At the stroke of midnight the alarm clock on Robin’s nightstand started to chime. The strange thing wasn’t the alarm clock going off at midnight, although that in itself is strange, it was the clock that was chiming that was change. The alarm clock wasn’t Robin’s usual digital one, it was analog, complete with a clockface, gears, and a windup key on the back. It looked like something you would buy and put up as a showpiece but not actually use.
The alarm clock did its job, arousing Robin from her slumber. To say she was happy to be woken up would be a boldfaced lie. As Robin rolled over she found an alarm clock she had never seen before. What’s worse is she didn’t know how to turn off. As she turned away from the clock and attempted to dampen the sound of it with her pillow, Robin found another person lying in her bed.
The person smiled and said, “Hello Robin.”
“Aaaah!” The shock of seeing another person in her bed caused Robin to yell and recoil, which resulted in her falling from her bed in a semi-comical fashion. Robin wasn’t filled with a mortal fear like she was with her last mysterious visitor, mostly because this visitor was a woman. A woman dressed in a tattered white dress like you’d see in an old cabaret show. This woman also had this pleasant aura around her that just projected a sense of peace and calm.
The woman got up from the bed, looked at Robin with a concerned look on her face and said, “I’m sorry about startling you like that. Are you okay?” The woman was genuinely concerned, after all, she was sent to visit Robin, not injure her.
Robin began to gather herself up from the floor and said, “I’m fine, it’s just strange people in my bed tend to disturb me. By the way,” Robin looked up into the eyes of this strange woman and said, “who are you?”
The woman found this question odd to be. “Weren’t you told that I was going to visit you tonight?”
Robin thought back and remembered the man she saw before she had gone to bed. “I assumed he was a product of massive gin consumption.”
The woman responded, “No, the product of massive gin consumption usually carries a sickle. What you saw was a ghost.”
Robin was skeptical of what the woman was saying. She expressed that skepticism by saying, “And what are you supposed to be?”
“I am an angel. My purpose is to remind the living of what has happened before. I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
The woman, or apparently angel, released a glowing aura that was filled with light and sparkles and all kinds of good things. Most people see a display like this and smile, not Robin. Robin, still being skeptical, said “If you’re an angel, why are you called the Ghost of Christmas Past?”
The aura display suddenly stopped and the angel looked at Robin with this really annoyed look on her face. “It’s just my job title. How many job titles accurately convey who the person is?”
The angel did have a point, a point Robin was in no way interested in listening to. “Will you get out of my bedroom now?”
“But Robin, I’m trying to tell you something important.”
Robin started getting back into bed, saying, “That’s nice. Can you keep the light from your aura down? I’m trying to get to sleep.”
The angel pleaded with Robin, “But you can’t sleep.”
That witty little comment aggravated the angel. She had hoped that her aura and her very presence would have compelled Robin to believe her. Obviously she had failed to do so, so the angel decided to take a more direct approach. The angel grabbed the underside of Robin’s bed, mustered up all the strength she could, and dumped Robin out of it. “Are you going to listen to me now,” the angel said in an annoyed tone.
Robin looked up at the angel and said, “Will you leave me alone if I do?”
The angel’s countenance changed from one of annoyance to one that conveyed optimism. “Yes.”
Robin gathered herself up again and said, “Okay. Let’s go.” The angel walked over to Robin and held out her hand to Robin which she took, efforting not to break it when she did so. The angel led Robin over to her balcony windows and, with just a swipe of her angelic hand, flung them wide open. Robin watched this action and said, “I thought I locked those.”
The angel looked at Robin and said, “I just opened the door with a swipe of my hand. You think I couldn’t unlock it at the same time as well?” The angel led Robin forward onto the balcony and said, “Now Robin, I’m going to need you to hold onto my hand real tight.”
“Otherwise you’ll fall.” Then the angel and Robin lifted up off the balcony and into the air. The angel went slowly at first, to ensure that Robin was in fact hanging on to her securely, then faster and faster as they got further into the realm usually reserved for massive airplanes.
Upon reaching this realm, Robin asked, “Where are we going?”
Like a parent on a road trip, the angel responded, “I’ll tell you when we get there.”
“But I want to know now.”
“Robin, trust me, I wouldn’t steer you wrong.”
“Trust you? I don’t know you.”
“I’m an angel, you supposed to trust me.”
“I’ve never met an angel before. How am I supposed to trust a group of people I’ve never met?”
“You would have been a fun person to have around when the settlers met the natives. Hey look, we’re here.” So it was that over the course of a conversation that was not entirely politically correct the angel had taken Robin from Robin’s home to where it was the angel wanted to take her. Robin and the angel dropped from the realm of the aircraft, quickly approached a patch of concrete outside a two story brick building, and slowed up just slightly before safely landing back on Earth. The patch of concrete was not barren, but was littered with playing children and the various things they play on.
