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Authors: Trish Cook

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BOOK: A Really Awesome Mess
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I flushed the toilet, walked out of the stall, and washed my hands. “I’m going to evening study hall now. See you later, Alisha.” I was hoping she’d leave so I could just get on with it.

But she gave me another
I can see right through you
look. “I’m going, too, so I’ll walk you there.”

“Great,” I muttered.

“I guess you forgot your toothbrush?” she asked, smirking again.

I shrugged. This place truly sucked.

academics. I had Aesthetics of Classic Film, which should at least help me catch up on my sleep; Culinary Science, which should be kind of interesting since I wasn’t allowed to have any sharp objects; Fitness, which ought to be exciting, since the so-called normal kids at my regular high school got kind of
Lord of the Flies
in the boys’ locker room, so who knew what the population here would be like; and Art Appreciation.

And then there were my therapy sessions. And Sexual Reactivity group. And Anger Management group. Because, in addition to having suicidal ideation and sexual reactivity, I apparently had anger “issues.” I hated that word. Issues. It reminded me of comic books. In our next issue, can Justin stop himself from calling his
mom a heartless bitch? (Nope!) In our next issue, does Justin finally grow a pair and tell his dad he’s a selfish asshole? (Yep!) Is this, more than blowjobus interruptus, the real reason Justin got shipped off to Heartland? (Quite possibly. Dad didn’t much care for hearing the truth.)

Tiny dropped me off at the therapy room, where Max, aka Moses, was sitting in a leather chair. He gestured at a beanbag chair and a couch, and said, “Wherever you want, Justin.”

“About two thousand miles from here is where I want,” I said.

He didn’t laugh or respond. He just tapped on an iPad.

“So you get iPads?”

“The whole treatment team has them,” he answered.

“Awesome. How much porn does it hold?”

“Let’s talk about why you’re here, shall we?” he said.

“Don’t you have it in my file? Right on your screen there?”

“I have what the intake form says. What do you say?”

“I pulled a prank that went too far.”

“What was that?”

I rolled my eyes. “It was my so-called suicide attempt, when I swallowed too many Tylenols. I mean, we have Percocets in the house from when Mom got her hand surgery, you know? I could have downed a bunch of those and gone nighty-night permanently. So it clearly wasn’t a serious attempt. It was just, like, a prank.”

“Hilarious prank,” Max said, tapping on the iPad. Jerk.

“You know what I mean. I was just—I needed some attention, that’s all.”

Max looked up from the screen. “Why?”

I knew why, of course. But I wasn’t feeling that way right now. And I was afraid if I started talking about it, that would make it all real again. And then I didn’t know what was going to happen. So I just answered, “I don’t know.”

Max smiled at me. “Well, when you’re ready to be honest about that, we’ll know you’re making some progress.” God, I hated this guy. I really would like to sneak up on him in the middle of the night and shave his stupid Moses beard off.

After fifty minutes, Tiny walked me and several other guys to SR group. SR group was all
, what the hell, and seemed to be an excuse for everybody in the group to brag about all the action they’d gotten and how it left them feeling sad and empty inside. I didn’t say anything, because apart from the blow job that wasn’t, there was only the hand job last year and a couple of boob gropes. Oh, and one totally awkward and, okay, not very skilled journey into Kat Masterson’s panties, which may or may not have had anything to do with her dumping me the next day.

That was it for me. Whereas everybody else in this group, it seemed, had been busy putting their dicks pretty much anywhere they could. After the group ended, I went up to the gray-haired, awesome-mustached guy named Jack who ran the group. “Uh, Mr. Inghoff?” I began. I had no idea what his real last name was,
but my stupid masturbation joke seemed pretty appropriate in this group. “Jack? I think I’m in the wrong group here.”

He looked at me through his John Lennon glasses, and I was so distracted by a tiny blob of spit trapped in his mustache that I almost didn’t hear him say, “Yeah, Justin, everybody says that at first. Everybody
has issues.
don’t belong here. These people are
.” Old Jack had a kind of crazy glint in his eye as he said this, which made me think he was a little crazy himself. “And you just made a sophomoric sex joke about my name, which doesn’t really help your case.”

Damn. Didn’t think of that. “No, Jack. You don’t understand. These guys get their rocks off more times before breakfast than I have in my entire life.”

Jack looked for a second like he might crack a smile, but then his face got kind of stern. “Justin. We’re not here to judge other people’s issues.”

“Well, why the hell would you put us in groups then? Jesus Christ, this is fucking retarded!”

Jack pulled out his iPad and gave the screen a few taps. “Okay, Justin. That’s five demerit points. Since you’re at level one, you can’t go down any levels—”

“You said, ‘go down,’ ” I said, since I was in the shit already. “Don’t they tell you not to say stuff like that around the pervs?”

He kept talking like I hadn’t said anything. “But if you want to be able to move up a level, to have any privileges at all, you need
to work on getting ahold of yourself. I’m making a note of this incident.”

I came back with a British accent, doing my best Minerva McGonagall, which, admittedly, was not very good. “
Ten points from Gryffindor!
You guys are the lamest people on the face of the earth. I honestly don’t know what keeps you assholes from killing yourselves every night, because if I looked like you and had to say shit like that every day, I would have popped something a lot stronger than Tylenol.”

