The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 7

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen


Chapter 7: Last call.

“Yeah… God,” Arsen responds. “Now, nigga, you know I’m not an atheist, but freedom isn’t always as simple as a state of mind. I’m not saying people should use god as an excuse or some shit, but if you want something you can try to get it. If you’re black in America it’s a little harder, and if you’re Black and Puerto Rican, like my ass, welp, good luck, papa. Ain’t no BLM or Hispanic lives matter marching through Patterson. It’s just another day,” Arsen says, resigned to a fate I could never fully understand. “Anyway, enough of that shit. For the most part, anyone can be anything they want to be, if they are willing to deal with the bullshit that comes wit’ it. God has nothing to do with it.”

“Agreed.”

“They use God’s will as an excuse to avoid anything that’s too hard, or that might end up hurtin’ them. I hate that shit. I mean I’m thankful to God, or whatever it is, that I’m me, and I was born into this era. I can’t imagine not having the internet or video games accessible.” Arsen smirks. “Gotta’ be thankful that Mountain Dew exists.”

I shrug. “I follow you on everything else, but Vanilla Coke with real sugar is the nectar of the gods. No drink even comes close, except Coke-a-Cola Life with Vanilla extract. Even then it’s a disappointing imitation.”

“Eh, whatever, niggga. I do the Dew. Play my vidya, and I get my straight D’s, bruh.” We walk toward my locker, down the adjacent hallway.

“Serious? Straight D’s? Unless I’m missing something, you’re top of our class, bro…”

“STRAIGHT DEEZ NUTS! AHA! GOT EEEEN!” Arson yells obnoxiously. He slaps the back of my head. “Or should I say, got Em’!” He elbows me and laughs. “There’s no way I’d let my grades slip; it’s not like school is hard. The hard part is listening to the retards that act like there’s nothing I could do to succeed. That one bitch gives me B+’s, and rants on about how well spoken I am. Little does her racist ass know that her favorite student pays me $20 a week to proofread her papers, and she gives me dome while I do it,” Arsen says unconvincing. He stares down the hall. “What a life. Smart, but treated like I’m not, and I’m the greatest tank in Tamriel, yet still getting told by nerds how to play my class because it makes them feel special. Honestly, this i-r-l dungeon is a joke. School, laws, rules, politics: these systems are designed to keep us in check,” he says. “Sometimes the game isn’t worth playing.”

“I can’t deny that, but if we don’t play, what does that makes us? Playing in the system is not about the system. It’s more about learning how to use it to get what you want, right?” I ask, fidgeting with my locker. “You only hurt yourself when you don’t understand the world you exist in… understanding it doesn’t mean you have to embrace it,” I add, looking at a girl fumbling with her locker. “I don’t use social media and I have tons of issues with a lot of the bullshit we learn, especially when it seems like history glorifies the minimization of women, dark people and natives.”

Arsen shrugs. “You aren’t saying anything new, Emery. I live that in two worlds. You should preach the obvious to my dumbass, jail-bird dad, my psycho mom, and that orange nazi. He thinks kids like me need to be searched because crime is in our genes,” Arsen says with a calm defiance. “I get one B- on a quiz in Mr. Heinneman’s class and the first thing that fuck says is ‘Hmph. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Maybe if you consumed less sugar, you’d be consistent.’ I hate that guy.” He shakes his head. “My dad never even went to school, so I’m not sure how that shit’s comparable.”

“Fuck Heinneman!” I yell, finally getting my combination correct. The door clicks open and I grab my science book and scan for anything else I might need and sigh. “We’ll be done with 8th grade soon enough. Just hang in there.” I slam my locker shut.

Arsen laughs. “Relax bro. You know I’m light years ahead of you. I’m already top of this class, and I got a scholarship to come to this middle school. I wouldn’t be here if my mom had to pay for it,” he says. Arsen grabs a notebook and rambles on about a show I haven’t started watching yet.

The two-minute bell rings. My chest burns. Arsen nods behind me, in the direction of my homeroom.

It’s Roslyn. She’s walking down the hall to her class. Her silky, honey-colored hair looks perfect, even from here. She’s definitely not the hottest girl at school, which is a good thing. It makes her the most beautiful.

She’s gorgeous in a “I’m merely a goddess who exists upon thy mortal realm to taunt your eyes” kind of way. Her golden skin looks like it’s constantly highlighted by the sun.  She’s curvy where it counts… in a non-perverted, “I appreciate it, but still would smash” kinda’ way. Ironically, that’s not why my heart melts into my chest when I think of her.

