Anxious Hearts

By

Thane Hounchell

Edited by

Eric Cooke

For the friend

Who lightens the Way

“That we be ourselves deeply disturbed by the problem of our own life is therefore the indispensable condition of our inquiry.”

-Rudolf Bultmann

“Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment! I insist upon that. I have spoken of this because I keep wanting to know for a fact whether other people feel such enjoyment? I will explain; the enjoyment was just from the too intense consciousness of one’s own degradation; it was from feeling oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, but that it could not be otherwise; that there was was no escape for you; that you never could become a different man.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter One

In the mist of vapor and little wisps of smoke I sat there waiting for the pain to go away.  Lost in the decay. Lost in the anxious hearts that we tried to share. Talk of tea and travesty was spread out amongst the few of us that sat together in this posh living room we now inhabited. He was so young. He was so young and so were we. Why? Why did he have to go? What was the meaning? What purpose did we place in our minds? What thought? These were but empty questions though for I already knew their answers.

What we had sought was simple to our humanity, our condition as you and I. What we sought was the tragedy of communion. The incommensurability of byward tides. It was the sharing of those who had seen the broken... Broken in all the ways most eyes can’t see. There was solidarity beyond the haze of our aspirations, our ambitions, our hopes. For we were bound in desolate ground with our friend Sammy and we were one in our apartness. Apart from all the joy we would never again experience with one another. Apart from all those promises that were in turn lies. But most of all apart from our being, though together we still were. For with one another we had together experienced loss. The loss of someone dear. A mystic estrangement now was in us and told us we were home. That it was our beginning and end… that it was the way it was always meant to be. Our fate. Our blind damnation. Our silent and unheard cry. But then… then… she smiled. But then she laughed. Without a syllable uttered she sang poetry that fought the darkness away. Her name was Tammy and she was my friend.

She never, never once stopped transcending the foils of our world as far as I saw her. Where we were alone and lonely. Sad and misplaced. She reminded us of the gladness that could be found in the simple touch of hands clasped together. That there was salvation for the human spirit in the bindings of a friend. That there was hope in the coming of the night. That the moon would soon glisten and the stars would stir out of their slumber. That darkness can be friendly. That even it, too, has its light. That was Tammy for ya, and her smile lifted us in this wake. She was, if she was anything, a loyalist to the beauty of the human song. She gave those who were burdened relief from the struggle. She brushed away all seemingness of our despair. We shined brighter as we rose higher in the presence of her charm. My friend Tammy, Tammy my friend.

        ....

        The thoughts of fatal laughter pervaded her mind as she walked through the quiet but excruciatingly loud meanderings of classrooms and halls. Their gazes somberly shot her way as she passed them one by one. What were these gazes of theirs? She thought to herself. Were they cruel or just indifferent? She honestly didn’t know which was worse. To be rejected or to be forgotten before you were even known. As she made her way around the corner she released a sigh of relief because she had finally reached her destination. But she also was truly relieved that this section of the building was seemingly empty, albeit one slightly pudgy receptionist working the front desk and her student aid.

“Hi.” She said, as she passed through the entrance to the front office and made her way to the receptionist.

“What?” The receptionist blandly responded, only half looking up at the girl.

“Oh I was just saying hello, that was all.” The girl said, a gentleness in her tone.

“Hello then.” The woman said, looking up for only a moment before returning to whatever work she was attending to.

The girl stood there for a while after that short exchange, moving her gaze from the door, to the woman, to the aid, and back to the door. Being in this place, in this school, for the short amount of time that she had was already causing latent fears from her younger days to surface. The students and their whispers not heard. This woman who barely took note of her being there. The aid who didn’t even turn around to look her way. They were all birthing the thought she often wished to suppress. You don’t matter... You’re translucent... A ghost... Just a fading shimmer of someone who would never fully be.

After another few moments she began to ponder a timely choice, an either/or of her own making. That she would either try to make contact with this woman working the front desk, or she would just turn around, call her mom, and give this whole senior year of high school bullshit another shot at a later date. But as a few more moments passed in her indecision, her anxiety was put to rest as the woman raised her line of sight back to the girl.

“Can I help you sweetheart?” The woman asked.

