Chapter 2.2: Ryan

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"Funny. Seems like everybody knows what I did, but I haven't heard anything about you. Must be nice."  

Ryan didn't respond to that. How could he? He didn't want to tell Jacky how after that eulogy assignment, Miss Simmons had asked to talk to him after class, and thought he might want to speak to the guidance counselor, and how he'd broken down in the guidance office as soon as he was behind a closed door. No one knew. He didn't want anyone at school to know.

His jeans were getting worn out on the right knee. Not the left, just the right. He tried to figure out what he did on his right knee that he didn't do on his left while ignoring the way Jacky was looking at him.

Over the past two days, Ryan had realized that Jacky was right: he was a jerk. They did, in fact, share three classes. Classes where Jacky sat off in a back corner, shrouded by his hoodie, a shadow striving to be invisible. No wonder Ryan hadn't noticed him before. Oddly enough, it made Ryan a little jealous. If only he didn't have all these so-called friends to impress. If only everyone wasn't always watching him. Expecting him to be perfect. The perfect student, the perfect athlete, the perfect son.

He was so damn tired.

"Yeah, I'm glad you and your football buddies could have a nice laugh about me. Like I said, must be nice. Having friends."

"I never laughed about you," Ryan said, the anger in his voice coming more from frustration than anything. "And you have friends. I saw you in the cafeteria with that... that kid."

Almost immediately Ryan wished he'd kept his mouth shut. Jacky rose up like a shark smelling bait.

"Oh, you mean Cody? I'm guessing you don't remember his name. Was there something else you were going to say about him? Maybe you were gonna call him a stoner? A slacker? A loser? Huh?"

"Forget it," Ryan muttered, looking away.

"Yeah, he's a great friend. Skips school half the time, stoned out of his mind the other half. But yeah, I guess you got me. I'm a fucking liar. I do have friends."

Ryan figured out what he'd been doing on his right knee. After he'd fed his mother and she'd fallen asleep, he had to check the levels in her oxygen tanks so he could report to the night nurse if they were getting low. And sometimes while he was down on one knee, it reminded him of how on the football field, they'd take to one knee and Coach would say a few words. So he'd close his eyes, briefly, and send a few words up to whoever might be listening.

Releasing the grip on his knee, he dropped his head into his hands. Dug his fingers into his eyeballs. I am not going to cry. I am not going to cry.

It was like a conditioned response to therapy. He needed to hold it in for five more minutes. That was it. Five minutes. He could do this.

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