A Shirtless Whale

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By Charlie Brown

“Come on Wallace!!”

“Yeh, c’mon! Get the tent off!”

“Get moving Whale!”

That’s me, the whale. No doubt you know by now that I’m the fattest kid in the school, you may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. They checked. Who are they? The THIN people, the skinny, pretty, beautiful people on TV, in magazines or the movies. You heard them earlier. My real name is Wallace Bunty but it’s been Whale since second grade. The jocks, the bandies, the Goths, the stoners, the crowd; I can deal with them. But the girls…I can handle the crowd of guffawing grunts but the fact that there is a bunch of bra-wearing, lipstick-smearing, giggling gaggle of girls watching me about to take my shirt off. For some reason it just makes it worse. That’s the bad thing about being the fat kid in class; everyone laughs at you. Even though they get tortured about being different too, I guess everyone wants to fit in for a little while. Honestly but it’s been 10 years and they’re still pulling the same kindergarten shit they did in second grade. Everyday it’s the same thing, the snarky looks, the barely veiled glances; it doesn’t hurt anymore. Nowadays it just pisses me off but I strangle the sensation. I smother it before I encourage them. It doesn’t bother me much, partly because I’m kind of use to it but mostly because there are 3 people who aren’t laughing or pointing, instead they’re just standing in the crowd, flashing me encouraging smile and bolstering looks.

The sun blazed at its highest and we are all outside one the dirt pitch for PE. PE, I think it means Physical Embarrassment; not Physical Education. It’s all about getting the fat people into these tiny gym clothes then people can laugh at them behind their hands. Its summer, that means that PE is soccer every day. It’s Shirts V. Skins every day, and guess who gets picked for Skins every day. Like some inane prank that they pull every day. We are all seniors at our last year in high school and they have been pulling the same tedious joke as before. They are the epitome of creativity.

We’re here on the dirt pitch, in the way of the roiling sunlight so hot that we can see mirages in the distance. I’m sweating up a storm and the game hasn’t even started yet; already soaked like a hippo in water. Teams have been chosen and I’ve been selected for the Skins Goalie, at least they give me the job that requires less running. They use to make me a defender but they realized as much as they loved the whale running, they also wanted to actually win games so goalie it is. People have started to pay attention now, all anticipating the show. They could advertise it on television and sell freaking tickets the way they go on about it. I allow may mind to wander for a moment, I can imagine it now: “Come see the whale take off his shirt!!Every PE at your local high school!! Book your tickets today!!!” It’s not that I’m shy though, I don’t hesitate to slip the wet rag off my body, exposing the rolls of blubber underneath. My belly jiggles slightly, they cheer a lil louder, with a lil more energy; makes me lose a lil more hope with the human race simultaneously which makes me eat to feel better.  It’s a vicious cycle. You can drown it all out in a number of ways, food just happens to be the easiest; it’s not the most effective and it affects your health but meh. Anyway, back to the match.

Now that the match has begun the attention has shifted from me to the ball.  The THIN guys are all running and yelling, trying to flaunt their skill and speed. I like it this way, the attention is on the ball, how weak or slow the defense is or how the opposition is destroying our team. About halfway through the match, Dixon Ross breaks through our pathetic defenses and blazes a path towards the posts, and me. Dixon Ross is the biggest jock at our school, not as big as me but he’s the captain of the wrestling team and a known lady-killer. His usual wavy black hair is matted against his skull and his shirt is sticking to his chest. I’m the last line of defense standing between Dixon and victory; his boots kicking up a dust storm behind them. The adrenaline makes his ears turn red as he sprints towards me. He stops short and using all the energy he has in those twig legs, launches a fireball directly towards me. He sent it flying straight to my gut; he obviously forgot what my other nickname is. The WALL. He realizes his mistake as I catch the soccer ball in both hands and send it back, over his head and across the pitch. He resembles a ripe tomato as the crowd laughs at his idiocy, I myself can’t help but chuckle at his expression. He hears it and sends his best death glare at me before running back to the action. I know I’m going to regret that later.

