Chapter One – The Confession of the Orphan
“Oh,” said the classmate, “I didn’t see you there, Quinn.”
“Hey,” said Quinn awkwardly, “Listen, this is really dangerous. We should go inside.”
“Hmm, that’s funny,” the classmate smirked, “You never seemed to care about my safety before.”
“Hey, I –”
“Quinn, do you have any idea what it’s like for me? Do you even know my name?”
Quinn hesitated, “Sure I do.”
“What is it?”
“Jose Villa. It’s pronounced ‘Ho-say Vee-ya’, but why am I telling you this? You don’t care,” Jose looked away from Quinn, but continued smiling.
Quinn heated up, “Well, if you weren’t so busy feeling sorry for yourself all the time; maybe you could have managed to make some friends.”
Jose raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Make friends, did you say? Well, since you’re so smart, then tell me: Whom do I befriend? Those who take my lunch money? Those who beat me up? Those who tell me I speak funny? Those snicker behind my back because I wear oddly large clothes? Those who just sit back and watch? No? They’re all horrible to me, the latter being the worst.”
Quinn twiddled his thumbs nervously, “Why would the latter be the worst?”
“Because they just sit back and watch everything happen – like entertainment. Sure, they aren’t adding to the fire, but they aren’t putting it out either.”
“They’re scared, Jose.”
Jose laughed, “Why are you saying ‘they’ like you aren’t one of them?”
“Fine. WE’RE scared, happy?”
“On the contrary, actually. I’m mad at you all. You think turning a blind eye is helping? If you think you’re scared, what do you think I am? I shine like a sunflower every time I walk into class, don’t I?”
“… Has it ever occurred to you… that… um…?” Quinn didn’t know how to say it.
“Has it ever occurred to me, what?”
“That, you… um… are a bit of an oddball?”
Jose laughed, “Oddball?” Jose was hysterical, “Oddball? You think I have time to think about being an ‘oddball’?”
“I… um… don’t understand.”
“Of course not. You never understood, eh, Quinn? Never wanted to either. You were always quiet when I was paired up with you in class, but you were never like that with the other kids. As happy as a horse set free, you’d be with them. But with me: You’re a walking rain cloud.”
Quinn gritted his teeth, “Yeah, you should know.”
“Oh, temper, temper, Quinn. There’s no need to get upset, I’m just telling you what I see.”
“Why are you telling me anyway? You seemed to have never liked me.”
“I don’t. I don’t like any of you. I don’t know why I’m telling you; it doesn’t really make much sense, does it? But it doesn’t have to, I suppose.”
Quinn stared at Jose. Maybe Jose had finally lost it after being bullied so much. “Um… What are you…?” Quinn began, but didn’t finish. He had hurt Jose enough and he knew it.
Jose sighed happily as a bird flew overhead, “You know what it’s like living in a father-less home?”
Quinn shook his head. He may have been living in an apartment, but he was the only child of a happy couple; who loved each other dearly. And he was very grateful for it.
“Lucky you,” said Jose, “It’s terrible for me, though.”
“… You don’t have a dad?”
“Funny, you seem genuinely surprised.”
“I am. Why are you being so arrogant?”
Jose ignored the remark, “My dad was a drug mule, you know. Got caught and sent to prison for it. Later they extradited him to Texas where he was executed.”
Quinn stared at Jose. How was he saying this so calmly?
“Mom never got over it. She doesn’t work, doesn’t talk, barely does anything, that woman. It’s like she lives in a completely different world – always moping about my dad. It’s always ‘your father’ this and ‘your father’ that. Well, I told her I don’t care; and she got mad at me. Can’t say I blame her really, she is my mom after all.”
“But what kind of a mom just stands around and does nothing to move on?” Jose continued, “All my little brothers and sisters were starving after dad died. I had to do something about it. I worked in so many places trying to feed them – because the selfish woman I knew as a mother didn’t want to do anything. I bought extra large clothes all the time so that they wouldn’t grow out of them and only bought shoes if the old ones got too beat-up to wear. Food was the priority. And then there were the water and electricity bills – boy, they’re huge…” Jose looked at Quinn, “…Quinn, are you alright?”
Quinn blinked. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. All these months, he had watched as Jose was beaten up in class, mocked and shunned because of how he looked, spoke and smelt. What were looks and clothes and reputation when you can’t even feed yourself? Quinn’s insides were cold with regret and remorse, but he nodded. I can’t believe Jose, he thought, He should have pushed me off this roof by now.
“You don’t look alright,” said Jose.
“I didn’t… I didn’t know,” said Quinn.
“Well, it’s kinda late now. I’m already dead.”
Quinn snapped his head around, “Wait, what?”
Jose ignored him; “I kind of regret the jump now… Who’s going to feed all my little siblings?”
“What the hell are you talking about? You’re sitting right next to me!”
Jose turned his face to Quinn, “I already told you: it doesn’t have to make any sense.”
Quinn looked at Jose’s nose again. Flat. Scary. Quinn furrowed his brow, and moved away from Jose, back to the center of the rooftop; still trying to work out Jose’s riddle.
Quinn heard crying and turned to see one of the other occupants of the roof was weeping. He went and sat next to her.