The room was a suffocated in a cloud of ignorance during physics class. No one really understood it and everyone loathed it. The students would mindlessly record the professor's voice while, on Facebook bitching about how much they hated college. But, they never dared leaving. Society had already washed out any of our hopes and dreams in this room. This room was a sign of conformity, for most. This was just a gateway to stability. This was smart according to society. Everyone wants to be or marry a doctor. I tried grasping onto the meaning of the lecture with all my heart, but somehow I couldn't. It could have been a number of things that kept me from absorbing all I possibly could have out of the lecture. But somehow, I knew that it was just me. Something kept telling me that I wasn't suppose to be in this room. That I wasn't meant for this life of stability I kept getting crammed down my throat. That I was suppose to do more with my life, then just cheat people out of their money for my services.
The professor droned on and I still had nothing on my page. My mind kept wandering from this plain. Somehow, I didn't feel alive in this course. Somehow, I felt rather dead. My curiosity was no longer existent. Once in college, I wasn't the inquisitive little boy I use to be. I was different. I began to loathe learning because there wasn't anything interesting. There was nothing calming or soothing in my physics course. It just drove me mad. It would frustrate me and make me hate myself for even being pulled by the currents of words my peers and parents constantly spat at me. 'Nathaniel, I think you should be a doctor.' or 'Nathaniel, you're going to be a doctor.' I didn't have much of a say in my life. I was a mere puppet. Everyone else just pulled my strings. Here I was in my physics class, hating every decibel that shot out of the instructor's mouth. It's not that I didn't understand it. It was the fact that I wasn't enjoying myself. I've always enjoyed learning from a very young age, and my grades were quite favorable because of it. I was smart. I graduated elementary school, middle school and high school as valedictorian. The SATs I passed with flying colors. All that work just to wind up here in a room, where the knowledge fails to enter my skull. It was regrettable.
For the rest of the lecture, I found myself playing chess on my cellphone. It was the only thing that made me happy anymore. I was going to go insane if I listened to one more syllable out of the professor's mouth. It will all be over soon. I chimed in my head. I had about a few weeks to go before the first semester of classes for the year would be over. After that, the courses would change and I wouldn't be stuck in another physics lecture till another year. I began moving the chess pieces in the way I always did. I always aimed for the opponent’s queen, being though it was their most valuable piece. From there, I'd watch the challenges reveal themselves. One by one, I would tactically solve the puzzle using a combination of rooks and bishops to achieve my goal. If only playing chess could be my career. I thought. Suddenly, I began to here a rush of scholars packing up their belongings and leaving the classroom. The lecture was over. I was thankful. Though the cloud of ignorance still remained in the air and would do so until, people who were actually passionate about becoming a doctor signed up for the program. I wasn't too sure when that day would come. If any of the students were like me, they spent the whole entire lecture just thinking about things unrelated to physics.
My feet paced out of the classroom happy to be free of physics and the oppressive reign of rules and principles. I went outside the campus and stretched my legs. It had been a long day for me and I was ready to go home. I sat on the bench outside the building and waited patiently for my friends to come out. I continued my game of chess jubilantly.
I was almost done clearing the board when a voice said, “Why are you always playing that game?”
It was Matthew. He was a friend of mine I had made during my biology classes. He had bright auburn hair, green eyes and hints of rust colored stubble on his face. He was tall and muscular. It was hard to believe he was eighteen, as well.
“Because, it keeps my mind sharp. It makes it easier for me to tackle any obstacle.” I said.
“Yeah whatever, Nate.” Matt sighed.
“Hey guys!” Cassandra grinned ear to ear.
Her hair was a bright blonde and her eyes were blue. Her features mirrored one of a small adorable creature, such as a kitten. Her voice was bright and bubbly, which didn't seem misplaced for what she looked like.
“Hey, Cassie.” Matt said smoothly.
“Don't call me that!” Cassandra demanded. She turned towards me and said, “Hey, Nate.”
“Hey,” I said casually. My eyes were still focused on my cellphone.
“Anyone one know where Raj is?” Her tone was innocuous.
“I didn't see him in my Physics class.” I said.
“He's probably on his way. I did see him in my chemistry class earlier.” Matt added.
Not too long after that, Raj appeared. He was a stocky guy, who wore thick frames on his face. Even if he was of Indian descent, he didn't have the accent. He spoke just like anyone of us. He was the only one of us who actually enjoyed the medical medicine course at our college.
“Hey Raj, where were you?” Cassandra asked.
“Sorry, I went to the vending machine. I wanted some Raisinets.” Raj answered obediently. He popped one in his mouth innocently.
“Let's go, shall we?” I asked.
“Sure.” Matt agreed.
