The Way It Is
Theo Beauman walks down the mildew scented hallway half-smiling and half not because he cannot decide how he is feeling. While he walks, he swings his backpack to his front and unzips it to grab the home lunch he made for himself the night before. His bologna mayonnaise sandwich accented with mildew steadily becoming bolus in his mouth. He nears the end of the hallway and sees the blue door leading outside. Taped unevenly on the inside of the the door is a poster that was not there yesterday. Just more propaganda from people trying to confuse everybody’s opinion. Most people do not know the facts, and just follow whichever voice sounds like it knows what it’s talking about. Therefore, most people are voting wrong. Theo could have voted correctly, were he not trapped in the body of an 18 year old. He has never felt that his age represents him. Since birth he has been gifted with artificial experience as if he sees all of the possibilities that his peers don’t. This is why Theo does no socializing; he finds his own company the most tolerable. Theo can’t even find an adult that he thinks worth his time. They are all too stupid or think they know better than him, and they should know better than that. Theo sits in the damp grass eating his lunch alone, as planned.
After a long day of listening to adults that feign wisdom as if being 50 makes them a higher life-form, he gets on his usual green bus and sits in his usual spot at the very back where nobody can hear him think his unusual thoughts. His thoughts are not to be shared out loud, but he sometimes decides they ought to be. These are the rare occasions where Theo raises his hand in class. Theo thinks his unusual thoughts until his brain betrays him and thinks the wrong thought: he was going to his home. With a heart thump and a new feeling of dread conjuring in his chest, he thinks about what is waiting for him at home. His three younger brothers with intelligence rivaling that of a newt, his sweet but oblivious mother, and his hard to look at impossible to be around stepdad. “Impossible to be around” is an understatement. Theo’s step dad is the type of person to cheat on his wife and forbid her from so much as talking to another man. It was not this that made Theo feel helpless, it was that his dear, sweet mother of whom was the only person Theo could stand on this earth, and whom might even love, still thought that he had a good side. It is her fault that Theo often could not focus in class for the dread of going home occupies his thoughts, it is her fault that his younger siblings all share his step dad’s small piercing eyes and altruistic ideals, and it was her fault that Theo is alone...
Theo arises and walks to his dresser. He looks from his white shirt up to his mop of dirty blonde hair. His eyes involuntarily make contact with themselves in his mirror. Tired is always the way he looks. It doesn’t matter how much sleep, how much water, how much effort, the dark circles are there to stay. If only boys could put on makeup. He chuckles briefly to himself picturing the looks on everyone’s face seeing him, with the quiet intellectual air he has emulated through all of his high school tenure, walking through the halls with a face caked in lipstick and rouge. Theo’s chuckle stops when he realises that most people would have a friend or two that they could share this thought with. Theo has a mirror.
Theo’s mother has been gone for two days to represent her kitchen appliance company, so his step dad took this as permission to behave even less like an adult. Instead of learning how to cope with his anger issues and low I.Q., he searches for people to be mad at and creates any justification in his own mind why he should be. It’s not unlike trapping a bee in a jar, shaking the jar, and letting the angry bee fly out of the jar around children. The whole night so far has been filled with hearing him thump around and yell upstairs. He’s shaking his own jar. Theo’s step dad marches down the stairs leading to the hallway and then then either the kitchen or the door. Despite Theo’s half-hearted prayers, the man’s steps get closer and before long he bumbles into the kitchen where Theo is doing his homework. He looks more frazzled than usual. Some people are happy drunks, some are flirty, and some are angry. Some are violent.
“What are you doing?,” he barks with the same tone one would use to get a criminal to drop a gun. Theo’s eyes scan the room pretending or hoping that he is talking to someone else.
“Homework,” Theo says tentatively, not breaking eye contact with his graphing worksheet.
“Why can’t you do that in your own damn room?”
“There’s no table in my room.”
Theo surprises himself with how calm he sounds despite how hotly annoyed he actually is. Why does he feel the need to ask him these stupid questions? Every day is filled with the same things all trying to unhinge Theo and make him do something he does not want to. The thoughts he has are often not his own, they are coming from somewhere else. A place where people can give in to their hedonistic and violent tendencies. A place where his step dad surely belonged. The man grunts and searches for other unpunctured flesh to shove his hateful stinger in. He won’t be denied his daily fresh spread of hatred, and Theo knows this. He walks into the living room where his children are and Theo sighs. It’s back to the graphs until one of his siblings is heard loudly crying and screaming. God damn it.
Theo crashes open the door to see his step dad standing over his three children, one of whom looks at Theo with a sort of panicked relief that he has never seen before. His step dad stands breathing heavily and turns his unremorseful face towards his eldest victim. The two lock eyes. Theo is not letting him get away with this, and the man knows this. He makes a lunge for Theo who simply slams the door with his foot against it. Shit! Theo steps as far away from the door as he can without letting his foot up. His step dad isn’t even trying to enter through the door, it seems his tiny brain could only think of banging on it. Theo reaches for the nearest drawer and tries to slide it open. The drawer completely comes out and crashes on the floor. The step dad seems to have turned back to his children. Theo did not know what he was mad about, nor did it matter. The papers that the drawer contained were all over the floor. A shine of metal peaks through the papers and Theo gets on his knee awkwardly not letting his foot up. He sifts through the papers for a second before finding the somewhat dull letter opener that’s purpose was once to open letters. Today it has a new purpose.
Theo doesn’t recall making the choice to take a life, but sometimes instinct takes priority over the consciousness. Perhaps if the consciousness is troubled enough, instinct is all that remains. It is possible that Theo has lost it, but he certainly knows right from wrong. The only thing he regrets is not doing it sooner. Theo sits with his crimson shirt, takes a deep breath, and finally does his homework in peace, contentedly.