My name is Wesley West. Most people call me Wes. So yes, I’ve lived my whole life being Wes West. Does it get annoying? Maybe, sometimes. Does it matter? No, not really. Why should you care? Well, I’ve gotta go back to the very beginning to answer that.
And that’s with four very different, very misunderstood teenagers.
Lylie Blake, current school braniac and future Immunologist. Not-so popular, not-so pretty, and probably the most invisible of us within that room if not the entire student body, really. Light brown hair that fell short of her shoulders, light blue eyes that glowed with hidden knowledge, and a short stature that made her twice as hard to notice in a crowded area. Let us call her Princess Valedictorian.
Heathe Allen, otherwise known as handsome, popular, and more so as the current Small Forward of our multi-award winning basketball team. Unlike most of us in that room, people loved him and worshipped the ground he walked on. He could have had a different girl everyday and they wouldn’t have minded, because just a flip of his blonde hair, a peek of his blinding smile, or a glance from his grey eyes would have made them putty in his hands. He’s Prince Popular, if you haven’t quite put it together yet.
Aven Jones, on the other hand was a drama geek whose nose was stuck inside a book for the most part of her school life. There were rumors circulating around the school about how she didn’t live in our world, but rather trapped herself in a fictional reality that she created in her mind. A lot of guys also said it was a shame, because with long black hair and piercing green eyes—she was pretty hot. She’ll be our Drama Queen.
Then there was me, dorky Wes West from the so-called loser club. Auburn hair, brown eyes, with a sense of humor that everyone called weird but laughed at anyway. I’ve lost the ability to distinguish if they chuckled with me or at me, but I’ve also lost the ability to care. I hang out with my friends, I get by at school, and I don’t join any clubs because why bother? It’s all going to end one day, and I’d much rather blow off those precious hours after school at home rather than in some dusty classroom. I guess that leaves me as the Outcast King.
We all had the misfortune of getting locked inside our school’s abandoned Audio Visual Room one late afternoon. Why? We don’t know either. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it whatever bull-crap word you want, but the truth was that it happened. And none of us had the power to make it un-happen despite how hard we wished. We were stuck in that room, with no way of knowing when we were getting out. You have no idea how much that idea scared us, and at the time—thinking back—neither did we.
“What were you even doing in here?” Asked Princess Valedictorian. She was leaning against the door, ear pressed against its wooden surface to listen for footsteps. It looked like she finally gave up on shouting. “Did you get pranked or something?”
The question was directed at me, but none of us missed the glance she threw Prince Popular. Heathe looked mildly offended at the notion, but Lylie had turned back to the door before he could voice out his protests. He gave Aven and I the same disbelieving look, but we didn’t really give him any relief about the accusation either. Whether he knew or not, we’ve heard the rumours about him and his friends. About the things that happened behind the closed locker room doors. If anything, the Princess was being logical.
“My pencil rolled in here.” I answered, trying to find a comfortable position on the floor.
“Talk about rotten luck.” Drama Queen interjected, green eyes still trained at the wall of mirrors in front of her. “I was thinking of practicing lines here since it was quiet, but, well, we all see how that ended up.”
At the time, I’d found it creepy how she acted. Just gazing at her face in front of the mirror, looking at all of us through our reflections. Looking at it back now, I guess it made sense. Through the mirror, focusing on herself, she wouldn’t have had to pay much mind to our judgmental stares. Lylie who thought her insane, Heathe who thought her a loser, and I who thought her plain freaky.
“And what about you, Allen?” Lylie exasperatedly added. “How’d you find yourself in here?”
“None of your business, Nerd.” Was the response given. I had to hand it to Princess Valedictorian for not getting pissed at him though. She must have gotten used to it. You get sort of numb to insults at some point—in some cases, you get numb to everything.