Robin looked at the angel and said, “Now can you tell me where we are?”
“Do you not recognize this place?”
Robin shot back in a highly annoyed tone, “Are you ever going to answer any of my questions?”
The angel dramatically swept her hand across the pact of concrete, and said, “This is the elementary school that you attended when you were a kid.”
Robin looked over the environment that the angel had brought her to and, after a second or two, recognized it. “Oh yeah, I did go to elementary school here. Sorry, my mind doesn’t quite remember details like that. I mostly remember what happens at a location not necessarily the location itself.”
The angel asked of Robin, “Do you remember what happened here at this time?”
“I’m sketchy on dates as well.”
The angel dropped her head, an outward expression of her momentary resignation after what Robin had said. The angel lifted her head and said, “Can you at least help me find where you are?”
“Knowing me, as I do because I am me, I can tell you exactly where I was during recess in elementary school.”
“Then lead me there.”
“But first I need to know the year.”
The angel let out an silent groan. “You are five years old.” The angel held out her hand as she did before when she was doing the leading. Robin took the angel’s hand and started walking. They walked past the four square courts, past the jungle gyms, past the tetherball stands, past the basketball courts, past everything every other kid was playing with or on. Robin led the angel all the way out to an nearly empty soccer field and a lone child kicking a red ball without any kind of purpose. This girl was just kicking it from one patch of grass to another.
Robin pointed to the lone girl and said, “That’s me, little Robin Anderson.”
The angel looked at little Robin Anderson and said, “What are you playing?”
“I don’t know. I used to spend many recess periods just kicking a ball on this soccer field.”
The angel then saw something out of the corner of her eye. “Hey look, there’s a group of kids. Perhaps they’ll join you.”
Robin put a dark tone in her voice and said, “Yeah, just watch what they do.”
The group of kids, all about the same age and all dressed alike, approached little Robin Anderson. One of the kids, a boy who was the biggest and the oldest of them, walked up to Robin and said, “We want your ball.”
Robin, with her big glass eyes and cute little face, looked up at the boy and said, “Do you want to play with me?”
The boy, with his group solidly behind him, said, “No, give us your ball.”
Robin picked up the ball with her little arms and said, “No. This is my ball. I brought it from home. If you don’t want to play with me then you can’t play with it.”
The boy took a step closer to Robin, looked at her with a menacing look on his face, then shoved Robin to the ground. The impact of hitting the ground caused little Robin Anderson to drop the red ball she was playing with. One of the other kids in the group, a girl the same age as Robin, quickly picked up the ball and threw it to the group. As the group started to walk away from Robin, the boy who had shoved her down stood over Robin, flashed his menacing face at her again, then went to rejoin his friends.
The angel and Robin continued to watch little Robin Anderson as she didn’t even attempt to get up. Rather the little girl just sat on the ground in that empty soccer field, filling her cute little face with sad little tears. The angel broke the pair’s silence by saying, “That is so sad.”
Robin, with a hateful tone in her voice, said, “That’s not sad, that’s typical.” The angel turned away from little Robin Anderson, and started walking back toward the school building. “Where are you going,” asked Robin of the angel.
“I’m going to the next thing I want to show you. Care to join me?” The angel held out her hand to Robin as she had before.
“I guess so since you’re my ticket home.” Robin took the angel’s hand and they took off. They didn’t go into the realm of the aircraft but rather straight toward the second floor of Robin’s elementary school. The two passed through the wall of this building like light through a pane of glass and came to rest in a classroom filled with kids.
The angel asked Robin, “Do you recognize where you are now?”
“Not really, but since we didn’t really cover much ground, I’m guessing this is a classroom in the elementary school I went to.”
The angel nodded and said, “Do you recognize any of the people here?”
Robin looked out over the classroom. Most of the kids were paying attention to the teacher at the front of the classroom. Some were goofing off or working on other things. One kid, in the desk furthest away from the teacher, was fast asleep. Robin lifted her hand and pointed to one of the kids near the middle of the class. “There I am.” Robin was pointing to an older version of the little Robin Anderson they had seen before. Robin was one of the studious ones, paying close attention to every word the teacher has to say.
The angel remarked, “I wonder why I wanted to bring you here. I mean you were cute as a kid but I don’t see anything going on here.”
Robin replied, in a rather ominous tone, “I know why.”
The angel and Robin watched as this scene developed. The teacher was attempting to teach what was a fairly difficult mathematical concept was, for children of that age. The teacher wrote a math problem on the blackboard, turned to the class and said, “Who wants to come up to the board and do this problem for the class?” The majority of the class became suddenly silent. Most of them put their hands as far down as they could put them, lost eye contact with the teacher, and sat frozen at their desks.
