By Thomis Bride
Avril would watch him beneath the shade of the school jacaranda tree. Marc always nestled himself comfortably between the ridges of roots that pierced the earthen surface, as if the tree itself embraced him. From within the jacaranda’s embrace, Marc would read his books. All the years Avril had known him, whenever he had time to himself, Marc would return to the jacaranda and flick between the pages of any book he had. It was all Marc had been known for at the school.
None of the other boys read books outside of the classrooms. The emergence of their adolescent testosterone meant that playing sports and trouble-making was where their fun was to be had. And of course, Marc’s difference from the norm painted himself a target.
Sometimes they would spray him with their water bottles when he was within the jacaranda’s embrace. Sometimes they would pelt him with rocks. One time they pinned him down, wrenched the book he was reading from his grasp and threw it into the tree’s canopy, where it was caught between the branches.
Who knows why they would do it. Some of the teachers say it’s because they secretly want Marc to come play with them. Some of the parents say it’s because adolescent boys are manifestations of pure malice. The boys themselves would say that they did it just for fun. But Avril knew why they did it.
They did it, because they didn’t understand why Marc liked to read.
How could they? The textbooks from their classes bored them, and novels don’t have any pictures. Why would you waste time with your nose between the covers? To those boys, the best things in life were hanging out during recess and dropping someone during rugby. Those boys had no idea what was between the covers of Marc’s books.
But Avril did.
From within the jacaranda’s embrace, Marc had lived a life of adventure. He had ridden to war with great armies to defeat the forces of evil. He had ventured to the ends of space itself to discover what lies beyond our universe. He had felt the psychological trauma of life within the trenches. He had fallen in love many times, and fallen out just as many.
He had been to forests, deserts, oceans, tundras, metropolises, other planets, other dimensions. He had been forward in time, backward in time and into other timelines. He had been the victim of grave tragedy, and the victor of great triumph. He had looked the Devil in the eye, and spoken with God himself.
Marc had lived a thousand lifetimes. Avril knew this, because she had read some too. But not as many as Marc.
Avril would wonder why Marc endured the boys’ torment. Their harassment was fierce and unrelenting, and yet Marc did nothing to prevent it. Avril assumed that Marc thought that reading his books was worth a lot more than fitting in with the rest of the boys. He would not submit to their normality.
Avril thought Marc was stupidly stubborn, but also admired him for standing for what he believed in, in his ignorant sort of way. No matter what the boys did to him, no matter how life tried to change him, Marc would return to the jacaranda’s embrace, and escape between the covers.