BY WALKER CAPLAN
Lakeside School, ’16
2015 Adroit Prize for Prose: Editors List
He was the guy you’d pick first for your dodgeball team, who you’d want backing you up in a fistfight. He’d flirt with waitresses. He’d order drinks and not always get carded. He’d always lean back, standing or precariously balancing in his chair, so his legs were the closest you got to him. He loved to dress up. He owned an entire cow costume. For Halloween he wore a bedsheet and was “Jesus, but black.” He printed a sweatshirt that said “Black Jesus” with an arrow pointing up to his face and wore it to school for three straight days until the principal had a word with him. His smile was constant until the night he pulled out three molars with his dad’s pliers and got sent to Meadowbrook.
I heard about it from his lab partner. I finally asked when his seat was a week empty. “He freaked out. His mom literally found him in the bathroom with his teeth in his hand,” the girl said, snapping her gum. I asked how many teeth. She didn’t know, she said, rolling her eyes. Like three, maybe. I’d never noticed her overbite before. It’s like she was flaunting it.
The consensus: everybody knew what happened but nobody knew why.
“He just flipped out,” Adam said at band practice. “He was probably tripping balls.”
“Didn’t get laid for too long, I bet,” Ryan said. “All the blood probably rushed out of his brain.”
We all sat there thinking about how much sex we weren’t having.
Ryan said, “Because it was rushing somewhere else, get it?”
We all laughed and went back to trying to figure out our all-dude emo-core cover of “Barracuda”, because that’s what friends are for.
I asked everybody about it for three straight days. I’d slip it into conversation: “What happened with that?” Nobody knew. I even asked his friends, making my way up to the cafeteria table in the back, a clump adrift without his guiding force. All the girls had so much mascara on. None of them were looking at the guys. One of the guys pushed me. It was none of my business, he said, and unless I wanted to be missing some of my own teeth I should stop nosing around his friend’s personal life like a fucking homo. It’s not like we were friends, anyway, so why should I care, he said. And he had a point.
So all I ended up with was a bloated image in my head. I pictured the strawberry milk he always drank in those little cartons pouring from his sockets. That’s not how bodies work, how they’re supposed to work, but nobody can predict that. You think something’s calm and the bubbles are collecting at the bottom, just waiting to dance. Crazy things could happen. Like, I might stab my teeth by accident when I’m shaving and the pulp will come out. I know that sounds crazy. I’d told him that night that someday someone’s going to snip my Achilles tendon with a big pair of red scissors. He told me nobody’s out to get me, but how would he know.
But I need to stop probing at fossils. I need to stop dwelling on things. I need to stop working on the mandolin riff for “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I need to stop wondering why he didn’t call. I need to stop remembering him naked. I need to stop thinking I knew him. There was a sound wave on his shirt that night in the car. I wish I could have heard it.