Though she wasn’t sure how authentic it was, she did like that the lady had called her sweetheart. It was something her dad had always called her growing up and it made her feel cared for, even loved, if only it was just for that audible moment. She could handle this, she thought to herself.

“Uh ya.” The girl said with a hint of awkward cheer, as she took a couple steps forward and laid her hands on the desk that stood between her and the receptionist.

“I’m new here and I was wondering where I should go to get my locker assignment and class schedule.” She said to the woman.

“That would be one of the counselors offices down the hall to your right.” The woman said to her, sounding sweeter as the seconds went by.

“Oh ok, what room number would that be in exactly?” She asked her.

“Well sweetheart that would depend on your name.” The woman said to her.

“Oh shit, I forgot to introduce myself didn’t I… Shit, I mean crap… I mean… I’m sorry I swore.” She said to the lady, somewhat in a panic of verbage.

“I’m just new here and I’m nervous. And I don’t know why, but when I’m nervous I really lose it with my fucking language. Shit, crap. I’m sorry.” She said, putting her hand over her mouth.

“Sweetheart, it’s fine. Calm down a little bit and just give your name.” The lady said.

“Oh sorry, my name is Olsen, Tammy Olsen.” Tammy said.
        “More like Tammy fucking Terrets if you ask me.” The student aid chuckled softly, but still loud enough for both Tammy and the receptionist to hear.

Tammy let her progressingly cheerful and endearing composure slip for a second at the aids remark, but it was long enough for the receptionist to notice.

“Would you shut your damn mouth and get back to work!” the receptionist snapped at the aid.

“The damn hooligans they send me these days.” she said with a sigh, now turning her attention back to Tammy.

As the receptionist patted Tammy on the hand she said, “Don’t mind her sweetheart. That’s Melissa, and she’s just being salty because she’s stuck spending her free period in here stapling packets.”

“Fucking Nazi ass school.” Melissa grumbled a little louder than before.

“Girl, you better watch your damn mouth!” The receptionist snapped again in her direction.

“It’s language like that, that got your little ass in here in the first place.” she said with fire and sass.

Melissa didn’t respond to the receptionist’s remarks and continued to haphazardly staple the packets in front of her.

“Anyway sweetheart, your counselor is Mr. Michaelson, in room 108.” She said to Tammy, returning her gaze with a vibrant new smile, as if some catharsis was made upon her in shielding Tammy from Melissa’s crudeness.

“He’ll set you up with a locker and your schedule.” she continued.

“Alright!” Tammy said almost gleefully. “Thank you so much Mrs… Uh…”

“My name is Mrs. Sarah.” the receptionist said to Tammy, extending her hand in greeting. “And if you need anything at all don’t hesitate to come right in here and let me know.”

After they shook hands Tammy made her way out the front door of the office and couldn't but help feel a still of peace at the sincerity that Mrs. Sarah exhibited. She had trust in the words of that woman, and felt that she might be a safe haven if she ever did need one. Though at first Mrs. Sarah seemed confusingly disinterested like all the rest, by the end of their exchange Tammy had noticed something authentic about her. That she cared. Well at least someone seemed care that she was there, Tammy thought, because someday she might need help in this foreign array of faces and books.

As she walked down the hall and took a right, just as Mrs. Sarah had instructed, she did her best to shake off the worry that lay inside. She hadn’t had the best start to her day and she was worried that it may mark the rest of what was to come. However, this was but a residual fear in comparison to the one that lay even deeper in the realms of her subconscious. What if this day was to be the crowning achievement of her short high school career. Neglect by the masses, a friendly receptionist named Mrs. Sarah, and a one-time nickname that she didn’t much care for outside its claim to a subsidiary level of cleverness. At least it’s funny. At least her name would be said with a smile, a laugh. Maybe even one day she might learn to laugh along.

Sadly, Tammy thought, even a nickname would suffice to save her from this untouchable fear of being, well, an untouchable. That if rumor of such a nickname as Tammy Terrets extended beyond that short encounter with Melissa, well at least she would have that going for her. An Identity. A name. Even if she had to spurt out obscenities at the most opportune times to fit the description, at least she would be someone. Maybe even make a few friends out of pity. At least more than a ghost girl would. For there is no more rugged path than the one walked by the nameless.