The sun made it's descent out of the sky as, we began walking to the five train. We all had different destinations. I was heading back to Brooklyn, while the rest were in scattered parts of Manhattan. It was sad that the dorms weren't anywhere near the main campus building. So I saw it pointless, to move on campus. We all shuffled down into the train station. It was hot down there. We swiped our metro cards one by one and got on to the platform. The platform was dim, with flickering lights everywhere. Obese rats ran along the tracks and smell of burning rubber oozed out of the tunnel. I would be very happy once the train arrived. Then I wouldn't have to stand on this platform. The wind picked up and the ground began to tremble. My wish came true. The train stumbled down the track and stopped at the platform. Passengers got off and we got on. These were the first steps to happiness. We found a bench secluded bench on the train and we all took a seat.
Cassandra asked, “So, are you all excited about the weekend?”
“Course. What are you doing this weekend, Cassie?” Matt asked.
“I'm going to my friend's yacht party, then it's wine tasting all weekend in the Hamptions for my uncle's wedding.” she answered.
“How about you big shot?” Cassandra inquired.
“Gala openings with my parents. It's gonna be a snorefest. I hate art.” Matt sighed.
“What are you guys doing?” Matt asked.
“Video games and studying.” Raj answered.
Matthew narrowed his eyes in my direction. I guess he was waiting for me to respond.
“I don't know. It's all up in the air.” I answered.
“Nate, why are you so boring? You're so handsome, but you're not exciting.” Cassandra complained.
Yeah, and you all are pretentious rich snobs. Who had their parents pay for their education. So of course, you are automatically more interesting than I am. I thought.
“Depends on what you define as exciting.” I said.
“Well I don't know, you never reveal to us what you're doing. That makes me think that you're not doing anything interesting or of importance.” Cassandra said.
“I don't have to say what I'm doing.” My tone was calm.
“Stop trying to get Nate. It's obvious he doesn't want to share whatever boring thing he spends his time doing. So just drop it, Cassie.” Matt's words were sharp.
“Alright,” Cassandra agreed.
She got off the train with Matthew at 42nd street. It was just me and Raj on the train. He munched on his candy innocently.
“Just for the record Nate, I don't care if you share your personal life with me or not. I like you. We're friends.” Raj grinned.
“Thanks,” I said.
After that, Raj got off the train and I was alone. I was in a sea of strangers. I held my position at the edge of the bench although, I was constantly attacked by swinging fat, hair or technology. I started to think about my life again, just like I always would on my way home. Was I really cut out to be a Doctor? Science and math had always been my strong suits. But the more of the hopeless crap I had to memorize, the more a loathed my existence. The more I hated the path I had walk along. My parents wouldn't except any less out of me. I had to be Dr. Nathaniel Stone to be accepted by my family. Otherwise, they would just throw me at the dogs. They would tell me I was a waste of skin, time and energy if I didn't do anything else. They would tell me that I was a waste oxygen. I tried wiggling out of the medical medicine track a few times, and my parents always got very hostile with me. So, I just mindlessly became their meal ticket just so they would love me and respect me. Somehow, my mind told me that's not the way things are suppose to go. Regardless of my title, they were suppose to support me.
I came home and it was the same thing everyday. My dad was glued to the TV trying to get every bit of news that he could possibly get, and my mom was in the kitchen on the phone screaming at her sister. I sighed. I didn't even announce my presence because it was evident it wasn't important. I just wandered into my room and stared out my window. I watched the sunset over the elevated train station out my window. It was alright here, in Willamsburg. I tossed my bag on my bed and opened my laptop. I checked any of the email I had and agonized over the repetitive homework I had. “I hate my life.” I muttered.
But, this was the life I was forcefully born into. I didn't have much of a say about anything. I was automatically expected to cart my family out of the crap hole the had dug for themselves, since the day I was born. They bet everything on my life. I was suppose to forgo everything that I wanted to do, all my hopes and my dreams and just be their human meal ticket. So, I was a natural learner didn't mean that I was suppose to do this for the rest of my life. I was pretty sure if I came near a person, as a doctor, I would hurt them because I would have no idea what I'm doing. There was always horrible consequences if I didn't do absolutely perfect. This was the world I was brainwashed into.
I didn't do my homework that night either. That was the first step to everything. That was the first step to throwing off the reigns my parents had placed on me. That was to first step to my destiny. My first step to freedom.
“Liberation,” I muttered. That word looped over in my head.
I went on to piece together the plot of my new video game project called 'The Depths.' It was suppose to be a visually symbolic game and I hoped that everyone who got to play it was just as equally moved. It was about a man trying to find a cure for his wife's aliment. The only way to find a cure is through a place called 'The Depths' a cave stemming for miles that is dark and dimly lit. The main character goes in weak and helpless but comes out brave and stereotypically strong. The piece is a coming of age piece, which is rarely produced in video games.
