Jakob, while waiting to see his psychiatrist, reminices about his school friendship with Cody, a troubled girl.
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I noticed that Cody was always alone, rarely speaking to anyone. Some of the other students called her "Boris" after the movie actor Boris Karloff who played Frankenstein and other monsters. She had some kind of disfigurement on her face which I later found out was from a childhood accident--she was burned by a pot of cooking oil. I must admit that I was also pretty much an island unto myself at school so it wasn't exactly a saint's miracle that we started hanging out together. We would wait for each other after last period and walk home, trying not to pay much attention to the taunting from the jocks and gossiping girly cliques.
She lived with her wheelchair-bound widowed nana in a large run -down low-rent apartment building, one of a cluster of carbon copy structures located a short distance from the school. I never asked about the rest of her family. One day she invited me over--she said she wanted to show me some of her art work. I was totally blown away by what I saw. She had animated a whole series of comic strips based on an original super hero she called "Thunder Bella" who had these special powers that allowed her to spread deadly electrical charges through her arch enemies and help prevent all kinds of potential disasters. Cody made it known that the super hero's main focus was saving picked on and defenceless people. The quality of the drawings was so professional looking that it was totally freaky. She told me that Mrs. Gardener, her art teacher, took a special interest in her art work. The teacher's husband once worked in the Disney animation studio in California and now taught at the College of Art downtown. He also gave private lessons at his home on weekends. Mrs. Gardener hooked up Cody with her husband for free lessons--she knew Cody could never afford the costs.
Cody told me her nana--her name was Edith Jelinek, had been a widow since Cody was in early grade school. Cody's grandfather had died in his late 50's from a massive heart attack. Besides Cody's mom, they had two sons, both who had been killed in the Dieppe raid during the last war. Let me be painfully honest: it was perfectly okay to walk home with with her and spend some time hanging out, but I know full well that if she was pretty, I'd have asked her out long ago without the blink of an eye. What a total piece of shit I was, always whining on about how looks were way overrated and how all those superficial kids had never bothered to look beyond a person's outer shell, neglecting the real beauty inside. Sadly, I was no different from them. So as it was, with shameful hypocrisy, I kept a safe platonic distance from poor Cody.
I vividly remember the day I got suspended from Northwood. My truant ways, once a calculating exercise in cat-and-mouse, based on a genuine fear of being caught, had in the past year, morphed into a full blown "don't give a flying fuck" apathy. After a morning listening to the principal's sermon on "responsibility to myself" and "education is earned not given" and so on and so on, I walked over to Finnegan's, my favourite haunt over at the Finch Hill plaza, to shoot a game of pool. I knew when I finally made my way home I would be greeted with the old man's lame bullshit lecture, followed by the handing out of the usual ineffective discipline which like the term test papers, I accepted with a testy belligerent indifference.
Later that afternoon, a bunch of loud mouth school jocks, all fancy assed and big mouthed, came sauntering into Finny's after winning their home football game against Westfield Technical school, which was no big deal seeing that most of the Westfield players were retards and cretins. The douche bags were bragging about how easily they slaughtered the other team. The quarterback, Drew Garner, blonde haired and built like a magazine body builder, came smiling that smart ass smile over towards me. I tried to ignore the prick. "Hey lover boy!" Did you hear the news about your girlfriend?" I knew he was ribbing me about Cody who I hadn't seen in school for over a week. "Well, she went fuckin' crazy: totally lost it in art class on Thursday. She started spazzing all over the floor and foaming at the mouth like she had rabies or something. I guess the vet forgot to give her her yearly shots! Ha ha ha! We heard she ended the fuck up in a straight jacket in a rubber room at the Queen Street nut house!" I thought about poor Cody and how these assholes, just like the other hotshots at school, were responsible for most of the poor girl's troubles. I stared hard at the jerk and told the piece of shit "to fuck off!" Then, mindful of possible physical assault, I made my way slowly outside. He followed me out the door, making sure his footsteps were loud. "Come back fag and play me a table--I hear you're a real shark!" I kept walking, listening to Garner's posse of moron jocks, spewing high pitched childish "clucking" sounds.
When I got outside, I felt a strange mix of anger, deep sadness, and most of all an overwhelming need to take revenge, not only on the bastards at the pool hall, but on all the stuck-up braggarts and bully's at Northwood who thought they were goddamn special wrapped up gifts to the world. It was at that very moment that I decided if I eventually got my shit together, I would do something with real purpose in my life: I would try to help all those underdogs and downtrodden like Cody who always get shit on in this pathetic uncaring world.
That weekend I decided to visit Cody in the hospital. It happened to be the Easter long weekend which had arrived earlier than usual at the end of March. After my suspension I had been confined to my usual house arrest. The old man was out on a repair call. I snuck out of my bedroom exile, mindful of my mom who was gabbing on the phone. It was the first time I had visited the Queen Street Mental Hospital which everyone simply called "999" because of its address. I had heard all kinds of stories about the place: things like weird drugged out psychos roaming the halls day and night like stoned out zombies, weird screaming wackos banging on walls day and night, and sadistic orderlies abusing their patients in all kinds of sicko ways.
When I got there I decided to grab a coffee at the Dip'n Donut across the street and do some people watching, which was just an excuse I admit because I was in no hurry to enter the place. And boy, was I ever freaked out by what I saw standing along the entrance. There, in all his disgusting glory, was this scruffy older guy with a white beard who looked like one of those drunken rubbies I always saw downtown. He was wearing only a pair of tattered blue striped pyjamas and socks even though it was late March with a chill wind was blowing in the damp air. I swear, I wasn't hallucinating, but the cat was shamelessly holding a girly magazine and frantically beating off like it was just another ho hum day in the office! I caught a glimpse of a cop standing outside guarding a construction site. He was smiling and nodding his head back and forth as if to say "what can I do? He's off his bloody skull!" I thought about how all these nut bars in this fucked up city could get away with nearly anything shady!