As she strolled down the humble hallways of Hollow End High she noticed how empty they were... How seemingly empty she felt. She wished that if only this could always be. That the world would reflect her heart and she could truly be alone. Maybe she would feel less anxious in a world such as this. Where the world didn’t affront her with a reality outside the internal solitude she had known for so long. And then she was there.         

As she approached the beige wooden door of room 108 she saw, through its small window, a man diligently at work. Watching him flip through a file book, Tammy couldn't help but wonder if this would be another stressful interaction between strangers she would soon face with regret. Regret, regretting this whole little experiment that her and her mom had invented over a bottle of cab on a summer’s night of a now prior season. As if her senior year was to be some sort of anthropology by which she could delve into a chaotic new world of hormone fluctuations and jock like idiocracy and emerge out of it scot-free. But maybe it had the potentiality to be… good in the end.

“Are you going to come in?” she heard a voice ask quietly through smudged glass.

As she snapped out of the grips of angst to the present moment she saw the man looking at her as if his eyes alone were ushering her to an ultimatum: Enter or scram the fuck off. She briskly opened the door and flooded in with a smile that felt more natural than forced this time.

“Hi, my name is Tammy Olsen.” She said promptly, extending her hand.

As their hands met, Tammy couldn’t help noticing that there was a tan line where a wedding ring might once of lay. Maybe he was divorced. But then again, Tammy thought, that was none of her business. Not yet at least. After they shook hands she sat down, hoping she was in the right office with the right faculty member.

“Well, what can I do for you Ms. Olsen?” he asked, with a tone somewhere between contempt and concern.

“Uh, Mrs. Sarah told me to come to 108 to talk to you.” Tammy said to the man.

“You are Mr. Michaelson, right?” She asked.

“That would be me.” He responded, maintaining his looming eye contact with Tammy. “What the fuck can I do for you?”

Though she was continually shocked at the faculty’s brazen use of profanity she could not help but to release a little internal giggle at his question. Not that she was anyone to be unweathered in the harshness of language. She was in fact quite fluent in its art amongst several of them, especially french. But nonetheless it was still oddly interesting to see the staff forsake the formality of their own roles for sake of a true expression of the heart. A true expression only good ole “fuck” or “son of a bitch” could produce. To be fully honest, Tammy liked that he cussed here in that moment. It reminded her of the way that some of her Uncle’s talked… the way her dad use to.

“I was hoping that you were the guy to see about getting my schedule and locker assignment round here.” She said, feeling a little less worried by the prospect of this meeting.

“Damn right I am,” He bellowed slightly. “Sarah sent you to the right fucking place.”

“Hell of a woman that Sarah.” He said with a curious smile. “I’m serious, especially since you’re so new, if you need anything…”

“I know, go to her.” Tammy said before he could finish.

“She told you that already, huh?” He asked her with an entertained, maybe even surprised, tone of voice.
        “Yup, yup she did.” Tammy said.

“Ah,” he said leaning back in his chair slightly, “that’s good then I suppose.”

“And why is that?” Tammy asked.

“That means she likes ya.” Mr. Michaelson said, with a devilish grin about his face.

“Well, I guess that’s a good thing.” She said as her voice dropped from pleasant to somewhat anxious. “At least I made a friend today.”

“Well, Sarah’s a good friend to have.” He said, leaning forward in his chair.

“Well, why is that,” Tammy asked.

“I guess I’ll just be frank with you when it comes to Sarah.” He said to Tammy. “She looks out for people. She looks out for those who need it and even some that don’t, at least they like to think they don’t.”

“And she does this in the most subtlest way.” He said, cooing to the voice of a gentle breeze. “She does this. She just… She just has the propensity to guide people in the ways each person needs.”

"Whether it's slap of sass of the comfort of a hug, she just tries to make it easier for people to go on another day." He said to her, though Tammy wasn’t sure if all this monologuing was meant solely for her benefit.

“She gives the advice of a sage that just lingers in your mind till it blossoms in your… Well hell I don’t really know where the fuck I was going at with that, but you get my jest. She’s good people. She’s good people to have you back, ya know.” He said slapping his hands together.

As Tammy finally found a relaxing position in her chair, Mr. Michaelson fervently spun around towards his computer, as if by automated response.

“Now let’s pull up your file and see if the schedule you have will get you to graduation in the spring.” He said.