There was one hand, and only one hand, that shot into the air to answer the question, Robin’s. The teacher saw Robin’s hand and said, “Robin, thank you for volunteering.” Robin left her desk, walked quickly up to the front of the classroom, and took the piece of chalk from her teacher. In a matter of moments, little Robin Anderson demonstrated her knowledge of this mathematical concept, as she did the teacher’s math problem confidently and without a single flaw. The teacher looked over Robin’s work and said, “Well done Miss Anderson. That answer is correct and done in the correct way. Good job Robin.”
Robin was delighted by this praise from her teacher, as most people her age would be. As the teacher continued to explain the concept to the rest of the class, Robin began to walk back to her desk with her cute little head held high. The angel remarked on this, saying, “What a smart little kid you were Robin, and cute to match.”
Robin, as if she was foretelling doom, said, “That’s not all that happens.”
Robin and the angel continued to watch the classroom. Little Robin Anderson was still walking back to her desk, her spirits still high from her mathematic success, when she fell to the classroom floor. Robin didn’t fall because of some obstruction or because her shoelace was untied. Robin fell because one of her classmates tripped her. Little Robin, the pain from her fall still stinging her, looked back at the person who she knew to have tripped her. This wasn’t the same sinister little boy who had tormented her earlier. The person who tripped Robin was Shannon. Shannon was the rich girl, the popular girl, the girl who decided what was and what was not cool, the girl the entire social structure was built around.
The instructor took note of Robin’s tumble. “Oh Robin. Goodness you took quite a fall there. Are you okay?” The entire class turned to look at Robin, including Shannon.
Robin said to the teacher, “Yes Miss Carey, I’m fine. I don’t think I got hurt.”
Miss Carey then said, “What happened? Did you stumble? Did somebody trip you?”
At that moment Shannon flashed a face at Robin. Even though this was a different person entirely, the face the girl flashed was one that Robin had seen on the boy that had previously shoved her down and took her ball. It was a look Robin was already thoroughly familiar with. It was an intimidating, menacing look designed to evoke one emotion, intimidation. Robin exhibited that emotion when she responded to Miss Carey. “I- I stumbled. I stepped on my shoelace and fell down.”
Robin’s classmates laughed at Robin after she said this because Robin admitted to being a klutz. Meanwhile Miss Carey continued to look at Robin, particularly at her well kept and securely tied shoelaces. With a small delicate tear rolling down her face, the angel said to the elder Robin, “That is so sad. Why did that happen and why is no one stopping it?”
Robin looked at the angel and her single delicate tear and could only scoff at it. “You’re going to be balling like a baby when you see what else happens to me.”
The angel responded, “Have you no soul?”
“Yes, I have a soul,” said Robin dismissively. “It’s just you’ve only seen a small piece of my past and you’re already crying. If we go any further down the rabbit hole I may be swimming in a torrent of angel tears.” Robin then turned to the window facing the playground and said, “Are we done here, because I have a really nice bed I’d rather be sleeping in right now.”
The angel took Robin’s hand and the two passed through the window and softly fell down to the blacktop outside. Children were playing, much as they were before, but these children were older. Quite a deal older than the first group Robin and the angel observed and slightly older than the group they observed in the classroom. The angel looked over the playground and said, “Do you have a sense of where you might be, Robin?”
Robin quickly scanned the playground, noticing the ages of the children, then she pointed her finger, and said, “There. In all likelihood I’m over there.”
Robin was pointing at a group of kids talking and laughing and looking like they were having a good time. The angel, looking at the group of kids, said, “Aw, isn’t that sweet.”
Robin, with a huge dose of sarcasm in her voice, said, “You’re going to think it’s positively saccharin when we get over there.”
The angel turned to Robin with this stern look on her face and said, “Your sarcasm is incredibly annoying.”
Walking toward the crowd of kids, Robin pushed past the angel and said, “What makes you think I care?”
The angel caught up to Robin just as she got to the kids. The group consisted of girls, all about the same age and with the same general sense of style, all huddled in a circle surrounding one girl who did not follow the same style as the rest. Shannon, still the popular girl in school, was there as well as many of the other girls from the last classroom Robin and the angel observed. Standing in the center was little Robin Anderson. She had progressed in age since she was tripped by Shannon but had not progressed much in social standing.
The girls that encircled Robin each had their own voices but seemed to speak as one. The words that these girls were saying were not kind at all. “That outfit you’re wearing is so out of style. Why don’t you wear something made in this century? What’s the deal with your hair? It’s all stringy and grease and unmanaged. Your hair looks like it was styled by a monkey. You smell like those homeless people who live under the overpass. Are you aware of the concept of soap? You’re so dumb your IQ test came back negative. Ugly! Smelly! Worthless! Poor! Dumb! Unclean!”
