Part I - Nathan
The Dodge Viper slowly ticked as the engine cooled, and I ran my fingertips gently over the paintwork. I felt my anger subside a little as I took in the smooth warmth. She was a beautiful piece of engineering and my first love. As a self-confessed ‘petrolhead’, I took no shame in the fact. I couldn’t help but find a sense of mental order in cars. There was no emotion in machinery, no look of disappointment when I missed a turning on the highway and no cool resentment if I stalled at a junction. When I popped the hood I knew exactly what to expect and if something broke or a fuse tripped, it only took a careful look at the handbook to work out the problem. Cars dealt in facts and certainties, exactly how I liked life.
Sitting out on the Vipers hood, I watched as people pulled in and out the gas station. It was a busy oasis in the middle of suburban hell, and I basked in the fuel-laden air like a desert lizard. Just being surrounded by the deep hum of many engines helped to clear my head. I glanced at the bag I’d hastily thrown into the passenger seat. A toothbrush, change of clothes, that book I was halfway through, my wallet and the other detritus of life I carried daily was all I had with me. My impromptu exit from the family home hadn’t given me much time to plan but it had been interesting, if nothing else.
“Don’t you see Nathan? This is an amazing opportunity, why would you need time to think about it?”
“Were you trying to hide that letter from us? Did you think we wouldn’t realise?”
“It’s not that we’re angry, we’re just disappointed…”
“If you walk out of here, you can forget about coming back.”
I climbed back into the car. The air-conditioning was a pleasant contrast to the late day heat. Leaning back in the seat for a long moment, I took an opened envelope out of the glove box. I couldn’t be bothered pulling out the letter. Instead, I just stared sightlessly at my own neatly printed name and the Harvard logo in the corner. Without much thought I threw the car into gear and pulled out into the flow of traffic. Dropping the acceptance letter in the passenger foot well, I forced myself to forget about it and concentrate on the road. There was no point thinking about it now.
I didn’t think about the direction I was taking, and after a while I found myself driving aimlessly on a stretch of highway I had little knowledge of. I shared the road with late night truckers and people who had nowhere better to be. The orange lights made the tarmac bleed with the cars slick edges, giving the illusion that the road and I were separated by only a few inches of air. There was a blur of colour in the corner of my eye, and the spell was broken in time to catch a lone figure in my rear view mirror. A hitchhiker, no doubt. The sort of person my father would have accelerated past, as though they would try to hijack a car driving past at sixty-five miles an hour.
Maybe it was the memory of my fathers’ reaction to such drifters, or perhaps it was the closing act of my rebellion, but I soon knew that I was going to turn around at the next possible opportunity. There was something else though. I wanted company for the journey ahead, wherever it might lead. I knew it wasn't that I worried about being alone. Loneliness was something I had grown used to. It wasn’t a desire to help the person either; I had never been taken with the need to be a Good Samaritan. No, I knew that after spending so long living to a timetable, a repeated chain of unchangeable events, it was the fear of driving into the unknown that was sending me back.
As I pulled over, I could see that the hitchhiker was a young man. Unusually long blonde hair hung over half his face as he slumped on his rucksack, thumb pointing along the road. I saw something like shock or awe pass over the man’s face when he saw the car that had stopped for him. Pride glutted my chest and I couldn’t help but smile when the hitchhiker hesitated opening the door. I stroked the wheel with my thumb.
The man opened the door and leant in slightly. He looked worried, as though this might be some sort of joke, so I smiled lightly and asked him where he was heading to. I wasn’t one for endless chatter, but I needed to know if there were somewhere I ought to be aiming for.
“Anywhere, I guess.”
The stranger threw his bag into the foot well and slumped into the seat, folding his legs around his luggage, but didn’t say a word more. I didn't know if this was what normally happened when picking up hitchhikers, having only seen such things in films but I decided to go along with it anyhow. This guy had an air of knowing what he was doing. I turned back to the wheel, put the car back into gear and pulled back onto the nearly empty road.
Five minutes later, the man spoke again.
“Thanks for picking me up, don’t know how long I’ve stood out there.”
Looking over briefly, my travelling companion seemed to have noticeable relaxed, and he pushed up the sleeves of his shirt. I noticed some cuts and bruises on his arms but didn’t think to ask him about them.
“Well I’m glad to help. I’m Nathan, by the way.”