With their feverish eye contact now broken, Tammy’s eyes and mind began to wonder. As he scrolled through his database, Tammy peered around his office as if transposed into the washing landscapes of clutter and personal effects. Who was he? What do I see...

“Ok got it!” He said to her, quickly raising his hands of the keyboard like steam from a boiling pot of water.

“Tammy Olsen.” He said as if he had been given a glimpse of her entire life.

“Let’s see, you did a stent at a couple… no… fuck actually a lot of different elementaries kid. What are you a military or something,” he asked with a jovial snicker.

“No, actually my dad was.” Tammy said, as she withheld any notes of the morbid from sight.

“No shit, huh?” He said with a glare of pale enthusiasm. “What branch?”

“Air force sir!” Tammy said sarcastically, as she awkwardly raised her hand for a salute in his direction.

“Ah Air Force, huh? What’d your dad fly bombers or something?” He asked.

“Ya he flew B-52’s for a while till he switch over to being a chaplain.” She responded, now averting her eyes to the floor.

“From flying the Buff to praising the Lord?” He asked again.

“Interesting.” He said scratching his head. “Interesting.”

“Then, as you can see, I was homeschooled from Jr. High on and that brings us to the present moment. Here. Now.” She said, trying frantically to quash any further discussions of chaotic and tumultuous memories.

“You alright kid?” He asked as his brash stature turned towards a tinge of concern.

“You look a little pale.” He said, waving his hand back and forth in front of her face.

“Ya, I’m fine. Sorry, I guess I must just be a little dehydrated that’s all.” She said, regaining her cool.

“Ok, well have a water.” He said, reaching into what must have been a little mini fridge behind his desk.

“Technically…” He said.

“I’m not suppose to give you any food or drink while school is in session, but I also don’t want them firing my ass for letting your ass pass out on my watch!” He said with a tone somewhere between a joke and the utmost of seriousness.

“Ok, thanks!” she said, reaching happily for the H20 that she knew would do nothing for the light headedness she had just experienced.

        It wasn’t dehydration that Tammy was experiencing, nor was she anywhere near passing out. It felt more like a ghost had past through her. Maybe because one did. PTSD, even in its lighter forms, if there is such a thing as lightness to the syndrome, was a bitch to deal with. Tammy knew this. The ghosts haunted her too often. The ghosts were her memories. Memories that part of her wished she never had, for there is no despairing over the loss of what was never there in the first place.

        “Shit fuck!” he bellowed.

“What’s wrong?” Tammy asked, now disarrayed from her prior thoughts.

“Shit fucking shit.” he said again. “Damn computer is frozen.”

“Wait.” He said, now caressing his computer with hope rising in his voice. “You got this girly.”

“Gotcha ya son of a bitch!” He proclaimed with pride, as the monitor sprung back to life. “Sorry I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get your schedule printed out there for a second.”

“Here we go.” He said. “Looks like your first class after free period in the morning is Advanced Placement Literature with Mr. Springer.”

“When does free period end?” Tammy asked.

“Oh about ten minutes ago.” He said with a chuckle.

“You’re joking, right?” She asked.

“Not at all, it’s kinda a hobby of mine making you kids late to class.” He said still chuckling. “Plus it tends to piss Mr. Singer off.”

“Fuck…”

....

“Come on Mr. Springer, it’s the first day of class and you’re giving us homework already.” I asked with youthful folly.

“Mr. Bradshaw, if you had any sensibility to pay attention when I was speaking you’d understand that this just isn’t homework I’m giving you.” He says in favor. “It’s a chance for me to get to know the you that you are. How you write. How you think.”

“What in the world does that have to do with World literature?” I asked, still trying to rag him on with pointless questions.

“It has everything to do with you and the subject, my fine sir.” He said.

“Class, let us remind our young and forgetful Mr. Bradshaw why it is that we read the great works of human forces.” He said with verbosity to seemingly everyone but myself.

“So we might understand that which we are.” The class said in unison the phrase Mr. Singer has been preaching to us since our Junior year english class with him.

“So we might understand who we are.” He repeated. “You see Mr. Bradshaw, Your assignment is quite simple. If you are to achieve the goal of understanding who you are through these books you must first know who you think you are.”

