“All right class pay attention.” Ms. Crane’s voice echoed throughout the room, silencing multiple conversations at once. I immediately head towards the front of the room and back into my desk. I watched as other students scrambled into their desk, while others walked with little to no urgency.
“Now that I have your attention, I hope you’ve all completed your report because it’s time to present it in front of the class.”
Varying pitches of groans sounded out throughout the room.
“Enough! You all knew about this presentation in advance!” She threw down the stack of papers in her hand and placed her hands on her hips. “Now…” She let out a sigh. “Who would like to go first.”
I immediately withdrew into my desk, my butt slid forward and I sunk into my chair as if I was melting into it.
“No volunteers? All right… I guess I’ll just have to pick randomly.”
Dang it. I hate it when she picks at random because it always ends being…
“Bruce! You’re up!” She left the front of the room and walked over to her desk in the far right corner.
Yup… just like clockwork. I slowly stood up from desk, struggling as my knee hit the bottom of the desk. I didn’t look back, but I could feel everyone’s eyes on me, burning the back of my head. I grabbed my report and placed it in between my right arm. I dug my hands into my pockets and walked to front of the room with my head down. As soon as I reached the front, I turned around and saw only the students up front paying attention to me, the rest of the room had their eyes averted elsewhere.
I guess I was just being paranoid. I took my hands and laid the report on the podium in front of me, my hands began to shake as I moved towards my side. I immediately moved it towards the sides of the podium and clenched it.
“Alright class, please give your full undivided attention to Bruce!” Then the rest of the students faced forward. Some still looked bored while the others stared at me, waiting for me to speak. Ms. Crane looked back at me, “You may begin.” I glanced over and saw Ms. Crane press down on the stopwatch. I just have to survive five minutes of this. Five. long. Minutes. I squeezed the podium even harder, trying to calm the my nerves.
“Good morning.” My voice changed pitches, I cleared up my throat and spoke once more. “Today I’m here to present my report on the person that inspires me the most…” I looked down at my report. Hesitating to speak. I stayed up for hours, struggling to come up with a topic for my paper.
I finally decided on a topic around midnight last night. The computer screen was still blank, and I had my head resting on my hands. Batman, James Bond, Stitch? Who was my inspiration?! I thought to myself. Then I groaned and slammed my head down into my arms.
“Bruce…” My father let out a yawn as he stood in the doorway to my room. “It’s late. What are you still doing up?”
“Sorry Dad… I still need to finish this paper.” I glanced over to him and saw him in his uniform, untucked and wrinkled. He had bags under his eyes and his hair was monochrome and disheveled. His bangs covered his forehead and his hair made his head look a lot bigger than normal.
He let out another yawn before he could respond. “All right… well don’t stay up too late. Don’t want you waking up late and then missing the bus.”
“Don’t worry… I’m almost done.” I saw his eyes wander onto my screen.
His eyebrows raised, “Last I remember, almost done meant having text on the screen.”
“Yeah yeah yeah! Don’t worry about it!”
“Ok…” Then he wandered off, down into the dark hallway, feet dragging right behind him.
He didn’t have to say it, but deep down I knew that he was disappointed in me. Probably wishing that his son was smarter or at least more responsible. I let out a sigh and then turned back to my monitor. The sight of the blank document made me slam my head down onto the keyboard. I lifted it back up and saw random letters on the screen. Well at least I got something on paper.
I then heard a light clatter to side of my desk. I moved my face away from my hand and saw a blue mug, with black coffee simmering inside.
“I can’t remember. Did you drink it with or without sugar?”
“Without… Thanks Dad.”
He smiled at me. “No problem.” Then he walked away.
I picked up the mug and took a sip. The hot coffee trickled down my throat and my chest felt warm, as if I was being hugged from the inside. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and then I faced the blank screen once more. Then I realized who I finally wanted to write about, my hands fell on the keyboard and they began moving as if it was on autopilot.
My hesitation disappeared. “My Dad.” I took a deep breath and continued reading from my paper. “There were comic book heroes and there were celebrities, but there was no one like my dad. I may be be biased when I say this, but my dad is the greatest source of inspiration. I know how hard he works and how much he does as a single parents, but somehow he always found a way to take care of me. He didn’t stop and did whatever was necessary.
“I’ve always offered to help, but then he looks at me and says, Son… you can help me by focusing on school, graduating, and then getting a job to help pay for the bills.” I lowered my voice, trying to match my dad’s pitch. There snippets of laughter around the room.
“Those words alone have motivated me. I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to repay him for everything that he’s done, but I won’t stop until I do. My father is my inspiration and I wouldn’t have it any other way… Thank you.”
Silence. Not a single applause. Not a single hand came up. I looked up and saw them just staring at me and then I realized that I was… crying. I quickly wiped away my tears and turned to Ms. Crane.
“Thank you Bruce for sharing.” The class as if they were in a trance suddenly started clapping after hearing Ms. Crane speak.
I nodded in reply and walked over, with my head facing downwards again. The sound of the applause did nothing to appease my embarrassment. I can’t believe I teared up like that in front of everyone. The walk back seemed a lot longer, and my feet seemed to drag as I walked back to my seat. I let out a sigh of relief and sunk back into my chair, back into my comfort zone. The presentations continued, and my mind began to wander. Hearing everyone’s presentation made me wish that I talked about some celebrity or even a comic book hero. At least, I wouldn’t have cried if I had talked about someone else. Seriously Bruce…. Way to go.
Another round of applause brought me away from thoughts. I looked around the room and saw that Ms. Crane was back up in front.
