• Tick-Tock Tick-Tock Tick-Tock

    The scarce minutes of the coveted study hall slowly diminished with every histrionic stroke of the clock in front of me. As the calculus nerds frantically assaulted their TI-84's in their last, futile attempts to solve Maniac McGrumble's weekly assignment and those jackasses who devote every moment of academic enlightenment to cussing each other out and wearing their shorts like pants hacked up their final spit balls, the persistent clock did its damnedest to be acknowledged. Each, laborious stroke became heavier, slower, and louder in the eager ears of Halfway High. Every boy, girl, and teacher sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation for the three-o-five bell...everyone except me.

    I sat with my chin in my hands and elbows on my knees, intent on remaining slouched over in my favorite, solitary chair for quite sometime. This had become a daily routine for me these past two weeks: ditching classes, coming home later and later, causing panic within the easily excitable hearts of every teacher and staff. But it wasn't as if I were playing hookie, and no, I wasn't smoking pot. I wasn't plotting to blow up the school around me – not that the insensitive bastards didn't deserve it – and, unfortunately, I wasn't making out or having sex.

    Nay, I, Stevie Ray Lewis, sat in none other than the janitor's office, as I had been all week, doing nothing so exciting. With walls of boxes, crates, and various bobbles collected over the years cluttered around me, I ignored the vain attempts of the clock and instead concentrated on something far more interesting a few feet below it: a broom. By now, I had memorized every grain of the antiquated instrument. Every paint chip, stray straw, and sign of tarnish was dedicated to memory. I could tell you what dust particles hadn't been there yesterday, or even that morning, just as easily as I could tell you it had been five-hundred-and-sixty-two hours, twenty-three minutes, and fifty-seven seconds, give or take a few, since that broom had last been used.

    ...And that's where I'll end my prologue...

    Few people know where Halfway High got it's namesake, but there were a few theories. Many believed our beloved five-hundred student school was once an actual halfway home that mutated into a high school. Some figured it was due to the fact Halfway High is smack in the center of our little town in Iowa, once you've passed it, you're on your way out. Personally, I believe it's because the students are only halfway there – you won't find many Einsteins at Halway High. In fact, you won't find much of anything here.

    I still remember my first day at Halfway and, quite frankly, I wish I couldn't. I was to High school as a cat to water. I felt like Raggedy Anne maneuvering through a sea of Barbies and Kens. It's not that I was ugly, but to say I didn't fit in was an understatement. For one thing, 'Stevie Ray' was by no means an orthodox name for your average girl. See, back in the day, my parents were an eccentric pair of radical hippies. Granted, times were tough in the sixties and national morale was at an all time low, but rather than attempting to solve the era's social issues, good ol' mom and dad decided to hallucinate Vietnam away. Now, I don't like searching the depths of my couch for loose change every time my car needs a good guzzle of gas, but you don't see me sucking on sugar cubes and changing my name to 'Moonbeam'. Needless to say, when I came along a few decades later, they named me after one of the few things they could remember – the music. 'Stevie Ray' isn't short for Stevie Ray Vaughn, the legendary blues guitarist. Rather, the name is a combination of 'Stevie' for Stevie Nyx and 'Ray' for Ray Davies of The Kinks. Mom and Dad though they were being clever, eluding to three rock legends, but they were only supplementing a future of mockery and isolation upon the ego of an already destined-to-be-awkward girl.

    Grade school wasn't too bad. In fact, I had as many friends as I had thoughts and as many smiles as there were teeth in the entire world. Middle school, however, was where the abyss between myself and any plausible hope for acceptance manifested itself. I'd like to think my seclusion defined itself in a series of seven plagues. The first of these was a mutant virus bestowed upon me by my very own parents: individual thought. Instead of gradually falling into the catty embrace of gossip and Degrassi, I meandered down the unmarked path of intellectual curiosity. On one particular instance, I can recall sitting among my girlfriends as they discussed the week's horoscopes in Teen Magazine – you know, the typical elusive babble that was so vague and yet somehow so spot on. As they prated on about prince charming, I chuckled before suggesting that there was other intelligent life in the universe but, they refused to contact us because we were dumb enough to invent things like soap operas and horoscopes. The words escaped my mouth before I could snatch them and violently shove them back down my throat. As I was met with a series of blank stares and deafening silence, I wished I could claim the statement an act of ventriloquism. It was then this child of flower children knew she would never chime in with her loquacious generation.

    Second of the terrible ailments was possibly second worst, as well: puberty. One minute, I was an adorable green-eyed girl with jet-black pigtails, the next, I was a tall, scrawny ironing board in a zoo of pimples, cracking voices, and curves. As my mother put it, I was pretty, just a “different kind of pretty”. Where the other girls woke up to a new cup-size everyday, my most prominent features became my bony elbows and scraped knees, pink against my pale skin.

    Then, came another division marker: the notorious Physical Education. Unlike most of my friends, I was good at this. I was taller, faster, and more athletic than most of the boys, even. But it came with a hefty price. I was nerdy and sporty, two red blemishes on my marred record – two more bricks in the wall between myself and 'one of the girls'. One more mark and I was a perfect target for hushed whispers and cold giggles.

    That mark came in a series of three plagues: make-up, fashion, and that four-letter word for lust. Just as my name eluded, I was not much of a girly-girl. In fact, the only make-up I ever wore was at my Grandma Margie's funeral. When it came to matters of make-up and fashion, my parents and I actually shared common ground. Dad thought it was all a materialistic attempt to stifle the innate beauty Mother Nature bestowed upon her children. Mom felt short-shorts, lipstick, and sexy lingerie were all 'paragons of double-standards and a gateway to love under false pretenses'. I just thought make-up made me look more like a clown than a Cover Girl. But, when it came to love, they were all for me, pardon the terminology, 'getting my groove on'.

    “Stevie, Sunflower, when will I meet your boyfriend?” my mom would subtlety suggest. Hints like these became so predictable, I learned to ignore them.

    “Boyfriend, boyfriends, don't think you have to be conservative for our sakes,” Dad would chime in from behind his newspaper. He was always such a wonderful influence.

    The last and most devastating of my afflictions was the main catalyst to my miserable high school experience. In my dictionary, the word 'career' means 'lifestyle choice or occupation', like school in my case. The word 'day' mans 'a period of twenty-four hours or sunrise to sunset'. The phrase 'Career Day' is synonymous with 'Social Suicide'. Anyone who lives in my county knows I don't have to justify the aforementioned logic. In one, thirty-minute elocution, my father, who is a lobbyist for the legalization of marijuana, and my mother, a devoted sex therapist, managed to massacre my youth in one masterful monologue.