The door slammed and sneakers began to abuse the cold neglected wooden floors. Lucas was home.
He opened the door intrusively and yelled, “How's my big brother doing?”
“Why are you here? Don't you have homework to do.” I said. I didn't have any time for any teenage bullshit.
“Yeah, but I don't feel like it right now.” he sighed. He looked closer at the computer screen and asked, “What are you doing? It looks cool.”
“Working, now leave.” I said.
“Alright, fine.” Lucas left.
He reentered the living area. That's where my parents coddled my brother, just like they always had. Things only got colder for me when I turned eighteen. I was basically alone. No one gave a flying crap about me, they just all used me. I continued on with the development of my game. It seemed like it was the only thing that cared about me or welcomed me with open arms. It was the only thing that needed me in this household. Everyone else was busy worrying about Lucas. But this wasn't new. I always got the short end of the stick. The game developing gave me peace. It gave me the opportunity to have a little freedom, in the jail-like life I lived. It was like finding a light at the end of a never ending tunnel. I finished up the first level of The Depths before heading to sleep. I wasn't in the mood to eat. It seemed like all my hunger and drive had been sucked out of me for the day.
A week passed and I was back in the room I hated. I was back in my physics class. The teacher continued droning about the principles of the universe, but I was too busy coding bits and pieces of the second level of The Depths. A T.A passed out the exam we had a few weeks ago about a few basic variables of Physics. She gave me mine and I stared at it. I had gotten an F. Even though I should have been falling apart like all the other tragically smart students in the class, I didn't. I didn't give a flying fuck about physics. It had no relevance to me. Sure, I was happy about what it did for society, but ultimately I didn't care to know about it. I let out a small laugh before putting it in my bag. This was the second step. I had to stop caring about things I didn't care about. I had to stop wasting energy, time and effort on something so inevitably unnecessary. I needed to take action. Sure, I loved my parents. But I wasn't going to do something that I knew I wasn't good at or would ever be good at. So I could fall prey to law suits and all that other bullshit. I knew I was going to flunk out of this class and because of that I was going to loose my grants. But I wasn't proficient in physics and probably never would be even with the help of a tutor. It was simply because I did not care about it. I had nothing to loose, but all so much to gain.
Class was over and I left the campus. I didn't wait for my pretentious “friends.” I just left. The Manhattan streets were solemn at the peak of twilight. The wind was colder. There were less people walking about. It was pretty quiet. As I entered the train station, I could hear the train cars jostling about. Students walked in packs, sharing with each other the secrets of their universes. I was just a a decaying star in a sea of gasses. I was my own nebula. But, I didn't have any stars or occupants. It was just me. I got on the train's emptiest car and sat there. I stared at my reflection in the window across from me. I was Nathaniel stone. My dark medium length locks gave away my age. It made it evident I was eighteen. That I was young and stupid. My obsidian eyes hinted that I was reclusive and aloof. My expression signaled that I was thinking. My blank pigment resembled whatever of the little innocence I had. Even with glances and stares from strangers, they were never able to figure me out. I existed but it was almost as if, I didn't exist. It was like I was an illy defined blur on a lens.
After being jostled back and forth for about an hour, I was finally home. I came out of the train station and gazed down the street. It was soulless and bleak. Twilight had passed, so it was finally pitch black. I could only hear my footsteps along the pavement. A car rode by every now and then but, it was quiet. I guess the hipsters are out of town for the night. The chilly air accompanied me on my walk home through the graffitied streets. Eventually, I made it home. I walked to my doorstep and opened the door. It was the same ol' same ol' every night. I locked the door and made my way to my room. The floor boards squeaked under pressure. They were my only greeting home. I tossed my bag on my bed and opened my laptop. I continued to work on The Depths. It was cold in my room and the lamp was dim from how much I used it for homework. My window was iced over from the sudden change in temperature. It really felt like I was in The Depths. I felt like I was in the depths of darkness and the only thing lighting my path was my laptop. It was the only thing that was outstandingly bright in my room.
Lucas came home again and impeded on my privacy. I sighed and thought, That stupid kid.
He opened my door wide and said, “Hey, Nate.”
“Why are you in here?” I asked.
“Because I wanted to see you. You're always in here so-”
“I'm in here because I'm working. Can't you respect that?” I said.
“What are you working on?” Lucas asked. He tried catching a glimpse at the computer screen, but I wouldn't let him.
“None of your business.” I growled.
Lucas walked over to my bed and said, “You actually failed something? You? The golden child. Mr. I've always had straight A's since the day I was born. What the hell are you planning?”
“Nothing, just don't tell mom and dad, okay?” I pleaded. I spun around to watch every single moment of his.
“Then you gotta let me see what you're doing.” Lucas said. He wore a devious smirk on his face.
“Never.” I said.