“Sorry man, my head’s all over the place tonight. The name’s Jay. I promise you I’m not usually this rude. Just a bit tired, you know?”
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” I looked at the time. It was pretty late on, and I could feel sleep tugging at my eyes. I’d have to find a motel soon enough.
“So this is a Dodge, huh?”
The words were unexpected and I wouldn’t have thought Jay had spoken at all if he weren’t looking expectedly at me.
“Oh, yeah. Dodge Viper, the 2012 model. Got her a few years ago for my eighteenth birthday.”
“No fucking way!”
“Shit, sorry man. It’s just-” Jay gestured at the dashboard with something of a wild look in his eyes, “-this is one hell of a birthday present.”
“I guess. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, I’m more of a classic motors sort of guy, but my dad picked it out.”
“He’s got great taste.” Jay grinned through the words and looked around with childlike wonder, as though he hadn’t been sat in the same place for the last fifteen minutes. I didn’t want to talk about my father's taste in cars with this stranger.
“Well, she’s not a bad car for getting from A to B in.”
Jay let out a sharp snort of laughter and I couldn’t help but smile with him. It was satisfying, light conversation and I enjoyed it despite myself. Jay was a strange but genuine person; I could feel it in my bones. The man might have been running away from something or other, but there was no malice in him. After half an hour or so our chatter fell into a comfortable silence.
It was getting late so I found a motel that didn’t look like something out of a horror film and booked myself a room. I offered to pay for Jay, (he didn’t look like the sort of person who could afford to pay for a cup of coffee, let alone a night in a motel) but he’d disappeared by the time I’d turned around. I slept in fits and starts, wondering when someone might call me and if my presence was even missed. The next day I still had no missed calls. I told myself I didn’t care. I walked out of my room to find Jay stood next to my car with a grin on his face and a surprising wave of relief hit me. I was glad to have someone there.
Two days later we stopped at a service station to refuel the car and to grab something to eat. Jay was sat in the dirt, leaning against the Vipers wheel, concerned with peeling the meat out of a ham and cheese sandwich. I lent against a nearby tree sipping a Styrofoam cup of black coffee. I watched the way my unexpected passenger meticulously removed the slices of processed meat and threw them to the gathering group of starlings. Jay watched the birds fighting over the scraps with a distant look on his face. Looking back, I think he looked more like a ghost in that bright, early afternoon sunlight then he ever did late at night. I was sure that if I looked hard enough I could see right through Jays’ skin, right thought to the veins and sinews that made him up. I thought that maybe, if the birds noticed just how paper thin his skin was then they might set upon the young man, tearing off his muscle and meat, leaving only a tree of bone for them to roost in.
“I left because of my dad.”
Jay did this a lot. Speaking about things and expecting his train of thought to be followed easily. And he did it so subtly that it took a moment for me to realise that he had spoken at all. It always seemed to be Jay who broke the silence and brought me out of my thoughts. I didn’t like to think too hard on that.
“Yeah?” I took another mouthful of cheap coffee and allowed him to talk. After the initial period of silence on that first night, I had found that Jay had an opinion on everything. I felt he found a strange pleasure in flying between thoughts and tangents faster than I could keep up with, and so I rarely tried.
"School, I mean. I left to look after my dad. He was ill." Jay looked down at the remaining crust of his sandwich, picking off little bits and throwing them half-heartedly at the ground.
Nodding at nothing in particular, I watched as a brave starling started to hop closer to Jay. It was a dirty, thin creature, picking at crumbs in the dirt. Perhaps it wasn’t bravery, but desperation that drove it within arm’s reach? Looking at it, I had a feeling that it would be dead in a few days.
"You wish you'd stayed in college?" I asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had slipped over us unnoticed. Jay pushed himself off the ground and stretched, before facing me with a lopsided grin on his face. It was something else I had noticed the drifter did a lot.
"Not really. Sure, I'd probably have a job and more money, but then I wouldn't be travelling. I’ve met some interesting people doing this, and all of the good and the bad has been my own doing." I looked over to Jay, about to ask what he'd meant by that, but the man was already walking to the bins to dump his empty coke can and sandwich wrapper. By the time I joined him at the car he was singing along to the radio.
