Nolan woke up in the morning groggy. He remembered his dream of the waterfall, and bouncing on his bed at the end. He would never forget that one. But there was no time to process, he had to get ready for school. Nolan was in the fifth grade and as much as he hated school, this was the worst year of school yet. Life had been all over the place this year.
Back in the fourth grade he was supposed to give his first speech. But he was so terrified that he pretended he didn’t do it. His teacher reached out to his mom and helped him make it up. In the process, Nolan finally found a teacher that he could talk to. She really cared and he was looking forward to seeing her at lunch and in the halls this year. Finally, someone at school that cared. But on the first day of school the principle came into his class and announced that she had died of a heart attack over summer break. His heart was broken for her and his year wasn’t going to get easier from there.
Nolan struggled with reading. He managed to get good grades without ever reading over the material and he was starting to figure out that he could get B’s without turning in all the homework too. B’s would keep him out of trouble and a C here and there would hurt anything. As long as he studied the study guide for a few minutes before test day he would get an A on the test and the grades would take care of themselves. He didn’t really learn the material but he memorized what the right answers looked like so even if he didn’t know the words he could pick them out of the answer choices. Math was simple, he almost never missed a question in math and he even did the homework while the teacher was repeating how to do a million times to the other kids. But reading just didn’t work. When he would stand up to read out loud people always called him stupid. The teacher would make them stop so he could keep trying but he knew he was stupid, they told him every day.
On the playground, Nolan tried to stay away from people. A new kid had started school with him that year. This kid took all three of Nolan’s school friends and a bunch of other kids and turned them against Nolan. It didn’t make sense but the new kid really hated Nolan and everyone else seemed to listen to him. If Nolan was ever out of sight of an adult they would make a point to do whatever it took to make him angry. They thought it was hilarious to make him angry. He tried so hard not to fight, not get angry but they were lying about him and throwing things at him and tripping him. They just pushed and pushed, a whole pack of kids, even all his friends from last year. They just did whatever they could to make him fight and then they laughed at his rage and ran to the teacher to get him in trouble. He just kept falling for it, further proof of how stupid he was.
He couldn’t wait to get home. Afternoon was his only refuge. He would eat frozen pizza, frozen burritos, or individually wrapped cupcakes, drink orange juice by the gallon, and he would play basketball in driveway, watch tv, or play video games. No one was home but him. Being alone was the best part of childhood. His parents wouldn’t get home until dinner time and most of the week his dad wouldn’t come home at all. He worked out of town most of the time, he was a traveling salesman. Nolan’s mom worked at church. When there was decorating that needed done or a new thing happening in the children’s area she would work late. She was in charge of the children’s program there. And his sister just got her driver’s license and a job. She stayed out all the time.
Most nights through the week Nolan wouldn’t see anyone until at least dinner time, sometimes it was after he already went to bed. The alone time kept him going, he looked forward to it every day and when people were off work or home early it was a real disappointment. Nolan couldn’t tell people about his crazy dreams. He couldn’t really brag about his favorite past time, being alone. And he sure couldn’t talk about church. Church was the only place he had friends that year. But he couldn’t tell people most of that stuff. If they thought his dreams were crazy and made up, they really wouldn’t believe what happened at church!