Conversation dulled after that. I stayed lying on the wooden floor, looking up at the roof and clicking my tongue to pass the time. Heathe was visibly tensing with each ticking sound from his position by the window across the room, but that just egged me to continue. Aven was whispering into the mirror, muttered words going unheard but made obvious by the movement of her mouth shown by her reflection. Lylie still hadn’t moved from the door, still waiting for someone to come. A janitor, a teacher, another student—just anyone.
For a time, everything was just dull. We left each other to our own devices, refusing to talk and refusing to acknowledge each other’s presence, but when the sun began to set, tensions reached an all time high. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked that the Princess was the first to go.
“I really shouldn’t have checked what was going on.” She muttered just loud enough for everyone to hear. It broke a lot of stupors, most notably Aven’s who finally looked away from the mirror. “I should have just went home and studied for the exam tomorrow, but I just had to get curious and wonder what the commotion was about. It’s probably past my curfew too. My parents are gonna kill me.”
“If it helps, so will mine.” I piped up. “But then again, they probably won’t be there when I get home. Doesn’t mean that I’ll get any less of a scolding this weekend though.” I didn’t add that the probability of them remembering was low. My attempts at trying to comfort her would have been for naught if she found out they were said just for the purpose of not getting her worked up.
Lylie turned away from the door to look at me after that, fire burning behind her icy stare. That was new. I’d never seen Princess Valedictorian this angry, not even when she flunked that one Economics test. “Don’t talk like you understand. You don’t know me or my parents. You don’t know a single thing.” Her voice low, dripping with venom at every syllable uttered. I didn’t really flinch.
“You don’t know me either.” I calmly answered her. “How would you know?”
“What’s so interesting about you anyway?” Both our heads snapped in the direction of Prince Popular. He sounded sleepy, with the lazy and drowsy tone that warned us that he would doze off at any moment now. “You’re just another one of those people who don’t blend in to anything. You stay with your friends, you be who you want to be, you’re just free aren’t you? You’re the type of person who everyone secretly wants to be—which means you’re the most boring type of human being there is.”
“That’s deep, coming from an airhead like you.” Aven suddenly spoke out, green eyes moving to Heathe.
He released a sardonic chuckle at the Drama Queen’s words.“I’m right though, aren’t I? We all want to secretly be boring and uninteresting because when you’re noticed, people look at you, people see you, people watch you. And that means that you have to put on a damn good show or else they’ll shun you and judge you and slowly ruin you.”
I couldn’t help myself from snorting, to be honest. This actually earned me a glare from the jock. His grey eyes sort of reminded me of storm clouds. “That’s seriously what you think? What about those people who look up to you, who want to be you? Do you think they’d agree that being boring is enough? That being me could suffice?”
“Maybe.” Said Lylie from the door. “Maybe not. We all just want to be different from who we really are.”
“But why? You’re perfect.” Aven had asked the same question I assume ran through everyone’s mind. “You’ve got good grades, you’re a shoe in for a scholarship, you’re gonna be a doctor, plus no one hates you. It’s not like there’s a lot to complain about.”
The cynical smile that crossed her face said otherwise.“That’s exactly the point. That’s not who I want to be.”
“And who else would you rather be, Miss Perfect?” Questioned Prince Popular. “Some bad girl living in an ally, waiting for a car to stop in front of her and pay her for something in exchange? Or would you rather be some freaking artist or whatever stuff intelligent people like you just aren’t meant to be?” Aven gave Heathe a glare at his insulting words. He shrugged it off.
“I don’t know. I just look in the mirror and don’t like who I am.”
“Who does?” I say, finally. “What teenager looks into a mirror and says I’m perfectly happy with who I am and actually means it?”
There was a silence in the room. An awkward one this time as the three of them mulled over my words in their heads. I’d thought that would be the end of it, that we’d stay silent until Princess Valedictorian’s parents sent out a search party for her.
Drama Queen just had to ruin everything by piping up though. Saying the most absurd thing I’d heard in quite a while.
“Me.” She whispers. “I’m that type of teenager. Someone who can look at myself and despite finding wrong can be perfectly happy with that.”