“So everyday, class, you will be writing in these here journals to discover the answer to that ever nagging question: Who am I?” He said, almost preaching to us. “So that when you’re reading Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Fitzgerald, Sartre, among others this semester you’ll be looking at what they say about who we are and see if it in fact changes how you see you.”

“Maybe Mr. Bradshaw has brought up a very salient point that needs to be made explicit at this moment.” He said, mulling things over in his head as he took a pause to think.

“I’m having you first write about yourself tonight, bereft of any reading, so that you’ll have somewhat of a concept of yourself to contest against all those who we read this semester.” He said to us. “And at the end we’ll just have to see how right or wrong each one of us was in our humble beginnings of this endeavor.”

“So your aim is existential in nature?” I asked him.

“Well of course my dear lad. Anything worth learning better damn be existential!” He boomed. “And if you keep asking me questions like that I might even be inclined to think I’ve started to intrigue that brilliant mind of yours.”

“O’ flattery will get you nowhere Mr. Singer.” I said, flipping through the blank pages of the journal that sat in front of me.

“I know, tell that to my first wife.” He said, as the whole class began to laugh along.

Even I caught myself laughing at yet another one of his funny ironies. Ironic because Mr. Singer’s only had one wife and she’s our chemistry teacher Mrs. Singer. I guess somewhere in there marriage it had become a joking matter of Mr. Singer’s mysteriously fictitious first wife “Sarah,” as Mrs. Singer calls her. It was a joke that I guess had equally bled into their shared working environment for us to enjoy as well.

“We good though Walt?” He asked me. “Anymore question I can answer for you?”

“Naw Mr. Singer, as always, you have given a sermon of providence to guide me through my academic dismay.” I said to him, still chuckling.

See, at first glance it may seem like I was just being a little playful shit to Mr. Singer, which is true to some degree, but I swear to you that’s not the totality of the case. He was in all actuality my favorite teacher, but God help me if he ever figures that out. I’d never get him off my back then. I had always loved his eccentric and crazy ass style of just being himself and most of all how much he loved just spending time with his students, with us. How much passion he had in pushing us to the brinks of our own understandings so that we might gain something purely for our own betterment.

“Alright class,” he started up again, “now that our wandering sceptic has been appeased, let us move on to…”

“Excuse me, are you Mr. Singer?” An unseen voice said curiously from the direction of the door.

As the entire class looked over in unison, myself and Mr. Singer included, we all saw her. This was the first time I saw Tammy and at first I didn’t take much notice. She was a cute girl, don’t get me wrong, but this school had plenty of that, so it ceased to be a defining factor in a girl, at least for me. Honestly, I was nothing special myself. Seemingly stuck somewhere between decently attractive and just alright. And while all the cute girls passed me by I had only one hope. To meet a girl that was...

“Hi.” A whisper came from behind me as Mr. Singer started his lecturing.

Shit, it was the new girl. Fuck, she must have snuck by my gaze and sat in the empty desk behind me. Shit, she’s a lot prettier up close than I thought. Shit, I wasn’t fucking prepared for this.

“Hi.” I said back.

Fuck.

“My name is Tammy.” She said. “What’s yours?”

“Uh, it’s Walt.” I said, trying not to fumble my words.

“Hi Walt.” She said.

God dammit why did she have to say my name like that.

“Hi Wal… I mean Tammy.” I said.

What the fuck was that shit.

“You’re cute Walt.” She said with a soft laugh.

“You are too.” I said.

What the hell are you doing… wait is she blushing. Was I doing something right, right now?

“So how do you like it here…”

“Excuse me Mr. Bradshaw, is there something that is lacking in my performance or are you just interrupting class for the fun of it?” Mr. Singer said before she could respond.

        “Uhh.”

        Ya that’s all I could muster in this moment.

        “Uh…”

        “O’ sorry Mr. Singer it’s not his fault.” Tammy said, taking charge of the conversation for me. “It’s mine.”

        “Walt here was just being a gentlemen and filling me in on what I missed so far.” She said. “Sorry.”

        “Well Walt, not only are you talking in class, but to a girl this time.” He said. “Good for you.”

        God please just fucking kill me.

        “But if you don’t mind letting me finish up teaching the class I would really appreciate it.” He said jokingly. “I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to flirt with the new girl in between class.”

        Anytime now Big Guy. Just fucking ace me already would you.