It had been five days. Five days of driving across nearby states, pulling into lay-bys for sleep and living off greasy burgers and energy drinks. Jay seemed in his element, taking to the role of the homeless wanderer with delight. I didn’t know him well, but I never saw him happier than when sat on the side of a road, empty Gatorade bottle lying beside him, all the while watching the sun rise or set. I wasn't used to eating processed foods and sleeping rough. I didn’t like sneaking into caravan parks to shower. I didn't know what to expect when I drove out on the road each day but I knew that this person, Jay, was about as different to my regular life as I could have possibly found. He was exactly what I needed.
That night the sky was burning orange and red with thin wisps of purple cloud trails as our shadows raced us through the desert. The dying rays of the sun lit up both our faces; Jay was shouting with glee at the way the wind seemed to rush through him and I allowed a faint smile to ghost my lips.
"This is fucking mental!" Jay hung out of the car window. With his arms out wide, it seemed to me that my travelling companion might just manage to take flight. And Jay very well might have, paper skin and bone dissipating in the air so completely that I would have thought he’d never even been there. I grabbed Jay by the back of his belt and pulled him back inside.
It was later that night when Jay asked a question I hadn't been expecting to have to answer, though it was obvious enough he was going to ask at some point. We were camping out in my car by the side of a dirt track, and the stars seemed to fall around us. In the dark I couldn’t see Jay, not even when my eyes had adjusted as much as they could.
"Hey Nathan?" Jay sounded distant, but very much with me. Like he was talking through a bad phone connection.
"Why'd you leave home? You never said."
I considered keeping silent and not answering for a moment but then realised that since Jay opened up to me, the least I could do was return to favour. I didn’t have to elaborate, just answer.
"I had to escape my family."
I didn’t answer this. I didn’t know how to, but Jay in his own way heard my silence and took it as answer enough. He spoke again, this time softer.
"If it's escape you want then why not leave completely? Leave the country and go see the world. I didn’t, and now I’m stuck here."
I didn't ask what he meant by that.
A week after I'd first picked up the strange young man called Jay, I woke early in the morning to an empty car. I checked around the gas station we were stopped at, but I found no one but the attendant and the driver of an old sixteen wheeler. Jays’ bag was missing too. It seemed that the drifter had done a disappearing act, but I’d been expecting it.
There was a part of me that wanted to follow in hot pursuit. There was so much of the world that I could go and see now. So many people and places to explore. There was excitement and blazing anticipation right at the tip of my fingers. But there was fear as well.
As I drank my morning coffee, I found a note left on the dashboard of the car. It was a short message from Jay clear from the messy scrawl fit for his hand. As I read the single line, I realised he'd written it on the back of my acceptance letter.
“Last chance? You need to move on soon; else you’ll find yourself back home.”
Part II - Jay
My mom used to have an old Pontiac Roadrunner. It was fire truck red with a busted old soft top in black vinyl. When I was old enough to think about more than just screaming and shitting my pants, I would climb in and pretend to drive it about. My favourite ‘destination' was the Walmart on the other side of town, with a line of gumball machines outside. About once a month, when Dad was having a good day he'd drive me over there for real and if I helped him pile the bags in the back of the car, he'd slip some nickels in my hand and I'd run to the gum machines. I'd always get two or three, as many as I could from the coins I'd been given, hot in my tight grasp, but I would resist the candy until I got home. I liked to show Mom the colours I had gotten that day. Dad was never allowed to drive her car; he had a black Ford that he'd bought for cheap as it turned into a furnace every day in the Arizona sun.
There was one time Mom told me she had the whole of Saturday off from work, and we went for a drive out to the diner on Route 10. She'd said we were going on an adventure and that I had to pack a change of clothes in case the adventure took longer than expected. I didn't have anything other than my school bag to use, so I pushed a pair of pants, some socks, a t-shirt and jeans into the space next to my spider man pencil case and unfinished homework.
Phoenix is a desert city, a ridiculous example of mankind's stubborn refusal to bow to nature. When we set out on the road that morning, it was the sort of day when the tarmac pooled in pockets of heat, and even the lizards didn't dare leave their holes until early evening. Nobody braved the pavements. Once we were out of the cul-de-sac we lived on, mom let out a breath I don't think she realised she'd been holding. She flashed a smile at me and pushed the Fleetwood Mac tape into the tape deck. Stevie Nicks' voice suddenly filled all the space inside the Pontiac, a cushioning of tambourine and blues rock. The roof was down and we shouted along to the music.
