Graduations Gone Wrong
YouTube video #98764975-693
Run time: 6:53
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Is there a deadly object within your reach? Look around you and figure out the best way to kill someone. If you had to. If someone plunged into the auditorium right now and wanted to murder you, or if you just had to, like, off your mom or dad or sis or whomever in your living room; how would you do it?
The closest object I’ve got is this pencil in my hand. Or this Nerf gun in my pocket. Neither is particularly intimidating. Looks like I’m screwed, right?
I see no one is moving. You’ve all gone quiet. That’s really polite of you, and I appreciate it. I love you just the way you are. If someone gets out of their seat, well . . .
Okay, this is a weird way for us to start off. I want a do-over.
Let’s try again—I didn’t think I’d be so nervous. Sorry.
Anyway, here goes: I only consider killing the people I care deeply about. Okay, that’s even worse. You know how something sounds normal in your head, but then you say it out loud?
Okay, the truth: I’m an oddity. There, I said it. Pure-o. Ever hear of it? I didn’t think so. I hadn’t either, back when I used to think pushing my girlfriend out of the car on the highway was a compulsion I was, like, destined to embrace. Sorry, Lacy, but I just love you so damn much.
Look, there she is with all the other graduates behind me. Class of 2017, baby! Wooo!
Anyway, I want to level with you, show you all what it’s really like to be me. It got really bad when I was a teenager. Fourteen. I was sitting on the back porch swing with Tiger curled up on my lap, stroking his fur in that way he loved: a gentle finger across his nose and between his eyes. I’d run a thumb over both his eyebrows—left before right—then I’d cup my palm over his head and gently press his ears flat with a medium pressure in a uniform way. After that, I’d run my hand down his back, over his rump, and finally smooth his tail in my hand as I pulled it straight out from his rear end. Never at an angle. Never!
My dad had painted the support bars of the swing this God-awful school bus yellow the week before. He’d been in a rush to beat the rain, and he just gobbed the stuff on to get the job done—Dad has always been a get stuff done kind of guy—no, no, don’t get up. Stay in your seat, Dad. This is my day.
So the paint wasn’t smooth at all. I saw bristle lines from the brush and got this feeling in my middle, this tightening spring of . . . of . . . I didn’t know what to call it at the time, even though it’d been happening for months, my new form of anxiety. I’d dealt with some level of anxiety since I was nine, but this was new because now there was a feeling in my mouth, too. Like I was biting down on steel wool. You know how some people can’t stand the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard? It was like that, only instead of cringing, I felt compelled to . . . do things.
If you’ve never had pure-o, or even a milder form of obsessive compulsive disorder, then you probably have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. I have to be honest here, right? What sort of person would I be if I wasn’t going to be honest?
So, yeah, Dad’s paint job . . .
The bristle lines were bad enough, but it was the gob that really got me. This one spot where a drip of paint had hardened like a scab over a wound. I tried not to think about it, not to focus on it, but the pure-o in me just came roaring out. I tossed Tiger aside and attacked that stupid yellow gob with my thumbnails. I picked at it until it came off in a blob . . . but that just made it worse, because then I could see the metal beneath the paint.
I’d made a warped black eye with frayed edges. Not oval at all. Malformed. Isn’t that a great word: malformed? Somehow I knew that eye could see me. It was watching me, and before I knew it I was driving my thumbs into the paint and scratching it off the bar like a dude possessed. Tasting steel wool, my middle clenched tighter than a guitar string about to snap. The support bar needed to be black. That was its true self. Not that ugly Big Bird yellow Dad had saved two dollars and seventeen cents on at the hardware store, because it was on sale.
By the time I stopped my thumbnails were bloody and cracked, and my thumbs hurt like hell. I was panting, but I felt . . . I don’t know . . . relieved, I guess. Then I looked at the bar. I’d chipped off maybe a foot of it down to the metal. But there was still so much left. Feet of it. I’d barely made a dent, and suddenly that tightness was back in my middle again. I ran from that goddamn porch swing. I had to.
That was the floodgate, Dad and his crappy paint job. It sounds dumb, but there it is. Anxiety doesn’t have to be rational.
After that, my compulsions started to scare the heck out of me, especially when I started dating Lacy my sophomore year. I’d survived my freshman year by keeping my head down, but I couldn’t help noticing Lacy—her hair was always neat, not a stray strand anywhere, and her clothes always matched. I didn’t feel any tightness when I looked at her, like I did with the other girls. Slobs, all of them. Sorry, ladies, but it’s true. You’ve all got flecks of dirt on your shoes, or creases in your shirts, or makeup applied too heavily.
Anyway, Lacy . . . man, I love you so much, babe. I was almost sixteen by the time things started getting hot and heavy, and although I hadn’t gotten caught for anything, I was totally in love with her . . . and terrified every day that she’d dump me if I told her what I was really like. I lost my virginity to her.
Sorry, babe. I didn’t mean to say that in front of everyone. You know how I am.
That was a really hard time for me. I wanted to get laid really badly—who doesn’t, am I right?—but I also knew I couldn’t get naked in front of Lacy, or she might see my cuts and bruises. Then I’d be screwed. Or not screwed, right?
Jesus, you people can’t take a joke.