        “Thanks Mr. Singer.” I said.

        “Anytime Pal.” He said.

        “Thanks for flirting with me Walt.” Tammy said from behind me.

        “Anytime Tammy. Anytime.”

        Interesting.

        Was I just flirting with the new girl or was Mr. Singer just giving me a hard time? What just happened? I don’t fucking do shit like that… Do I? I’m lost. I’m lost right now. With myself. With this girl. In five minutes of class, a brief exchange between boy and girl, I was lost.

        Ring. Ring.

        Class was over? Already? Where did I go for that hour? Where did my mind wander?

        “See ya later Walt.” Tammy said to me, as she gathered her stuff and got up to leave.

        She was walking away now. That gorgeous brunette hair waving back and forth as she strolled through the class towards the door. Gorgeous hair? What the fuck is going on with me?

        “Hey Tammy.” I said.

        “Ya Walt.” She said, turning around slowly.

        “Uh, about seeing me later…”

        O’ sweet baby Jesus.

        “Ya, what about it?” She said with a smile.

        “Well, me and some friends are hanging out after school today and I was wondering…”
        “Do you have a car?” She asked, pulling her back pack straps more firmly across her shoulders.

        “Ya, ya I do. I mean it’s nothing special, but…”

        “Perfect. Mine’s in the shop.” She said to me still maintaining that smile.

        “Ok, so I’ll meet you…”

        “Out front after last period. Sound good to you?”

        “Ya, ya that sounds good to me.” I said, trying not to fumble my words.

        “Ok, bye Walt.” She said, as she turned to the door with a little giggle.

        “Oh Tammy…”

        Dammit she was gone.

Goddamn, I don’t know if it was something that I ate this morning or what because, trust me, this is not my usual way to start the school year, let alone my average week.

        Clap. Clap. Clap.

        Clapping… where the hell was that coming from. As I looked behind me to where the noise was coming from I saw Mr. Singer smiling. Smiling and clapping. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. For a second there I forgot that we weren’t alone. That we were in someone’s classroom and other students were filing in as we filed out.

        “Well done Mr. Bradshaw.” He said to me. “Well done.”

        “Cut me a break would you?” I said, gathering my stuff into a pile and sliding it into my bag. “And really thanks for calling me out in front of the whole class while you were at it.”

        “Hey, you seemed to recover alright from it.” He said. “Shit Walt, if you put half the effort into my class that you put into talking to that girl you might even pass this year.”

        “Ya we’ll see about that.” I said.

        He was only kidding though. I hadn’t got below a B+ my entire time here at this school, let alone anywhere near that in any of his classes. I’m a nerd. An outkast. That girl doesn’t know what she’s getting into. I’m sure as people begin to take note of her and how pretty she is I’ll be but a faint memory to her. And as she moves on to boys much higher in the social standing than I, I’ll still be here. Here where only the teachers and my equally awkward renegade friends seemed to take notice of me.

        “See ya later Mr. Singer.” I said, as I too made my way to the door.

        “Hey Walt.” I heard from behind me.

        “Ya Mr. Singer?”

        “She seems to really like you already.” He said. “Don’t think too much and fuck it up.”

        “Thanks.” I said, not able to fully hide the smirk on my face.

        She seemed to like you he said. It was nice to hear someone say that which was so unfamiliar to my thoughts. She seemed to really like me. I needed to hear that and Mr. Singer knew it. He was right though about one thing for sure. If I was going to make any progress with this girl I was going to have to do my best not to think whatsoever. That was the surety to my own demise, this mind of mine. Don’t over think this one Walt. Don’t you fuck this up before it even begins...

....

        

        He was cute in kind of an awkward shy sorta way. Tammy thought to herself. He was cute and now she had plans with him and his friends after school.

She never did have trouble talking to shy boys, and it wasn’t just because she was pretty. Though I’m sure that didn’t hurt. She never knew why, but around them she wasn’t nervous about things like she normally was. She carried herself in confidence. She felt that she was worth knowing and pursuing. That she wasn’t just a pretty face, but a lovely soul. It was girls that really struck the chords of self-doubt and loathing in her. For in the betrayal of her own gender she always felt judged, insufficient, and deprived. Tammy thoroughly believed their was no solidarity to be found in women outside a small gathering of one or two and even that had its exceptions. It was girls, girls like Melissa, that frightened her most. Judging and encapsulating her into a box before she could even say hi and get to know them.

