The Volkswagen drives off. Nothing so much as a wave goodbye. But from where the car had been parked, I see something else. It’s a figure sitting in the grass, their back against a tree. This is the spot where a lot of the students sit waiting for their rides. Today only one person is there, sitting and staring off into space, their face empty of emotion. Even from here however, I know they have been crying at some point, for I can see the streaks of dried tears. I’m a good distance away, but I can see these things clearly. I can also see it’s Donald Pluth.
My heart feels for him. Having fled the bullies and school itself, he’s now just sitting there as if waiting for the grass and weeds to grow up over top of him. I wish I could leave the school building and go over to him and tell him it wouldn’t always be like this. One day he’d free of bullies, but I’m not so sure of that. We are picked on mercilessly as kids, and I’m uncertain if we ever escape that. Perhaps we just trade in school bullies for those in the workplace as adults. Teasing at the water cooler. Harassment at the annual office party. A supervisor bullies you into quitting so he can hire his wife’s brother’s cousin. Perhaps bullying is a vicious whirlpool, and once we get caught in its current, it never stops until we drown in it.
Looking at Pluth, I wonder what he’ll be like when he grows up. Probably a timid shell of a man, scared of relationships and people in general. I hope that isn’t the case, but it’s still better than being me. Better than being bullied to death. Wait a second. Is that what happened to me? I don’t remember the details of my passing. Could fate be using Donald Pluth to tell me this is how I died? Is he the one to lead me to the light, to find my closure and die the way people are supposed to, peacefully and going on to Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, or whatever?
I wish I could remember. This really sucks being a ghost and not even knowing the details of your death. But maybe someone else does. Perhaps if I keep taking over bodies, inhabiting other skins, I’ll eventually find someone with that memory. Then I can relive it myself through someone else’s experience.
I turn away from the door. Anne won’t be back until at least tomorrow. Until then I can look for someone who knows why I’m like this. But before I can think about it too much, the bell rings signaling the end of another class. Doors open and students pour out into the hall. For the next ten minutes I know it will be chaos, as kids rush to lockers, then to the next class. With all the confusion, it is the perfect time to become someone else again. I’d done it twice before, and each instance had been somewhat bizarre, if not eye opening. So I close my eyes, take a deep breath, hope for a better experience. And take a leap.
I brace myself for the impact of colliding with another’s emotions, but the cacophony of thoughts are not emotional this time. There are no big secrets bubbling to the surface, no fear and anguish about bullies. Instead it’s a jumble of numbers and equations, a passage from “The Red Badge Of Courage”, the path of a maze in “Legend Of Zelda.” I don’t even have to open my eyes to know I’ve leaped inside Charles Bruner.
Bruner is the kid every parent wishes their kid was. He gets excellent grades, never misses a day or assignment. He is attentive in class and doesn’t participate in many extra curricular social activities. He’s one of the few kids who doesn’t have his own cell, but he does carry a pocket calculator that can translate up to seven different languages, so there. He’s clean cut, great hygiene, and most of all, never, ever gets into any kind of trouble. And though it seems he is ripe for bullying, the bad kids don’t mess with him. It’s like he is existing in a universe all his own. No one steps inside of it, and he certainly doesn’t step out of it.
But now I’ve stepped inside. I am Charles Bruner. And for a moment, he is me. There is nothing remarkable in my spectral head, so he manages to push my thoughts aside for his own. It throws him off for just a second and then he is back in control, the dominant mind between us. Now I’m just an observer, unable to make him do anything. It’s like I’ve taken a taxi that goes where it wants, no matter where you tell the driver to take you. And right now he is taking me towards his locker to switch out books for his next class.
We move down the hall, sliding past other students who pay him no mind. And he is so focused he isn’t paying them no mind either. In fact, he is thinking of an upcoming trip with his dad to the science museum. Lost in thought, he is on automatic, turning a corner, going up a staircase, around another corner and stopping at his locker. He works the numbers of the combination lock as if it were a Rubik’s Cube and opens the door. Before I can catch a glimpse of what’s inside, I see goth girl out of the corner of my eye. It’s easy to spot her. She stands out like a sore thumb with her Ghost BC shirt in a sea of students who don’t even know who that band is. Just more Satan stuff for a creepy girl.
But for me I’m excited to see her. She stands out to me in a good way, possibly the ticket to learning what happened to me. I still don’t know her name but I find myself yelling, “Hey!” Except it’s not me yelling. It’s Charles Bruner. And he doesn’t know why he yelled. I’m surprised by it too. He must have let his mind wander for a second, and then mine took over, if only for that brief moment.
Goth girl has stopped and turned. A look of surprise or annoyance on her face, I’m not sure which. “What!?” She declares to a confused Bruner.
He stammers, and for a second I think he’s scared of her. “Um…nothing,” he replies, now back in control of his mind. “Uh, sorry…I don’t know what…”
She doesn’t wait for him to finish. She turns away and resumes her way down the hall. I force his head to follow her. It’s not that I want to see where she is heading so I can catch up later. Not really. No, I’m watching her and wondering to myself why I never noticed her much before. Most of my peers, if they had been watching her walk away at this moment would have been thinking, there goes a freak. But I, and even Charles Bruner against his will, is thinking , there goes a girl on her way to being a woman. An old song my dad used to listen to, “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon” pops into my head, or I should say Bruner’s. He doesn’t seem to like it as much and gives me my eviction notice.
To Be Continued…
“Ghost Boy Blues” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.