Unlike the other girls I’ve been around, I feel like there’s something that keeps us tied together. As cheesy as it sounds, I knew the first time Arsen introduced us that I was a real person, despite how messed up I was. I never had a thought in my life, about anything important anyway, until Roslyn said hi to me. I feel like an orb of light when we’re close. She doesn’t have to be near me, and yet, somehow, I still feel her presence. Energy swirls around my body and makes me feel powerful. It isn’t something dark or evil; it makes me feel like I can fly. I’m invincible and she’s the constellation that makes it possible, even if we’re destined to be star-crossed lovers. God, I sound like a simp, but to me she’s the only other person like me in existence: we’re of the same cloth, the same single point in time and space. We share the same soul.

I’ve never expressed my feelings to her for one reason: I’m a creep. Not really a creep, but society makes me feel like I am. I feel like I shouldn’t feel this way as boy. I feel like everything keeps telling me that Spanish boys should be gay or transgender and they’re a threat to women, especially white women. I’m not either one of those things, and I like girls, especially this one who happens to be white. So, what does that make me? Probably a candidate to get gunned down by the causes that are brainwashing us. Sigh.

I always wonder if I’m just obsessed with her or I create fantasies in my mind based on my own desires. Do I actually care about her, or what she wants? Or, is it about me and a lust for some archetypal woman that resembles the entertainment I consume? Is that what love is? Is that what healthy love is?

I mean, I’m not afraid of her not liking me back. I feel like I truly see her for who she is, but what “nice guy” hasn’t thought or said to himself? My biggest fear is that if something happens between us, she won’t be as intelligent or great to be around… If that happens, then what? I consider myself a pretty intelligent, non-prejudiced guy, but I don’t know the first thing about white people, let alone white girls, or girls at all! What if her parents don’t like me because they see me as some stereotype? What if they politically support someone who believes I’m a criminal because of my heritage?

On the flip side, what if I’m the racist one? Do I feel like I’m less than someone else because of my own insecurities? Eh, I’m going to drive myself crazy again. 

Roslyn walks into her homeroom, escaping with my thoughts.

“Jesus, you keep gawking and you’re never gonna’ get her, man!” Arsen shouts, elbowing me. “Ah, shit! That’s the bell! We’re late…” he says as the final ring explodes through the hall. “Knowing girls,” he continues. “Roslyn was probably the first to know you liked her. You’re just weird. Weird as fuck, actually, but she still talks to you, my nigga. Just tell her how you feel. Don’t be a pussy”

“Keeping my feelings to myself because I’m scared, doesn’t make me a pussy,” I counter. Sigh. What am I thinking… avoiding something out of fear is what a pussy does.

“Sounds like a pussy to me and I’m the smartest kid at this school, so I think my opinion holds more weight,” Arsen replies, almost as if he could read my mind. “Pussy.”

“I guess… but I’m not a nasty, beaten, floppy pussy like your mom’s!” I respond trying to redeem myself.

“So,” Arsen pauses. “If I understand what you’re saying Emery, good sir, your mother, who gave birth to you: a 7lb slab of meat with a fat fuckin’ head, has a hentai-perfect pussy? You never even seen pussy in real life. How are you gonna joke about it?” He cackles wildly.

“Egh. Whatever man… lame, incoherent comeback…” I remember when I told Arsen I had a crush on Roslyn, in 4th grade. Sigh. Apparently, he does too. “I gotta’ go. I don’t want to think about talking to her.” I try to get to my homeroom before Arsen says something else.

“Didn’t mean to stress you out, Em’. I’ll catch you at lunch,” he calls out.

“It’s a half day, Arsenio,” I retort trying to correct him. “We don’t have a lunch period.” 

“No shit, nigga. I said lunch, not lunch time. Learn how to use your words, platano,” Arsen laughs, then nods with his chin.

“Later, man.”

“Last thing,” Arsen says. “Got my DS with me. Duel later?”

“Didn’t bring it,” I shout back.

Arsen shrugs. He walks in the opposite direction.

I pass Roslyn’s homeroom, feeling tense. I look through the glass door. Her emerald eyes hold mine. Sweat trickles down my forehead. Thoughts about death flood my brain. Energy swells in my chest and crawls over my skin. Something feels wrong… This force… it’s dark!

I keep walking. A light flickers. What the…? “Wheeze.” Fuck! What’s wrong with me… my shirt feels tight. I can’t breathe. Shit! Now all the lights in the hallway are flickering… Why is this happening?! “Hello?” I call out. “Hello!”

Bang!

The lights immediately ahead of me are still on, but past that is pure darkness. How is everything… so black? I collapse on the cold, marble floor.

Thump! Bang! Boom! Something’s galloping toward me! I—I—I can’t move! Thump!

“Run, Emery!” Aiven calls out. He manifests as specks of dim light. “Are you deaf? RUN!”


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