“Hey new girl.” A voice said from behind her.

        “Fuck.” She blurted out in response, standing still in the hallway.

        “Wow there, just trying to say hi that’s all.” The voice said. “You gunna turn around or should I get in front of you?”

“Sorry.” Tammy said, swiveling around to the boy standing behind her. “Hi, my name is Tammy!”

“Tammy... oh shit you’re Tammy.” He said.

Tammy didn’t exactly know what he meant by that, but it made her feel awkward and she began to turn away to head to her next class.

“Wow, wow I didn’t mean anything by that.” He said. “Just that a friend of mine was stuck working in the office this morning during free period and she told me about you.”

“Oh.” Tammy said. “Is her name Melissa?”

“Ya that’s her.” He said. “And knowing her, and the mood she was in this morning, you probably didn’t get the warmest introduction.”

“No, she seemed nice.” Tammy said.

“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or just flat out lying.” He said with an honest chuckle.

“Fuck if I know.” Tammy blurted out awkwardly, not knowing what to say.

“Goddamn, Melissa wasn’t kidding about that mouth of yours.” He said. “What did she call you?”

“Terretes Tammy.” Tammy said.

“That’s right Terretes Tammy.” He said. “Hell of a nickname for your first day.”

“Ya, I guess it is.” She said, as they both began to walk in the same direction.

“You’re lucky ya know.” He said. “I didn’t even have a name other than ‘hey you’ for the first two months I was here sophomore year.”

“That seems kinda rough.” She said. “I’m sorry…”

“Oh no need to be sorry. I’m way past being nameless at this point in my high school career.” He said cutting her off before she could finish. “I went from rags to…”

“No, I was going to say I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Tammy said, returning the favor.

“Oh shit, my bad.” He said. “I’m Sam or Sammy. Whichever you prefer.”

“I prefer Sammy.” Tammy said with a smile, as they shook hands.

“Sammy it is then.” He said.

“So how do you like it here so far?” He asked. “Meet any cute guys?”
        “Maybe one or two.” She said with a tone somewhere between shy and playful.

“Oh really.” He said. “Does our lil’ Ms. Tammy have a crush already on her first day?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it a crush, but I am suppose to be hanging out with this guy I met and his friends after school.” She said, trying not to blush.

“Oh really?” Sammy asked. “This guy have a name?”

“Ya.” She said. “His name’s Walt. I met him in my english class during second period.”

“Walt Bradshaw?” He asked.

“Ya I think that might be his last name.” She said. “Why do you seem so surprised?”

“No reason.” He said. “Just kind of impressed that’s all.”

“Why is that?” She asked.

“I don’t know I’m just surprised Walt talked to a girl I guess is all.” He said.

Before Tammy could follow this line of conversation any further the bell rang and the halls quickly dissipated to their empty state.

“Shit, I’m going to be late to my chemistry class.” Sammy said. “But it was real nice meeting ya! I’ll see ya after school!”

“See ya after school?” Tammy asked, as Sammy began to walk briskly away.

“Ya, Walt and I have lived next door to each other our entire lives.” He said. “He’s practically family at this point.

“Oh.” She said.

But before she could even say bye he was off. Tammy liked Sammy already. She didn’t know why he was so nice to her right off the bat, but it made her feel nice that he had taken the time to chat as if they were already friends. She was less anxious now that her day was turning around for the better, but where that anxiety left a new anxious feeling began to blossom. As much as she deeply desired to make friends in this new and foreign place, she was also afraid of it. Tammy often had doubled emotions like this and was all too often aware of how the things one wants most in this world can also lead to travesties of the heart.

What if she began to care for these people to quickly? She thought to herself. What if she began to care and they were but fated to leave her behind? For what she feared most was the instability, the fragility of human relations and how easily she was prone to fall in love with a love not shared. Her heart was sometimes to open to the longing for times meaningfully spent. For she felt so deeply towards those she often had just met. That she was pure reception. A fully feeling being who received pain and joy both intensely as a person could, even it be from a stranger’s gaze. Tammy… she was immediacy. Immediate and present and scarred from all that she had lost. The tragedy. The tragedy that laid in this young girl’s heart.