
When we get to school, please let me get off the bus, and walk through the crowd of kids to my classroom without getting pushed, called a name, tripped, or having my backpack stolen. I promise I will not make eye contact, and will use all my concentration to not bump into anyone.
When I do bump into someone, please let them be the kind of kid that actually accepts an apology. Please let them just smile and say, “No problem.” If they’re not that kind of kid, please let their punishment be brief, please just let them call me a few names, and let that be that. I promise I will walk better next time.
If I make it to my locker without anything going wrong, please let me remember my combination, and please let me get it right the first time. If I stay in one spot too long, that’s calling too much attention to myself.
Please let me get to homeroom at the exact right time, so I can sit down just as the teacher starts talking. Because if I’m any earlier, then I will have to sit there staring at my desk while the other kids talk around me. And while it is in my best interests to not engage with anyone, it’s just as awful to be reminded that I’m never part of the conversation.
But at the same time, please don’t let me get to homeroom late, because then the teacher will point this out, and everyone in the classroom will stare at me and laugh as I shift awkwardly from foot to foot. If I do get to homeroom late, please let me just get to my seat without stumbling, because everyone is still staring at me, everyone is always staring at me.
Please don’t let me get called on in any of my classes. Please don’t ask me to speak in front of the class. If I do have to speak in class, if I do have to say or do anything that’s not staring at my desk, or straight ahead at the chalkboard, please let me have the right answer. Please don’t let my voice crack, please don’t let me try to say something clever, or make a joke, because nobody thinks I am funny, and everyone thinks I am weird.
Please let me have remembered my lunch, so I don’t have to go to the cafeteria. If I remembered my lunch, and I don’t have to go to the cafeteria, I can eat my lunch in the library, and read magazines in peace.
In the event that I forgot my lunch, and I do have to go to the cafeteria, please let there be an empty table, because nobody wants me to sit with them. But at the same time, please let that empty table be on the periphery of the cafeteria, because if I have to sit by myself at a table in the middle of the cafeteria, I might as well have a spotlight on me.
Please let there be a weirder kid sitting near me, and let them get food thrown at them today. Let them get their lunch knocked on the ground, their chocolate milk dumped over their head. Please forgive me for wishing this. Please understand I don’t want this to happen to anyone, but I especially don’t want it to happen to me.
Please let it not be hot dog day, because they’re just gross, even if they’re served with tater tots.
Please, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, let me have remembered that today is a gym day, and taken a minute this morning to make sure that I put my gym clothes on under my regular clothes. It’s uncomfortable, and on warm days doubly so, but anything is better than having to change in the locker room. If I remembered to do this, I can just hit the boys’ room, get changed in a stall, and walk right in to class.
If I forgot to do this...I can’t even think of the ramifications. Having to get changed in front of the other boys. Having them push me as I’m putting on my shorts. Having them point at me without my shirt, and talking about what a fat piece of shit I am. Having everyone in this locker room have literally nothing better to do than make sure that every second of what should be a minute-long process feel like it lasts an eternity.
Please let it be badminton day, or some crap like that. Please let it not be soccer, or softball, or god forbid, football. Please don’t let two kids pick teams. And if two kids do pick teams, please don’t let them pick me last. But also don’t let them pick me at any point. Please let me get struck by lightning. This would be the best gym class scenario.
Please let me not get so sweaty during gym class that I have to shower with the other guys. Please just let me be able to run back to the boys’ room, and put my clothes back on over my gym clothes. If I do have to use the showers, let me time it just right so I can be in there with as few kids as possible, but not so I’m late to my next class.
Please let the rest of the day go without incident.
Please, the second that the last bell of the day rings, let me get to the bus as quickly as possible, so I can get that seat behind the driver. Please let me get from the bus to my house without getting in the way of any other kids.
Please let junior high school be over soon. Please let high school be better, even though there’s no evidence it will be. Until then, please let me live out my days at this school alone, unspoken to, unbothered, and unpunched. Please let me get used to not having a friend in the world, and please let me find some other kids like me, someday. Kids who also live in the shadows. Kids who also spend the day staring at their shoes. Kids who like the same weird things I like, talk the same weird way I talk, and feel the same weird way I feel.
And finally, please.
Don’t ask me, “How was school today?”