The game ends in a tie with 0-0 points, we are all tired and dirty; stinking of sweat and man smell. We march back inside for the part we are all dreading. The showers.

I never understood why they make the boys shower together, are they trying to embarrass us or make us homophobe? What did they think was going to happen in there, that we would all mind our own business or something? The showers are a two room area, one is a smaller locker room and the other is a larger shower area. The shower area is tiled entirely in these tiny white sheets of porcelain and always smells of soap scum, you can tell people have died in there. We enter in single file, willies covered by our wash clothes, luckily the showers are all on opposite sides of the room and alternating with a about a meters space in between them; so no one has any right to look at each other when washing. But sadly, the jocks feel differently than most of us. I won’t go into detail but let’s say the guy beside me isn’t called Lefty is not because he’s left handed. So we all shower in an awkward hush and the jocks make crude jokes about the others and when they are done, we all head back to the lockers to get dressed.  When I return to my locker I realize it’s been broken into. The lock has been broken and half its contents are spilled onto the floor. Dixon Ross. At least they left my underwear and baggy pants. I exaggerate a sigh, the same prank since second grade.

The missing contents aren’t that important, they’ve done this before. What irks me is that all my spare clothes are in my locker, on the other side of the school. There is no helping I’m afraid, I sigh again and jam my iPod earphones in. With my belly sticking out and my music blasting at full volume I exit into the river of students. Immediately people notice me, The Whale, walking down the street without a shirt. Again it’s the show everyone wants it to be, people stare or laugh out loud; hooting and calling out names. Most gasp and laugh and stare while others are a bit more modest in their ridicule, they giggle behind their hands or behind my back as I walk past. I’m a brick wall, I betray no emotion as I trek to my salvation, like Jesus carrying his cross; I’m resolute. That and my music drowns out their spontaneous chatter. I found out early in life that laughter is the best thing in the world, or it can hurt like hell. So you block it out, with food or TV or music. Your put your music on loud and the world just melts away. Maybe that’s why emo’s and Goths like it so much.

The venture there takes longer than usual maybe it’s because of the music, maybe because I’m trying so hard to ignore the world that my brain aches as I walk with my huge gut jiggling whenever I take a step or breathe or have a thought for that matter. When you have been ridiculed enough you start to hear it everywhere. As if you develop some cruel telepathic ability to read people’s minds but the only thing you can hear are all the nasty things they say about you; it’s why we have music, to drown out their thoughts. But I can still hear them, whispering: “Look, then whale lost his shirt” or “what a fat ass” or some other insult. Finally I reach my locker and twist in the combination, wrench the door open and dig through my bag for a spare T-shirt. No doubt people are still staring as I manage to slip the shirt over my head. I still feel half-naked.

Everyone has a special place, not the one on your body!! Yeesh!! I mean a place that makes all the bad things disappear for a while, it doesn’t even need to be a place, maybe it’s a thing too. TV, games, music, another person, even something as ethereal as a smell, all it has to do is take you way, away from your trouble, away from the world. My special place is an actual place, the rooftop segment of my school No one comes here except me because it’s too hot in the summer and it rains a lot in the winter, so it became my own secret hideout. Maybe I should stop reading comic books… they are starting to affect my thinking. Here I am, alone in my special spot but it’s not helping like it usually does, it’s not making the world disappear, the laughing, the pointing, the staring; it’s all like a rusty knife stabbed into my belly and twisting with every laugh or point. I read about gut wounds and how you don’t die immediately from them, you either bleed out or you get an infection and die from that, I can understand why some soldiers pray they die instead of getting an infection, nothing is worse than suffering before you die. If you couldn’t tell, I was lying earlier, it hurts…

I’m in my slump for who knows how long, flicking absentmindedly through the various songs I’ve collected when a Twinkie lands in my lap. Its vanilla and brand new, the wrapper is still shiny and everything. Suddenly the world isn’t so dark after all, I smile and three faces mirror my won, they heal my wounds and remedy the pain. I forgot the most important thing; a special place is NOTHING without someone to share it with. Good music helps too.