“Why not?” Lucas whined.
“Because, it's personal.” I said.
“You're fucking lame.” His words were harsh like the temperature in the room. I sighed as I watched him leave. The bomb was going to drop sooner or later.
“Hey mom and dad, guess who got their first F.” Lucas used a sing song tone.
“That jerk.” I muttered.
“Nathaniel, you get in here right now.” My mother demanded. That was the first thing she said to me all week.
I felt the the nerves in my body tense up and my heart begin to beat faster and faster. I slowly rose from my chair as if I was heading down death row. I knew this wouldn't be good. I was their meal ticket after all. I opened the door to my room and came out into the living area slowly.
In a softspoken tone I asked, “Yes?”
“What is this?” my mother asked. She held up the paper. My dad was also present with his arms folded.
“A failing grade.” I answered.
“But, why do you have it? That's not the way we raised you.” she said.
“Because I don't understand the material.” I answered again.
“Then you should get a tutor.” she said.
“That won't help.” I said. I finally began to stand my ground.
“Why not?” My mother inquired.
“Because, I don't want to be a doctor! I don't want to be your human meal ticket. I don't want any of this anymore. I cannot live my life like this anymore. Pretending, pretending, pretending! I am so sick of pretending! I maybe intelligent, but that is not where I want to use it. To have permission to dissect and dismember people for a living and magically put them back together. Then charge them a ridiculously high bill for doing so. I don't want it!” My tone was stern and sharp.
My mom let out a lethal sadistic laugh. “Nathaniel, you are a piece of shit. You are a spineless piece of shit if you can't handle a little blood and guts.” She said it with a straight face too. She didn't contort it with anger. She just sliced away at me with her eyes. Her eyes were blue sharp and cold. Her hair was a dirty blonde color with dark black roots. Her face was pale. So, it hurt when her eyes were narrowed towards me.
“You know, I carried you for nine months and took care of you for eighteen years. For you to say, 'Oh, I don't want to be a doctor.' is a slap in the face to me. Who is going to help us, huh? Who is going to help your brother go to his college? Who is going to help with the debt? The debt we had to go into to take care of you and your brother. Huh? Tell me who?!” she yelled.
That was when my passive soul became violent with anger for the first time in years. I knew the facts. What she was saying was a bunch of crap to get me to stay. It was something that was said to make me feel bad about living an honest life. I didn't want to pretend anymore. I was done pretending. There was too much unnecessary energy used pretending. All she did was abuse her credit card any chance she got and spend it on adult vices. She screwed up her credit so bad it was literary impossible for her to get a house. So instead, we all lived in a three bedroom flat in Willamsburg thanks to my aunt. My dad wasn't as bad but, he didn't stop her. He should have stopped her. He was a technician for the electrical company. He made a great salary, but part of it was claimed by good ol' student loans. So, it was hard for him to battle the great sea of debt my mother put us in. During high school, I helped him pay off some of the debt from the job I had. Once college started I had to quit the job, the schedules didn't meet up and my boss wasn't willing to change it. Lucas on the other hand, just got to sit on his ass and do nothing, but play basketball. He got notoriously bad grades, hung out late and partied. I didn't understand why I got the short end of the stick, besides the fact he was the favorite. I was pretty sure it was because he looked a lot like mom.
“I'm going to unenroll. I'm going to leave that school.” I said sternly. I held most of the words swirling around in my head back just like I always did.
“At least change your major.” My dad pleaded.
“No. I'm going to loose my grant money and I really don't want to add on more debt to the bill, right?” I returned the icy cold stare my mother had given me earlier.
“Then get out.” her voice was soft.
“At least transfer.” My dad begged.
“No, I've got an idea of what I want to do and I already know how to do it.” I said.
“Then get out! Get the hell out! You waste of fucking skin! You sack of hopeless shit!” My mother yelled.
“Hey! Don't say that to Nathaniel. He's a good kid. He's done a lot for you and us. You should have respect for him, while you let that failure of a son get off the hook all the time!” My dad said. He turned his head in Lucas' direction. I felt like something just snapped in his being. He finally smelt the coffee. I was happy to know someone was defending me while, Lucas enjoyed this catastrophe. When it was time for him to get his karma he was going to suffer. I went into my room and started packing my things while my parents went back and forth violently about their marriage and history. Their words were going to battle though, my mother was winning. She always had a devastating tongue. I got everything I could possibly get. The last thing I heard was my dad.
“Hellen, it is over!” My dad yelled. He quickly packed up with me as well and grabbed his things.
“You're nothing without me, Daniel!” my mom yelled out the door.
My dad whispered, “Just ignore her, Nathaniel.”
I was silent. I was to angry to speak. Home wasn't a home for me. It was just a place to exist. I was just an illy defined blur. That's how they all looked at me.