As soon as we turned onto Route 10 I knew where she was driving to. The diner was part of a, now bankrupt, chain of fast food joints called ‘Sandys'. I think it was a reference to the film ‘Grease', but I don't know for sure. As a kid, all I cared about was getting into the cracked vinyl booth and ordering a chocolate milkshake, extra chocolatey, and what I thought were the best pancakes in Arizona.
"Dad'll be sad when he finds out he missed a trip to Sandys," I said with a mouth full of cake and syrup. "I wish we could take one of these back with us. It might cheer him up!"
Mom looked at me. There was something in the tightness of her lips that I didn't realise until many years later was an attempt to halt tears. She helped herself to another fork load of pancake.
I don't know if when we left that morning she knew that we were going to eventually turn around and head back home to Phoenix. Maybe it was only after we'd shared the stack of pancakes and I was sat sipping my chocolate milkshake, swinging my legs at the table, too short to reach the floor that she reconsidered her plan.
Six months later she left again, this time without me. A month after that Dad stopped bothering to hide the bottles of liquor. It was strange not having her around at first, but I was a kid and kids can adapt to pretty much anything. I got used to it and even though Mom sent a postcard every month, I eventually started to forget about her. She must've done the same because one month there was no more postcards.
Growing up I liked to spend as little time as possible inside the house, so as soon as I turned fourteen I got a weekend job at a gas station. It was one of those homegrown sort of affairs, with no uniforms and plastic planters holding dying gerberas on the forecourt. I didn't do a lot in my few years there but it was better than sitting at home, fetching Dad another Corona every half hour.
The gas station sat on a stretch of road that eventually headed out to Camelback East. We sold spark plugs and light bulbs, bottles of Gatorade and Mountain Dew. Spiders as big as my fist sat in the top corners of the little building and oiled dust collected on boxes of decade old receipts. The owners' daughter worked there on a Saturday, and though she was a year or so older we soon became fast friends. Her name was Mai and every Saturday she would make an extra sandwich for me, because she soon realised that I rarely brought my own. I didn't tell her it was because Dad never remembered to buy groceries, but I think she might have suspected something.
I think Mai was my first real crush. She was pretty and had dark hair down to her waist. Mai was from one of the areas Native tribes. She told me all about the stories her Mum used to tell her as a kid and wore interesting earrings that she said her grandma made for her. I used to think that I would’ve gone to work just to hear her speak, forget the money her Dad paid me. Mai must’ve known about my crush on her; I wasn’t very subtle about it. Two years we worked together and after a while we came to be close friends. As soon as I graduated from high school I started work at the gas station taking on as many hours as I could, working around my college hours. Mai's Dad liked me, and I knew the place from top to bottom. Mai didn't work the Saturday shift anymore, but I saw her on occasion when she came back from university.
It was a Wednesday, only a few weeks after graduation that I met them. A camper van pulled up to the pumps and I steeled myself as I left the air-conditioned office. It was yet another typical Arizonan day. The driver poured himself out of the cab and staggered over to me.
"Fuck me, it's hot as balls out here."
I laughed. His English accent said everything. It wasn’t unusual for travellers to come to fill up their various vans and cars, and this van was emblazoned with ‘The USA Road Trip Campers’ across its side. I took pity on the poor guy. It was easy to forget how hot it felt to people not used to the weather in Arizona.
"Yeah, well that's Phoenix for you." I twisted the cap off the tank. "How much do you need?"
"Oh cheers, can you fill her up?"
"No problem." I noticed he was practically panting in the heat like a sick dog. "You can wait in the office if you want. The register's in there, and it's air conditioned."
Red-faced and sweaty, the man grinned. I decided I liked him a lot.
"Nah, I'm okay. Been sat in that van for hours and I'm desperate to give my legs a break." As though to prove his point he started to lunge on the spot, the cotton shirt on his back steadily turning a shade darker.
"So, finding the weather a bit different to home?"
"How did you guess?"
The pumps worked on filling the tank as we chatted. He and his friends were travelling on their gap year before going to university.
"So you enjoying the States so far?"
"Ah mate, it's so much fun. We’ve been through Texas, and now we’re heading over to Las Vegas! I can’t believe how big America is. Back in England you can drive through the entire country in a single day, including rest breaks. The fact that we’ve been driving about for over a month now says a lot. And we’re yet to get bored!"
