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Tell Me How I'm Supposed to Do This

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By the time the end of Adam’s freshman year of high school came around, he was on the verge of dropping out. It wasn’t due to poor performance, his grades had been good, exemplary even. However, his depression had taken hold of him in a way that felt too big for his body, hanging over him and ready to crush him at a moment’s notice. Making sure it didn’t leave him disabled took up most of his focus, leaving little room to pay attention anywhere else, let alone on another person. And while friends had always seemed nice in theory, his grades were supposed to be his guide toward the promise of something more one day. So he made a choice. While the other fresh faces around him found confidants in each other, he found solace in learning. He thought it was a victory against it, a way to show himself it can’t take away everything. But as satisfying as that small rush of victory was whenever a teacher set down another A paper, he’d look up and have no one to talk to about it. When the time to make friends was most ideal, his depression had left him paralyzed to do so and yet now it’s left him out in the open, alone and vulnerable to its constant presence and with no one to help him fight against it. Everyone had moved on, wide eyes now closed off to the selected peers who were willing to bond back in September. As he looked around him that June, he felt totally and completely alone.

Then Adam’s accident had happened. He’d never been trying to hurt himself but it hadn’t looked that way to his parents who, ever the scientists, were strong believers in ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’. They assessed the evidence before them: Adam had been incredibly sad for months, Adam seemingly had no friends at school, Adam had been cutting himself and the most important one of all, Adam almost died. Conclusion: it was on purpose.

His summer had been overwhelmed with attempts of rehabilitating his self image and soon, his worries about his lack of friends were pushed aside. He still doesn’t know if the camp did much to help the suffocating cloud that followed him everywhere or if he’d just been hit with an especially bad bout of it, but by the time sophomore year arrived, he felt a lot better. Still incredibly alone in his fight against himself, but still, better.

***

Adam’s first day of sophomore year had been successful, if not fairly dull. He’s walking outside to catch the bus home, successfully dodging past the groups of friends taking first day pictures together, when he’s knocked onto his ass unexpectedly.

Instinctively, he looks up and says, “Um-” and is planning to say more but Caleb Michaels’ sincerely apologetic smile halts any other retort from leaving his mouth. Caleb had circulated in Adam’s general orbit since middle school. They were the moons of two separate planets, spending most time in their own orbit except for the occasional interruption in each other’s trajectory. Adam doubts Caleb has even noticed, though he can’t really blame him. Adam’s world is small, isolated from the joys of his peers while Caleb’s is teeming with excitement and people- the high school life you get promised in the movies.

“Shit.” He extends out one of his hands which tightens the short sleeve covering the upper part of his arms that have...noticeably filled out since middle school. “Sorry man, my bad.” The ease with which Caleb hoists him up only sends his stomach rippling. Okay, so very nice arms.

Caleb smiles, soft and vulnerable, before jetting off in the direction of the locker room for football practice. He’d overheard from some people that he’d made varsity this year. Adam watched his retreating form and placed his cool knuckles against his cheeks to reign in the growing redness. So Caleb's kinda hot, so what?