Chapter Four, pt. 1 of 2

Chapter Four (pt. 1/2) “Where Are These Emotions Coming From?”—Freshman Year, September 11, 2001

It’s a Tuesday morning in my freshman year of high school on September 11, 2001. The final bell rings at the ninth hour as I quicken my pace to a fake jog in the hallway. This is to convince my teacher I’m trying to make it to class on time—a daily routine. She stands outside the room acting like a human doorstop until that bell rings, when she walks inside with the door closing behind. Unless she sees me in mid-fake-sprint. Then, she might wait for me, but for all of last week and yesterday, the door’s been closed.

I’ll be kicked out of her Advanced English class in the next week or two since some asshole considered the middle finger to be insubordinate. Thus, throwing away all the years of taking Advanced English classes, pursuing my dreams of walking the stage at graduation with a colored cord with tassels hanging around my neck, signifying achievement in honors. Oh, No!

This is why I became an addict.

Not really. I wish it were that simple.

I couldn’t have cared less about leaving her class. As a result, I was placed in another one—for the intermediate kids, but they can’t call it that. It was a breeze after taking years of advanced classes. I could come in stoned, drunk, or on Ambien, and still keep a high grade. Studying high plus taking the test high does indeed equal a high score. If you’re going to take anything from this book, let it be that. Leave some space though.

But, I don’t become good friends with the drugs and alcohol come next year—my hippie, stoner sophomore year. Right now, we are only mere acquaintances.

Once again, I’m late for her class, but as I skid around the corner, I see the door is still open. I slow down to catch my breath and I realize that the door is propped open with an actual doorstop and not a full-figured woman in a colored pantsuit. A sight that always reminds of a peanut M&M™️ sitting in front of the door.

When the inside of the classroom is in view, I know something is off. Nobody is up and out of their chairs. I simply waltz into class unnoticed while everyone is huddled around the T.V. I can’t even see their faces since every one is glued to the idiot box. I eventually have to ask.

“Uhh… Hey, what’s the deal?”

I get two, maybe three people to turn around and look at me. Their white ones faces are filled with horror as if I had just insulted a mentally challenged kid. One of them looks like she is about to explode with tears. As I see the fear in her eyes, my chest tightens like my heart is trying to break out. I picture an alien creature bursting out of my chest like in the movie.

In an instant, I go from sitting in my chair, wondering what’s going on, to my heart racing as if someone or something is coming to kill me. I close my eyes and put my head down. The feeling behind to dissipate. I still have no idea what is going on. Until, I hear a girl’s voice—

“J, how can you sit there and sleep? They said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center!”

Wait… What?! I lift my head up, still feeling sick, and move around in my desk to get a glimpse of the TV screen. I watch for a minute until my heart starts to race again. I feel nauseous. I tell my teacher I’m going to the restroom but she doesn’t respond. Doesn’t even look at me, with her eyes fixed on the smoking tower. I walk out.

Once I escape the airless room, I take a deep breath and the sick feeling vanishes, though it leaves my throat raw as if I just had yacked. I didn’t, though. I don’t go to where I said I was going. Instead, I roam the halls and see a TV on in every room. It hits me that this is a big deal. How did a plane crash into a tower? I need to find out more of what is going on and so I head back to class.

In the room, eyes are still gazing at the screen and I join them. This is when a second plane hits the other tower.

The rest of the day was an emotional rollercoaster. Some teachers let us watch the news and others didn’t. The ones who wouldn’t let us watch, weren’t in the mood to teach either. We did nothing in every class.

I saw a few kids crying. When I saw or was next to them, I wanted to cry too. I had no reason to, however. Nobody I knew lived in New York, so how was this affecting me? Where are these emotions coming from?

The whole day went on like that: One minute I’d be fine and the next I’d either feel sick or wanted to cry. I had to keep my headphones on, listening to slow, chilled-out music to keep my heart rate down.

Some kids were even sent home. Their parents would call, worried as if we could be next, and demanded their kids be pulled out of class. Even though it was an awful and pretty scary event, my parents and I knew better.

It reminded me of being in sixth grade, watching two kids shoot up a school in Colorado, ultimately, turning the guns on themselves. Was this going to have the same repercussions as Columbine? Is everyone going to start freaking out again?


But, worse.

I was excited about sixth grade and starting middle school. I had no idea it would be the year I found out who my real friends were, and the ones I had thought of as friends, were not.

Sixth grade was the year that fear had taken complete control of me. All of me…


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