The way he looks at it, it’s “no big deal,” just some slightly inappropriate behavior on his part that one of his so-called friends ‘cammed’ and posted online. The video clip made the rounds, spreading like wildfire until it seemed there wasn’t a single student or teacher at his school who hadn’t either seen it or heard about it. So what! Lots of kids drink too much and say and do stupid stuff. Besides, he had always wanted to write his name in the snow and with all that beer he chugged down, he had enough in him to write more than just his name.
That’s how it all started, a few friends clowning around, then a dare, followed by a double dare. The school psychologist isn’t buying his “no big deal” line. She acts nice enough, talks in a reassuring voice. “You’re in a safe space here,” she tells him. “I want you to feel free to say whatever is on your mind.” At first, he avoids eye contact, but she is persistent in her attempts to look directly in his eyes. Eventually he meets her gaze. She claims to understand his reluctance to talk and assures him she isn’t judging him. She pretends to be on his side, but he can see right through her. She isn’t fooling him with her fake concern and her phony sweet voice. She tells him, if he doesn’t want to talk about it, which he doesn’t, maybe he’d feel more comfortable writing it down. He reluctantly agrees and she is quick to hand him a pen and some paper.
He isn’t much of a speller, so he pulls out his phone to have at the ready, just in case he needs to do a quick spellcheck. He tries his best to write it all down. But the more he writes, the more uncomfortable he becomes. He doesn’t know how to spell “awkward,” so he has to look it up, which makes him feel all the more awkward about everything.
Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State, where the snow falls freely. His fiction has been published in roughly 35 print and online magazines.