“Forgotten Kids” excerpt II

‘Summer Past: Chapter 1’ excerpt from Forgotten Kids by Laurie Costello.

I leaned against the wall and watched the loners and losers become lost in the smog and realized that marijuana and ecstasy weren’t the only drugs being shared. Faces leaned on a small mirror that rested on the bureau, jolting upward with an energetic shout after a snort. I should have been more stunned, but that was the life. I had classes with these people and saw them walk the courtyard of our school every semester, falsely presenting themselves as model youths in their uniforms and Catholic crest. We prayed every morning, forced to give thanks in unison, but I assumed no one ever listened, and from the actions I encountered—not just that night, but throughout my tenure—I was correct.

As the fake joyfulness overwhelmed the others, I whispered to myself, “What would Jesus do?”

I’m not sure if my upbringing and high school teachings ignited that philosophical quandary as my first thought, but I needed to answer the question nonetheless.

“He wouldn’t do a damn thing,” I said.

Looking at those fools, those liars, those cheats, why would he have wanted to save that chaos? I was surrounded by sinners and was one in the same. He would have walked in and destroyed every one of us, shooting fire out his eyes and lightning bolts out his fingertips, erasing any evidence that we represented his name or followed in his footsteps. I had a strange idea of what Jesus’ powers were. Then it happened: I saw him. I saw Jesus.

A tall and thin fellow walked into the room with long hair and a patchy beard sporting ripped blue jeans and a tattered cardigan he may have stolen from his grandfather. I couldn’t clearly verify the savior’s manifestation due to the darkness and the smoke, but I whispered, “Jesus,” hoping he would hear me over the current track because I believed good hearing was another power of his.

He didn’t respond because it wasn’t him—we were doomed. It was just a boy I knew of but never had any interaction with. He tried hard to emulate Kurt Cobain in appearance and lifestyle but was too obsessed with being popular enough, which proved his variance from the late rock star. That and he wasn’t a rock star. Nor was he Jesus, but neither was Cobain despite the praise toward him—he couldn’t have been Christ because his beard didn’t grow well enough. The newcomer to the room was Zach. He was a drugged-out, misbehaving risk taker, a jokester who forced laughs instead of earned them, a pest. I could tell he was quite impaired as he slapped hands with the boys and hugged the girls in the room, all movements with a baleful grin of confidence and mischief. He nodded in my direction, an acknowledgment that asked, “What’s up,” and “Why are you here,” at the same time—either way, my presence had been compromised. I sipped my beer—or whosever beer it was—puffed my cigarette, and nodded back before looking away as if I was James Dean saying hello. I wasn’t nearly as cool as I believed—certainly not on a Dean level.

I began to feel uncomfortable now that Zach had brought attention to me and was confused as to how I ended up in the room in the first place. I didn’t do drugs, didn’t like these people, and was paranoid of black lights, worried they would reveal dandruff or other embarrassing stains on my clothing. Where were my real friends? Where did they go? Were they ever in this room?

I then asked aloud with an eccentric hand gesture and slur, “And where’s my only cigarette?”

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“Forgotten Kids” excerpt I

‘Summer Present: Chapter 1’ excerpt from Forgotten Kids by Laurie Costello.

She appeared, parting the rest of them like Moses, though that reference was stale and forgotten from two decades ago. Yes, there she was, indeed, with her wavy locks falling from underneath a debonair fedora, tickling her sun-kissed cheeks and bare shoulders. She was the girl, or woman now, who altered my life with the most miniscule of moments in the grand scheme of things. The tiniest sliver of hope that ignited a burning that has since only been met with temporary relief, for it will never be satisfied.

Heather came up next to me and said, “What is she doing here? God, I hate that bitch.”

I tugged on the cuff of my button-down to cover my wrist. “Yeah, me too.”

“Her teeth are, like, too perfect. It’s disgusting.”

I turned and looked at Heather as if I had never seen her or heard those semantics before. She went blonde, and the mountains rounding from underneath her top could have only been formed with assistance and a hefty entertainer’s fare—or perhaps even an industry comp for a role.

“Well, you’ve certainly changed.”

She stepped back and twirled as if it were a compliment. “I had to. Isn’t it great?”

“It’s something; that’s for sure.”

“So what do you do now?” she asked.

“I’m a counselor.”

“Oh,” she said, disappointed at the lack of esteem.

“And you?”

Nadia sauntered over before Heather could answer, and said, “A counselor, that seems fitting after all that happened.”

I smiled and gave her a hug; she used to be petite, but all that remained in that regard was her height. She was proof life phases add weight in more than one aspect, especially when experience was forced early on. “Hey, Nadia, great to see you. I heard you have, like, ten kids.”

“Always the omniscient one.”

“Well, not always, just more so over time.”

“I don’t have ten kids, but I have a gang.”

“Hopefully a little tamer than the one you used to roll with.”

“Just a tad.” She chuckled.

A stout man, just a few inches taller than Nadia, walked to her side with sunglasses on his forehead and his chin lifted. He held a beer, and his stomach stored a few more.

She put a soft grip around his triceps and said, “This is my husband.” She then presented her palm face up in my direction, “Babe, this is Kyle. You know, the one I talk about sometimes.” 

He extended his hand and I met it with a firm grip.

“Nice to meet you,” I said.

“Same here, bro.”

After we released, there was no need to further the introduction with mundane getting-to-know-yous because I was at a point in my life where I wanted less people around, not new acquaintances who will inevitably become as irrelevant as names from the past—just quicker this go-around. He appeared to be stuck in the same mentality, but it may have just been his personality of being unimpressed, demanding respect without an ounce of reciprocation. So, just another person from this town, I guess.

“Are you still into music?” Nadia asked.

“Can’t seem to get away from it, which is a good thing.”

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