You know that feeling you get when your life goes from carefree to adrenaline-fused in a matter of seconds? Nope. Neither do I. At least, I didn’t until my classmate Paul walked through the doors of Sanford Senior High that fateful day.
It was a Tuesday, the day typically reserved for receiving great deals from your neighborhood Dominos. I woke up that morning not feeling particularly passionate about anything. Since it was the first week of school, I was anxious to go to school. I was still getting situated in my classes, and I hadn’t developed a rapport with any of my teachers.
I showered, put on some off-brand deodorant, utilized some bristles, and put on whatever attire was left after I already used my new fall outfit on the first day. I walked downstairs for breakfast. My mom had made chocolate chip-infused miniature pancakes, which was way more succulent than the Tootie Frooties I was used to ingesting. My dad walked out from his room, gave me a pat on the back, and asked me if I was still a virgin. I didn’t want to reply. Not because I had a reputation to uphold, but it was an indictment on myself, from myself, that I still was. He noticed that I didn’t answer and so he chided me, asking, “I see you put on deodorant today, son. Is there a new girl you have been talking to?” Again, I didn’t answer him. I think he noticed my disdain because he just let me leave without an explanation.
I would later regret this, considering the events that would take place later on that day. I began my walk to school, still upset with myself for not having wooed a girl into liking me. It wasn’t that I hadn’t had sex that bothered me. It was that I couldn’t even get a girl to accompany me to the homecoming dance. I knew the weeks leading up to it would be rough sledding. I would later find out this was the least of my problems.
Everyone knew Max as the quiet kid. You could tell he had not found himself yet, but could you blame him? You know seventeen-year-olds don’t have life fully planned out, and that is totally normal.
Upon leaving his house, you could tell that Max was in a state of perplexing agony. You know he had just got done with a conversation that wasn’t satiating. Max continued his march towards school, but you could see that Max was missing something you might think would change the way he was viewing life.
Steph was trailing Max, about twenty paces behind Max’s stride. You knew Steph found him appealing, and you could tell that Steph was an attractive girl, based on the fact that you saw what clothes she sported, what perfume she donned, and the genuine smile that always effused across her face.
Max had just tripped over a pothole in the sidewalk, and it was obvious he was distraught because you could see the look of shame on his face. Steph was right behind him. Steph tapped Max on the shoulder. You could tell Max was embarrassed because his face became more red than the blood that was sneaking through the cracks of his skinned-up knee.
Max and Steph walked to school together, and you could tell that even though Max’s knee was burning, there was no way that Max was going to let the pain become noticeable to Steph. You could tell that he was loving his current situation, and that Steph was in a similar state. If only Steph knew Max’s fate, then Steph’s demeanor might not have been as jovial.
Paul would have been forgiven if he was the most depressed individual in his high school. His dad squashed any confidence he ever had. His dad was a drunk, more concerned with not being hungover the next day than with his son’s well-being. His dad frequently lamented to him that he was an accident, which Paul’s mom always vehemently denied.
Unfortunately, Paul’s mom had died eight years ago, and she was the force that held the three together. She was no longer around to protect her son from the vile ways of his father. Paul thought that if he could just get through his senior year of high school, then he would be free from the constraints of his dad and no longer at the mercy of his vulgarity.
That morning, hungover, Paul’s dad told him how he was the biggest piece of shit he knew. He commented on how Paul spent too much time at home, in the basement, working in a “dark room.” Paul tried to explain what he did down there, but his dad was having none of it. Instead, he continually told him how he was never going to amount to anything.
At this point, Paul had enough. He ran downstairs into the dark room. When he arose two minutes later, he was carrying something in his hands. Paul’s dad, who had just read in the newspaper about how well his company’s stocks were doing, was grinning from ear-to-ear. He turned to face his son. BANG! That was the last the two would ever make eye contact.
Paul ran out of the house, got on the bus, and began scrolling through his phone. He arrived at school on a mission, a mission he set out to accomplish only days earlier.
He walked into the gym and noticed that there was the whole senior class, lined up in an orderly fashion and talking amongst themselves. “Easy pickings,” Paul thought to himself. He looked for Max, and spotted him near the middle of the floor.
He approached him, shaking violently, and unsure of how the next few minutes would play out. Max gave Paul a hug and asked him how his morning was going. Paul told him about what happened, and what he intended to do, which left Max uneasy.
Paul then shouted, loud enough for all of his classmates to hear: “Alright guys, Max is first, and then all of you are next!” Paul quickly turned to Max, who was standing there, befuddled. Paul then went into his bag, coming out with the same machine he had unloaded on his dad just an hour earlier. He looked straight at Max, told him how much he loved him, but that he had to pull the trigger. BANG!
Paul stunned, looked down, and pontificated, “Hmmm, that’s not so bad.” He walked over to Max and showed him the shot that was appearing on his digital camera. This would be Max’s senior photo. Max was devastated when he saw the photo. He had a pimple just above his right eye. The two chuckled, and as Max had predicted, he was saddled with some bad luck.
What made Paul special was that he was able to ignore his malicious dad. He soared without his support. He made the swim team, got a cute boyfriend, and was such a talented photographer that he was asked to do the yearbook by the school. Even in the face of such hardship, Paul was a successful individual. He would never give his dad the pleasure of finding this out. No, instead he preferred to keep his happiness a secret when he was home.
When he walked out of school that day, he was a new person. He would be staying the rest of the year at Max’s place, unbeknownst to his father. He would finally shed himself of all that plagued him. He looked at the picture he caught earlier in the day of his dad smiling, and then promptly clicked the delete button. All the clicks and the bangs that emanated from his camera couldn’t replace the comfort his mom gave him, but he still was able to pull off the most successful school shooting Sanford had ever witnessed.