Connor Edwards was perhaps the most erratic person that I had met in my life. With that sided awkward stride from the weight of a metal briefcase clasped in his right hand, Connor was fitted in a suit a size too big for him. While the rest of us were sporting trainers and a loose collar, he was in a dress shirt, tie, and polished shoes.
I’d like to say that he passed along the school grounds like an unknown presence – unseen and unheard, but that was the last thing he was. He would have his eyes fixed on the ground as he walked through the school corridor, perhaps refraining to run as the children all taunted him with the incomprehensible insults of 11 year olds. Though blatantly bad, it was hurtful for Connor either way, always causing him to suddenly excuse himself in class. He would run out with his briefcase clutched in his arms.
At break times, his eyes would dart around the playground as he sat in the corner, opening his briefcase. It was the only time he would. It was a true mystery as to what he really did during the breaks we had. There was a time when Tom – the obvious bully – tried to snatch the briefcase out of his lap. Instead it resulted with Tom getting his fingers stuck in between and Connor in the head teacher’s office, not that he had actually slammed the top down on Tom’s fingers like Tom had accused him of. Quite simply, what Connor did behind that casing was unknown to everything but the wall behind him. That is until I approached him on that Tuesday morning.
“Connor,” I said, treading my feet on the asphalt. I was about a metre in front of him, but something told me there was a greater distance in between that. Or was it the nervousness getting to me? He took a glance at me and suddenly shut his eyes, scrunching them like he was thinking hard. He placed his fingers on his temples and started massaging them, his eyes still shut in contrast to his still open suitcase.
It took around a minute before he finally opened his eyes and said something back.
I tried to give him the best of smiles, but I think it ended a bit crooked and scary instead. “What’s that you have in your briefcase?”
I was expecting Connor to retreat back to his strange mediation, but instead he gave me a warm smile and turned the briefcase so I could take a good look of what was inside.
There was a Polaroid camera and beside it a dozen blank films. There were another dozen with faded pictures of us. There was Robert picking his nose, Mary on the log, pointing her finger to some imaginary X to mark the spot, and then there was me with my friends inside our imaginary time machine. It was only then did I notice the notebook sprawled open with a pencil sitting in its spine.
“I’m documenting,” he said, answering the question that had just made a stop in my mind. “Do you want to see what I wrote about you?” Before I could answer he handed over the book.
I’m sure that at this moment, kids were sneering, trying to think of their next badly thought-out series of insults, but it didn’t matter at that point. I opened the book to a page with my name on it, and on it was written:
Birthday: 19 September 1996
Always has a really big smile on his face
Likes to rip up tissue when he’s nervous
Has his mum drop him off 20 metres from school so that he can walk in himself
Brings glasses to school every day but never wears them
I gave a slight grin; Connor was observant. I decided to go through the other pages and stopped at Tom’s name.
Birthday: 17th March 1996
Likes to pretend he’s chewing gum all the time
Takes my coat all the time and hides it behind the toilet
Tries to get all the other kids to make fun of me until I cry
Just really, really, really mean.
I let out a bit of a sigh, looking at the dried tears that had smudged some of the writing. “No one really likes Tom,” I said to Connor, hoping it would make him feel a bit better.
I was just about to finish flickering through when I stopped at a page that I found rather peculiar. There was a name, much like any other page, but that was exactly what it was: there was nothing but a name.
Of course, I knew Mr Parkinson. He was our P.E teacher. There was nothing mysterious about him at all. He was nice, friendly, smart, and that was exactly what I told Connor to write down. After all, it couldn’t have been that hard. Connor scrunched his eyes again and shook his head really fast. “He’s not like that. That’s not him.”
“But he’s really nice to us and we have lots of fun with him, don’t we?” I tried to look to find Mr Parkinson in the playground, playing football with the kids like he usually would, but he was nowhere to be seen. I looked back at Connor, who still had his eyes shut. It stayed like that for a couple of minutes, and even though I wished it had ended with an answer, it didn’t. The bell started to shrill, and Connor ran off ahead.