“I want to thank you all for presenting, and remember class to turn in your reports before you leave the classroom.”
The bell rang right after she finished talking and I remained in my seat, as everyone else quickly stood up and stampeded to the front of the room. Some neatly placed their reports on top of the front desk, while other just threw it on there and ran out of the room. I stood up once I noticed that I was one of the last students remaining. I walked up behind a couple other students turning in their paper, and then it was my turn. Before I could turn in my paper, Ms. Crane approached me from behind.
“Bruce.” I turned around, surprised to see her behind me. Ms. Crane was a woman of simple taste. She wore a plain white t-shirt with a black cardigan and jeans. She had her hair tied up, with some strands of hair falling out of the bun. “I want to thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I know it must have been difficult, but I’m sure myself and the class are appreciative of your openness and honesty.”
“Thank you…” I nodded at her and left my paper on her desk.
The rest of the day flew by, uneventful and monotonous compared to my presentation earlier in the day. I decided to walk home after school, told myself that I needed some time to think about today. I replayed the presentation in my head, and the water works that happened after. I shook my head, still unable to accept the fact that I had cried in front of the class. I turned the corner and arrived at my apartment.
It was a two story apartment, that was in desperate need of a remodel, the colors outside were fading. What was once blue was now just white. Rust covered the railing and bars were missing in certain spots. I walked into the lobby and the interior wasn’t any better, it had couches with different color stains, and the ceiling was covered in mold. I didn’t bother to complain, because I knew the rent was cheap for my dad and I.
Bang. The door to the lobby of our apartment shut behind me.
“Hey! Make sure you close the door gently! If the door breaks then I’m adding it to your rent!” An old, balding man yelled at me from the window of his office.
“Sorry!” I yelled back and rushed upstairs to avoid being lectured. I got up the stairs and onto the second floor. The lights in the hallway flickered on and off and wallpaper was stripped yellow and white. Remember Bruce… cheap rent. I walked down the hallway, and then I paused. I saw that the door to our apartment was open, and my body was frozen stiff. My heart began to race, ready to jump out of my chest, and my hands shook as I approached the door. The opening was wide enough for me to peek in, so I slowly stuck my head into the opening.
The blinds in the living room were closed, so only small streams of sunlight made its way into the apartment. I opened the door slowly and made my way into the apartment. I found myself in the hallway and I tiptoed all the way into the living room. Books and papers were found cluttered all over the apartment.
All of a sudden a large crashing noise came from my dad’s bedroom. I reeled back at the noise and bumped into the wall. The sound of my back hitting the wall reverberated throughout the apartment.
“Shit!” I whispered under my breath.
“Who’s there?!” I held my breath as I fell to the ground. A figure came rushing out of the room.
“Bruce?!” He rushed over to me and laid his hands on my shoulder. “Are you okay? Sorry for startling you?”
“I’m fine! Is everything okay??? Did someone break in?”
“No no. I’m sorry, but I made all that mess.” He took a deep breath and quickly stood up and returned to his room. He glanced back at me before going back into the room. “I need you to pack up your stuff quick. We’re leaving.” Then he rushed back into his room.
I sat there, dumbfounded. Leaving. But why? I stood up, and limped over to my dad’s room. I peeked inside and saw him throwing clothes into a duffle bag. On the floor next to him was another duffle bag, but instead it was filled with money.
“Dad…” He turned to me, eyes widened, and teeth gritted. “What’s with the money…?”
“Didn’t I tell you to start packing?!” I jumped up. His voice boomed unexpectedly. I began to shake, surprised to see my own father act like this. He then took a deep breath and walked over to me. I moved backwards a little as he extended his hand, and then he stopped. “I’m sorry Bruce… I’ll explain everything later, but we need to go…”
“Okay Dad…” My head glanced downward and I slumped out of his room. I found myself wandering into my room and then I shut the door. I slipped my phone out of my pocket, and began contemplating what I should do. The man in that room… didn’t look or sound like my father. Also, what’s with all that money? What should I do? I glanced towards my phone and saw it shaking in my hands. I gripped the phone tighter, trying my best to keep it still.
Then a loud crash echoed into my room. I saw my phone leave my hand and fall to the ground. I ran out of the room and came across a large man standing in the entranceway of our apartment. The man towered over me, he was so big that he had to turn sideway to enter our apartment. He faced down towards me.
“You must be Bruce. Tell me, have you seen your father?”
I tried to speak, but couldn’t find the words.
I turned around and saw my dad with a gun in his hand, aimed downward towards the large man.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The man spoke with a deep, gravely voice. “Even if you kill me, there’s nowhere you can hide. They’ll find you.”
“Well… that’s a risk I’m willing to take it.”
Bang. the gunshot rang in my ears. It was louder than the movies made it out to be. After the gunshot, everything around me sounded muffled. Even as the large man fell, I expected a large crashing noise, but only heard a thump. I stood, frozen in place, as if time around me had stopped. The large man laid on the ground, his blood leaked onto the floor in front.
I was frozen in place until I felt a tug at my shoulder and then I was suddenly pulled to towards other direction, away from the body. I was now facing my dad, he crouched down in front and looked straight at me. I met his eyes, and saw the same tired and weary man, a man who could use some sleep.
“It’s time to go. We can get you new clothes later. Son… you need to trust me. Please.”
I stared at him and began to think about the man last night, the man who took care of me as I struggled with my paper. The man who came home after working double shifts. This man was my dad, my hero who would do anything to help me.
I nodded and then we rushed out of the apartment. Forced to relocate, leaving our home behind.