A lot of people with anxiety—pure-o is OCD on steroids—develop coping mechanisms. I cut and maim myself in unseen places, like my armpits and inner thighs. You’d be surprised at how many places you can inflict damage on yourself where no one will see.
I should probably tell you guys more about pure-o: it’s a form of obsessive compulsive disorder that manifests itself as wicked extreme thoughts. Repetitive, too. Repetitive, too. Repetitive . . .
Well, I thought it was funny.
Anyway, those thoughts can be violent or sexual—for me it’s like violence is an expression of love—that’s like, one of my defining characteristics.
So I made a deal with myself: I’d stop maiming myself and risk blossoming into a homicidal maniac, just so I could go to bed with Lacy.
I guess hormones aren’t rational either!
Those were the worst three months of my life. As I fell more and more in love with Lacy, I had more and more compulsions about brutalizing her. Killing her. We’d hold hands and I’d feel this rush of love and want to like, pulverize her knuckles with a hammer. Or we’d be doing it and I’d want to punch her or something. I made myself sick with this stuff, and ended up on this love-hate roller coaster: love when I was with her and barely managed to suppress my urges, and then hating myself as soon as we were apart, because then I could squeeze my toes with a pair of pliers or something. Lots of nerve endings at the tips of your toes, so it hurts like hell. But it kept the compulsions under control.
Lacy brought something good out in me. For a long time I thought I was sick, but Lacy helped me realize I’m not. I’m just different. It wasn’t just the sex, although let me tell you, sex is awesome—oh, Lacy, chill out; I can feel you getting embarrassed back there, but everyone does it—it was this ability in me I didn’t know I had until I met Lacy, the ability to connect with people. She helped me out of my shell. I started making friends. I even got popular.
It was weird, but then kids started confiding in me. Something, like, drew them to me. Maybe it was the open way I studied them. I was looking into them. I guess knowing my problem was a lot worse than most of theirs made it easy for me to move inside their heads. I started to fall in love with them, too. But not in a creepy way. More in like, what’s that word? Platonic. A good old fashioned love for my fellow man. And woman. Women. Whatever.
So then I started getting invited to parties. Girls were hitting on me, but I’m too in love with Lacy to do anything about them. Sorry, ladies. Besides, then I’d have to find new ways to cope, and I’m barely able to keep on the straight and narrow path as it is, ya know?
Anyway, my classmates behind me eventually elected me class president. That’s pretty cool, and that’s how I got to be behind this podium today. They love me as much as I love them . . . and it’s a love I’ve developed for just about everybody in this whole darn town.
So here I am, telling you my deepest emotions. Wild, huh?
If there’s one thing high school has taught me, it’s that all great people are challenged. My challenge came this afternoon, while I was placing the explosive charges around the room, getting the chains ready, and all that stuff. For a second, I thought maybe I wasn’t doing the right thing. That maybe my love for you, and for everyone in this town, wasn’t as strong as it should be.
But that’s just negative energy. Bad mojo. To hell with that! We’re a positive bunch, and I can feel our love growing stronger by the moment.
It was the delivery guy who lives over on Elm Lane that got rid of my doubt. He was dropping some supplies off for the graduation and I happened to be on the loading dock because that’s where Janitor Bob goes for his cigarette break, and Bob props the door open while he’s outside. Sneaking in behind him was a cinch.
But the delivery guy, he had asparagus in his teeth. At least I think it was asparagus. He was talking to me about the Middle East because of some program he’d been listening to on NPR, but I couldn’t get that steel wool taste and that tightening spring sensation out of my middle. I was trying to listen to him, I really was, but as I felt a rush of love for him and that spring got even tighter—he’s part of our town, after all—I wanted to yank his teeth out with a pair of pliers, like, one by one. I couldn’t just say, “Hey, dude. That wedge of asparagus in your teeth looks like you’ve been eating booger pie. Go get a toothpick.”
That wouldn’t have solved the problem. You know that, right? If you don’t, then you’re just not grasping the underlying meaning of all this.
But don’t worry, I’m okay now. Really.
I like people. I’m a loving people person. I make friends fast because I’ve learned to open myself up and really bond.
By now, most of you have read the programs I placed under your seats—I can tell by your whispering—but for those who are, like, totally thick in the head, I’ll elaborate: the doors are chained shut and we’re all locked in here together. Three hundred souls united in the glory of a single day. High school graduation.
Man, this is going to be epic.
Forget about the SWAT team and the cops and stuff. Personal growth is what’s really important tonight. Isn’t that supposed to be, like, a defining aspect of the high school experience?
-Cell phone video of the graduation speech of Preston Price, prior to his failed attempt to blow up Burnside High School.
Next up on YouTube: Killer Kitties on the Prowl.
Run time: 4:23
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Vlad V. is the author of The Button, Yorick, and Brachman’s Underworld. His novella “The Sleep Artist” was published in Insanity Tales, a collection of dark fiction, in October 2014 (Books & Boos Press). His most recent release is his novella “Float,” published in Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear in October 2015 (Books & Boos Press). His first kids’ book, The Moon is Dead!, was released in January 2015.
Learn more about Vlad at www.vladwrites.com.
His books are available through Amazon and most bookstores.