Us Against The World: Prologue

by Benny Forstadt, age 14
Us Against The World: Prologue Benny is a graduating 8th grader from New York City. He is going to LaGuardia Arts High School.

“Today is the first day of the eighth grade. I didn’t think I’d make it. Honestly. After spring in seventh grade I didn’t think I could even be here. I thought I’d be still caught up in a separate time. Still fighting reality. I lost that battle. Reality hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. But it seems that I’ve overcome it.”

It’s the first day of school. Eyes wide open. I’m tired, but I’ll live. I push my blanket off of me and turn to the side. I see my clock on my desk. Seven o’clock. Good thing I got to sleep that late. These days, I have trouble sleeping.

It doesn’t take me long to get dressed, brush my teeth, grab my backpack, and walk downstairs to get breakfast. I am a good student, but I’m not very enthusiastic to go back to school. Who is? Regardless, I’m always tired and I get cranky if I don’t get a little bit of physical activity before I do anything. I know, I sound like a typical seventh grader. But please, cut me some slack. I’m trying my best.

My mom waits for me in the kitchen, holding a box of Cheerios in her right hand and a box of Frosted Flakes in her left hand. “Which one?” she asks.

“No, ‘good morning, how’d you sleep, you ready for school?’” I ask as I sit down at our white, circular kitchen table.

“I thought I didn’t have to bore you with that standard first day of school mom speech,” she says in reply.

“I’ll have the Cheerios.” I look around to see if my father is awake. I don’t see him, so he must still be in the bedroom. I am an only child, so I get a lot of attention from my parents, and they always get up to see me off in the morning. However, my parents’ high level of attentiveness for me has never really helped me socially. I’m not one of the popular kids at my school. I truly don’t mind their cliques and exclusiveness; I want to do what I want to do and that’s it.

Today is the first day of the eighth grade. I didn’t think I’d make it. Honestly. After spring in seventh grade I didn’t think I could even be here. I thought I’d be still caught up in a separate time. Still fighting reality. I lost that battle. Reality hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. But it seems that I’ve overcome it.

My dad comes down the stairs in his suit. He is a corporate lawyer, at the top of his firm. He holds a briefcase in his right hand, where the watch he’s worn every single day has sat for the past six years.

“Morning, Anna,” he says cheerfully. He walks over and kisses the top of my head.

“Morning, Dad,” I say. My dad never says ‘Good morning’; always just ‘Morning.’ I find that a little funny. My dad abbreviates a lot of other phrases too, like ‘sup,’ or ‘how ya doin.’ He tries to act all hip and cool and modern, when really he just makes a fool of himself.

My dad plants himself in the chair across from me as he picks up the paper from the counter. My mom lays down a cream cheese bagel in front of him, which he gladly picks up and devours. I finish my breakfast and pick up my bag. I head for the door.

“Bye sweetie,” they both say, almost in harmony.

“Bye,” I call.

“Wait, Anna,” my mom stops me. “Honey…just try your best out there.”

“Okay, Mom,” I say dully as I close the door.

It’s kind of chilly outside for September. Then again, it’s always cold in Minnesota. I live in a small town called Eriksville, near St. Paul. We are not a big community, but we have the best middle school football team in the state. I don’t care much for sports; there’s one thing I have in common with a lot of the other girls in my school, other than the cheerleaders. I’ve only been to one school game, and that was what we call the Premier, the biggest football game of the year. It was like our super bowl.

I walk along the sidewalk of Turner Street, where I live. The school bus stop is a few streets away. It usually arrives at 8:15. When I arrive, though, it is 8:14. The bus doesn’t show up until 8:23 – annoyingly late. I’m going to get to school with fifteen seconds to spare, if I’m lucky. When I get on the bus, it’s not very crowded, since most people live closer than I do, so they can just walk to school. I sit in the very back on the left, and make myself comfortable. School starts at 8:40, and the bus ride takes about  eighteen minutes. So I need a break.

More people flood on as it stops twice more. Still, no one sits next to me. I assume people just don’t want to be in the back; they want to be sitting next to their friends in the front, so they can get off first, since they know we’re going to be late.

Finally, we arrive in the parking lot. The people flood off and I’m the last one to step out. Everyone races towards the building. I stay back and walk, enjoying the last bit of the outdoors I will get until recess later today. Once I enter the new classroom for the first time, it is 8:40 on the dot.

The new teacher, Mr. Meeker, introduces himself. He is our English teacher. I like him. He seems nice. I can tell whether someone is kind or mean based on the tone of his or her voice. Mr. Meeker has a gentle, soothing voice that comforts me.  I feel like I can trust him.

“Okay class, it is really great to meet you.” I like Mr. Meeker, but I tune this part out. It isn’t necessary for me to hear. The same speech every single year — I’m not interested. My attention returns, though, when I hear, “For your first assignment — to get to know you — I’d like you to do some creative writing about a lesson you learned last year. And I don’t mean a school lesson, I mean something that you learned that has shaped you…that has influenced your attitude. Please try and say as much as you can.”

There is a lot I can say; maybe I’m not very comfortable with sharing everything. But then, I hear my mother’s voice echo in my head: “Honey, just try your best.” So I have decided it’s been enough hiding my past, it’s time to enter this year with a new perspective on life.

“You have one hour, starting…now.”

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