After he'd paid, I returned to the air-conditioned bliss of the office. I spent the rest of the day working hard in the building heat, all the while thinking about what the man had said. Looking back, it was all the ingredients of a bad cliché. Take one lonely boy and add a cheerful stranger from a foreign land. Mix in a pinch of hostile environment and leave to bake overnight. In reality though, it never works like that. Later that year, Dad ended up being rushed to the hospital. He left with a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis, pain meds and a bill we had no hope of being able to pay. Dad worked as a janitor at the Desert Sky Mall, had done since before Mom left. Despite the lousy pay, it was one of the few things I had ever seen Dad enjoy. I was always surprised at how dedicated he was to his job. Maybe it was the fact that it was a constant in his life, a boring but ultimately reliable daily event. No matter how reliable though, it wasn't going to pay the hospital bills.
I had spent my life avoiding my Dad's tantrums, and I liked to think I was pretty adept at it. Ultimately he rarely left the sofa so if you could sneak past whilst he was in a stupor, you were safe. That night I returned home later than usual, cranky as a cat in water. It had been close to record breaking temperatures that day and I was certain I'd burnt the back of my neck.
"Jay, is that you?" Dad half shouted from in front of the TV. I rolled my eyes and went to fetch him a drink. I knew if I didn't he would only demand one anyway.
"Yeah. Why, were you expecting someone else?" I didn't bother opening it for him. There were at least ten empty bottles around his chair, addictions' windfall, so he'd have the opener somewhere within arm's reach. The air hummed with the stale smell of beer, and he didn't give me a second look as I handed him the bottle. "How's the game?"
"Huh?" He still didn't take his eyes off the TV. The tinny voices of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts rang out and I could hear that one of the speakers had broken. I'd have to fix that soon.
"The football. How is it? Are we winning?"
"Why do you care, fag?" His yellowed skin hung off his face, and I caught the glance he shot me as I left the room. The colour in the whites of his eyes was worsening.
I didn't care, not about the game or slur. Football was a waste of time as far as I could see and as for the insult? I was thankful he didn't accompany it with a bottle. He'd done that enough to learn from it. The worse time was when he'd caught my face. I'd gone to the neighbour's house where she'd stitched up my eyebrow and staunched the bleeding. She was a nice lady; a nurse who seemed to do first aid for all the local kids. I told her I'd been hit in the face with a baseball bat. I was about eleven when it happened, and Dad took me out for an ice-cream sundae the following Saturday to make up for it. I remember tears and promises that he'd never touch the drink again. A week later, the butterfly stitches fell off. I still have the scar.
The night my Dad died we'd had a quiet meal of frozen pizza, knock off Coca-Cola and baseball reruns. We didn't always fight but as his health had taken a turn for the worse, the tension hadn't helped. I'd just finished telling him about my classes that day when he'd started complaining of stomach pains. By the time I'd ran to get his heavy pain killers, he was dead. I spent an hour tidying the house before I called 911. The days that followed were a mess of coroner reports and funeral arrangements. They said that it was the liver, or lack of it, which killed him in the end. I'm glad he hadn't drunk that night. He smelt better than usual; you couldn't quite catch the liquor on his clothes.
I left after the funeral. Everything was sold to settle the medical bills Dad had left, and I found that there was nothing keeping me in Phoenix. I started hitchhiking and I guess I thought I was pretty clever, the way I was going about it. I had what I thought was a great cover story or two (I always made sure that there was someone waiting for me at whichever destination I was heading to) and I made sure to dress myself older than I was. I spent a lot of time in diners and highway stops at first, trying to get a feel of the people that used them but after a while I found that you couldn't guess what someone was like behind the wheel from what they ordered at the counter. Toast didn't mean boring but safe, bacon and eggs didn't signal a pervert, and coffee with three sugars sure as hell wasn't the giveaway for a strung out serial killer. I had to use my gut feeling and a little bit of risk.
Four weeks after my Dad kicked the alcoholic bucket, I found myself in a truckers rest stop bathroom. I rinsed my face with water and inspected my new split lip. I touched it tentatively with my tongue and cursed when the bleeding started again. Injuries were a pain. No one wanted to pick up a hitchhiker who looked like trouble; model citizens didn’t tend to walk around with busted mouths. Still, looking in the mirror I couldn’t help but grin at myself. Everything I saw, both the good and the bad, was all my own doing.