Jack tapped on his iPad again, maybe a little more vigorously than last time. “You’d better run along,” he said. “Don’t want to be late for …” He checked his screen. “… looks like Anger Management.” He flashed me a smile, a smile that said, “You little snot, I hear worse than that every day, and if you think you’ve gotten under my skin, you’re dreaming.” At least that’s what I thought it said.

Another big dude who was not Tiny (or, tiny, for that matter) escorted me from SR to AM because apparently I might try to kill myself if they let me walk down the hall by myself. But it wasn’t me I felt like killing.

The AM group was at least coed. Emmy, the anorexic Asian girl I’d met at dinner who seemed kind of normal—at least compared to my grumpy roommate and the pervs in SR—was there. There was a seat next to her, but I didn’t take it. I was afraid if they saw me sitting by her, they’d make that a privilege they could
take away from me. So I took it away from myself.

My roomie was there, too, as was Emmy’s silent roomie Jenny. Then there was a little white girl who looked really young and another white boy who reminded me of the mullet-sporting guy who ran The Beast at King’s Island when I was there on Memorial Day weekend.

We all sat silently and the therapist, the plain young woman from my intake meeting, came in and said, “Well, it’s the beginning of a new term and we’ve got a couple of new members here today. Let’s make them feel comfortable by introducing ourselves.”

My roommate, Mohammed, actually revealed that he got sent here as an alternative sentence after his second assault with a dangerous weapon, which I’ll admit was going to make me a little more cautious about trying to bait him into speech back in the room.

Tina, the facilitator, looked at him for a long time after he said that. “Anything else you’d like to add?” she asked.

“Nope,” he said.

The mullet kid was named Chip. He was from Ohio, which raised the odds that he actually was the kid who ran The Beast.

Emmy’s silent roomie didn’t talk, of course, and the little girl, the one who looked really young, refused to introduce herself. “This,” the therapist said, “is Jenny, who has a form of selective mutism and is working on speaking to others within social
situations such as this one, but is not quite ready to do so yet. And next to her is Diana.”

“She lets her fists do the talking,” Chip said, laughing, and Diana looked up for the first time and gave Chip a look that drained all the laughter out of him.

Tina ignored the brewing fight. “Now, I’ll have our new members introduce themselves and, if you two feel comfortable sharing this, talk a little bit about why you think you’re here?”

There was an awkward silence, and I looked over at Emmy, who stared back at me.
You first
, she mouthed. Okay.

“I’m Justin. I was just thinking about how one little space is all that separates
from ‘the rapist.’ ” I paused for the laugh. Nobody laughed except Emmy. Tough crowd. I smiled at the one appreciative audience member. “Seems like this is the group I actually belong in, not that Sexual Reactivity group, which they put me in because my dad walked in on me getting blown. I’ll be the first to admit that
little scene is going to need some working out in a therapeutic setting, but I hardly think it means I should be in the man-whore group.”

Only my roommate cracked a smile at my use of “man whore.”

“Justin, I appreciate you’ve acknowledged that you should be here, even if you broke about three other rules in that speech.”

“Are you gonna tap on your little screen like Jack and give me the ten points from Gryffindor treatment?”

The rapist smiled. “Do you think Gryffindor is where you
belong? I mean, it’s the one most people choose because all the main characters are there, but really, is that where you’d sort yourself if this were Hogwarts?”

“If this were Hogwarts, I’d sort myself right next to Emma Watson,” I said, which maybe wasn’t going to help my case that I didn’t belong in the SR group, so I followed with, “Gryffindor is the courageous one, right? I mean, I’m here because I have the balls to tell adults when they’re being douche bags, so yeah, Gryffindor.”

the failed attempt after study hall, the one during reflective time, and the one right before bed. If it wasn’t Alisha following me around and getting in the way of my plans, it was one of the green-sweatshirted Staffies. Anger Management group was actually going to be the perfect place for me if I didn’t figure out a way around the annoying over-supervision of my bodily functions soon.

And that wasn’t my only frustration. There was also not being able to fall asleep at the strictly enforced ten thirty lights-out time, especially in our pitch-black, silent room. I’d nervously tossed and turned most of the night, the contents in my belly sloshing around loudly as I hoped and wished for a miracle. As
in, I
my restlessness was at least burning off a fraction of what I’d consumed at dinner, and I
the damn window would open so I could hurl out of it, then hurl
out of it and escape.

Toss, turn. Turn, toss.

I kept waiting for the ghost baby and baby mama wails to start up, but all I heard were the night staff’s footsteps as they patrolled the hall and, occasionally, our door opening. That always happened right as I was starting to relax. The noise and intrusion made my heart jump and then race, and the flashlight shining around the room got me wired in the worst possible way. I wondered if I’d ever be able to sleep again, or at least as long I was here at Heartland. Chances seemed pretty slim.

I guess I must have eventually passed out, though, because the next thing I knew, the PA system was blaring the morning announcements. I forced my eyes open and saw Farm Girl holding a sign in front of my face.

Rise and shine. It’s time for yoga

“I hate yoga,” I mumbled, pulling a pillow over my head.

She grabbed it and threw it across the room.

“Fine,” I said, rolling out of bed and grabbing some yoga pants and a T-shirt from my drawer. I tucked myself between the wall and dresser to put them on, as far out of my roomie’s view as possible.

BOOK: A Really Awesome Mess
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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