“Liar.” Was my automatic response. “You’re just saying that to make us think you don’t care enough. Well listen to this. I don’t care about anything, but I still don’t like who I see when I think about myself. I know you’re lying.”
“Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe that’s because you do care, that you just think you don’t?” I never thought that the first glare I would throw tonight would be aimed in Aven’s direction, but she’d crossed an invisible line that we all had drawn the moment we got locked in here. We weren’t supposed to give a damn about what we learned about the other. To forget.
Drama Queen continued speaking.
“Because I don’t think I’m perfect. I’m not very smart, nor am I athletic. I may have a face, but that’s just a physical feature. I don’t get along well with others, and they—including all of you—judge me. But you know what? It doesn’t matter because I know who I am. I’m Aven, a girl who likes fantasy more than reality. A girl who can read books and get so absorbed that I wouldn’t hear a bus about to hit me. A girl who won’t give a damn if you judge me because who gave you the right to tell me who I ought to be? As far as I’m concerned, my opinion of myself is all that matters in my world, and it should go the same with everyone.”
“That’s too idealistic.” Lylie stated blandly. “And it’s easy for you to say cause you’re granted the opportunity—(“It’s not an opportunity, it’s a right!” Aven protested)—to think like that. What about us though? I have to live up to the high standards that my parents and teachers both share, Heathe has to live up to expectations from friends and fans, while Wesley—(“Just Wes.”)—fine, Wes over there has to live up to his own picturesque image of himself. You’re lucky though, Aven. You must have been raised really well to be so content.”
“That’s not true—!”
“We get it, okay. You live in a world of sunshine and rainbows, where everyone smiles and can accept who they are, but you’ve never had to look at a friend and see them return that look with something that you just can’t live up to.” Heathe interjected.
“Besides.” It was me this time. “It’s a fact that human beings are never contented. We do our best, but we always want something that we don’t have. It just makes sense that all of that applies to our own personal views on ourselves as well. You’re the one who has to learn and accept that, because your thinking could end up getting you hurt one day.”
I went back to watching the ceiling, Lylie tried to listen in on the door again, and Heathe tried to finally get that nap he’s been after. We all could sense that Aven was angered beyond belief, that her body was shaking with rage. We all didn’t spare her a glance though, because, well, for us, it was her that was in the wrong. We were giving her some good advise.
It never really occurred to us that we probably should have listened to her more.
“Do you hear yourselves?!” Drama Queen shouted. “You all think I’m wrong, that I’m the one who’s odd because I’m the only one who can do what you guys can’t? I don’t know how that makes sense to all of you, but in my head, I seem to be the only one who knows how to be happy!”
“Yeah.” I answered numbly. “But where does happiness get us?”
Not another word was spoken after that, and we stayed in that room for a couple of hours more until someone finally unlocked the door to let us out. The intelligent Lylie who turned out to be more of a Princess Anxiety than a Princess Valedictorian had put on her smile to thank the kind soul, and ran across the hall to give her parents a call through the school landline.
Prince Popular, Heathe, gave us all a two-fingered salute before walking down the stairs to leave. We heard some pretty loud welcomes from the staircase when he did, which he returned with loud laughs and boastful words—proving that he was really just Prince Peer Pressure hiding behind that mask of suave confidence that everyone adored.
Aven and I were the last to go, even sharing a walk to the school gates in silence before we parted our separate ways.
The Drama Queen proved that she was every bit the character she was. Her passion, her expressions, everything portrayed with the utmost conviction. But she was also a Satisfied Queen despite all of that, something that was probably rare in the world we were living in.
So, allow me say this one more time.
My name is Wesley West. Most people call me Wes. So yes, I’ve lived my whole life being Wes West. Does it get annoying? Maybe, sometimes. Does it matter? No, not really. Why should you care? Because in a world dominated by people similar to a Depression King like me, we need a bit more people who can tell us that it’s okay to be the person one chooses to be.
Because if you lose yourself, you’re no longer you. And you is all you should ever have to be.