My own doing or not, I needed to find a lift. The truck stop was on the edge of Toole in Utah, a state where hitchhiking was technically illegal, so I couldn’t just stand out on a slip road and wait for a ride. I was safe enough where I was, but I knew from experience that the workers at roadside stops didn’t like drifters hanging around. I went and sat out on the curb outside the café and watched the people milling about, looking for a potential ride. I must’ve been there for a little while, and I was so busy looking out on the forecourt that I didn’t notice the man leaving the bathroom behind me.
I’ll admit, I jumped a little. It wasn’t often that people approached me; it was usually the other way around. I turned, still seated, and looked at the man who’d spoken. He was what you’d expect of a truck driver, jeans, t-shirt, fluorescent vest and even the typical cap perched on his head.
“Hey,” I answered. I was still trying to get a feel for the guy. I wasn’t getting any major warning bells and I’d learnt that going by instinct was the best way to go about choosing who to get a lift from.
“You a hitchhiker, or are you just sitting down there for fun?”
“I’m looking for a lift, yeah. What gave it away?” I stood and brushed off the seat of my pants. Smiling, I held out my hand. “My name’s Jay, I’m just looking for a lift towards Elko in Nevada. My aunt’s expecting me.” The lie rolled out of my mouth with no hesitation.
“Elko? That’s on Interstate 80.” The man grinned at me and took my hand into a shake. It was sweaty, and I had to resist the urge to wipe it on my trousers when he let go. “Looks like your lucky day, kid. It just so happens that I’m heading that way later on tonight.”
I couldn’t help but smile back.
The trucker called himself Mick, and he was a cheerful and talkative man. He was on a rest break before finishing off his delivery and invited me to have something to eat with him at the diner. I told him I didn’t have any money to waste, and he scoffed.
“Don’t be stupid, I’ll pay for it, so long as you don’t take the piss.”
I laughed and took him up on his offer. A cup of coffee and a round of toast later and we were chatting like old friends. Mick told me about his wife and kids, and the renovation they were doing on the house. He tried to start a conversation about me and my family, but I always managed to steer it back to him. Maybe I could have tried to elaborate on the lie but back then I didn’t know how to keep track of my tales effectively, and I didn’t want to end up backed in a corner. Most people I’d had lifts from weren’t bothered when I didn’t talk about myself, but Mick was persistent with his queries.
Eventually we set out onto the road. The sun was starting to set as we hit the interstate and watching the lights flash by as we drove sent me into a bit of a trance. It was dangerous to really settle down to sleep, but naps were okay. When you’re hitchhiking your body is switched onto a constant state of alert and as useful as it is to be able to wake up whenever the vehicle you’re in slows down. It’s draining and exhausts you faster than usual. At that point I hadn’t had a proper sleep for days, surviving on scraps of sleep caught in toilet stalls and entirely too much coffee.
“Hey, if you’re tired kid you can get some shut-eye. I don’t mind.” Without taking his eyes off the road, he reached into the back and pulled out a sleeping bag. “The drive should take about three hours so I’ll wake you when we cross the state line. You should get a good hour or so out of that.” He handed me the sleeping bag and as I unravelled it I noticed it was an expensive camping brand. I suddenly became aware of how dirty I was.
"You sure, this looks sort of high end. I don't want to wreck anything."
"Nah, it's not mine. Some kid left it here one time."
I was surprised that anyone would forget such a nice bit of gear but hummed my agreement anyway. Pulling the thick thermal fabric over my shoulders, I wondered briefly if he would let me take it with me once we got to Elko, or if it was worth just stealing it. I was so tired it took about three minutes; alarm bells be damned. I didn’t dream of anything, just a sweet blackness. When I was eventually roused, I was greeted by the sight of a flick knife in my face and an unrelenting grip on my wrist.
“You aren’t really going to meet an Aunt, are you kid?”
I don’t remember what happened next, and I don’t want to. When I was younger I fell over in the playground. Scraped up all my leg and did a doozy on my hands. I remember calmly walking over to the teacher who was on duty that lunch time and told her what had happened. I could feel my knee creaking but that was all. Then, when she rolled up my (now ripped) trouser leg in order to clean the cut, I saw the utter horror that was my knee and started screaming. It took her the rest of lunch time to calm me down. I still have the scars on my knee. I guess what I'm trying to say is that things are always better when you don't know shit about them.