The girls punctuated their insults by shoving Robin back and forth in the circle. At first little Robin Anderson could keep up, but the faster she was shoved the more she fell behind untill Robin stumbled and fell in a heap in the middle of the circle. Rather than feeling pity for Robin, the girls in the circle closed ranks and pounced. “What are you too dumb to walk? Ugly, smelly, and uncoordinated, what a combination. Is the little baby going to cry? Come on, cry like the dumb infant you are! Perhaps the tears will help clean your filthy disgusting face.”
After a while of enduring this abuse, little Robin Anderson did in fact begin to cry. Once they got the reaction they wanted from her, the girls that made up the circle went to another part of the playground. This left Robin sitting alone of the blacktop crying. She wasn’t hurt physically but was deeply hurt emotionally. In this emotionally battered state, little Robin Anderson began to sing.
They keep on forever tormenting me.
I don’t know why
They cannot treat me civilly.
Why can’t they just let me be?
Why can I not just be me?
Little Robin Anderson’s sweet fragile voice did not carry far as she didn’t want the girls who had just tormented her to come back and continue their abuse. Robin didn’t cry for much longer after that, not because she had fully expressed for sorrow at that moment, but because the recess bell began to ring. The iron bell began to ring out and all of the children started lining up in rows, based on what class they were in, so they could go back to class. Robin didn’t immediately respond to the bell. Rather, Robin took a moment, wiped the tears from her eyes and face, and put a different expression on her face. Not an expression of sorrow because she knew her sorrow would be met with ridicule. Not an expression of joy because she had been so sad for so long she didn’t even know how to even fake joy. Robin’s expression was one of nothing. Little Robin Anderson didn’t have an emotional reason for this expression, the reason was logical. An expression of nothing was the one least likely to be met with ridicule from her classmates.
The angel looked on in shock as this whole scene folded out. Her reaction was similar to her previous one but none the less significant. “Oh my god. I can’t believe what I just saw. I can’t believe anyone would to that or even allow that to happen. It’s just so sad.”
Robin rolled her eyes at this comment. “Of course it’s sad, its child abuse. You’d have to be pretty sick to think this is uplifting.”
“True, but I thought the boy taking your ball was sad and the girl tripping you then flashing you that face was sadder still. What I just saw is a whole new level of sad.” The angel looked at Robin, hoping for some emotional support. This is what she got in return.
“You know what else is sad? The fact that I’m supposed to be asleep right now.” The angel didn’t like that reply very much. She grabbed Robin’s hand and abruptly lifted off into the sky. Robin, still as cynical as ever, said, “So, am I going home now because-“
Before Robin could add a faux witty ending to that question, the angel angrily replied, “No!” After a second the angel composed herself and continued. “I’m not taking you home yet because I haven’t shown you all that you must see.”
“But what you’re showing me is my own past and I don’t have any major memory issues. Can’t you just take me home and call it good?”
“No, I have to show you.”
“Because I have something to teach you.”
So it was that over the course of that conversation that the angel took Robin from one school to another school building. Instead of landing on the outside of this building, the angel and Robin passed through the roof this building and landed on the floor of a large open space near one of its many entrances. A space filled with benches, vending machines, and kids with plastic trays filled with a substance masquerading as food.
The angel, now openly expressing her displeasure with Robin’s attitude, turned to Robin and said, “Should I assume from you not recognizing your elementary school that you don’t recognize this place either?”
In a change of pace from before, Robin said, “No, I actually do recognize this place. This is the Lunchroom slash Common Area of the high school I went to. I remember this place because I promised myself I’d never return here. So, thanks for bringing me here angel.”
“I know asking you to cut the sarcasm won’t work, so I’m not going to bother. By the way, don’t most people have a junior high or a secondary school they go to before they go to high school?”
“Usually yeah, but some arsonist torched the junior high I was going to go to. So they combined the junior high and high schools into one building.”
“Ah. Well you recognize where you are, but do you recognize yourself Robin?
Robin quickly scanned the Common Area and said, “No.”
The angel replied, “Of course. It makes sense that you would recognize the location but not yourself.”
Just then a girl passed through one of the entrances to the Common Area. Robin pointed to the girl and said, “There I am. You see it’s not that I didn’t recognize me, it’s that I wasn’t in the Common Area yet.”
The girl Robin was pointing to did look like the little Robin Anderson they had seen before but it was clear the effects of adolescence were beginning to set it. The adolescent Robin had acne, braces, and an absolutely horrendous sense of fashion. The angel took note of adolescent Robin’s fashion sense, saying, “You know, you’d look cute if you weren’t wearing those pants with that shirt.”
Robin, oblivious to what the angel had said, looked at the younger version of her and said, “I remember what happens here.”
The angel became more interested in what was about to happen and watched adolescent Robin intently. Adolescent Robin waited through the lunch line, gave the cashier one of her lunch tickets, and got herself a tray full of a food flavored food-like substance that was as nutritious as it was food. Then the adolescent Robin looked for a place to sit and eat her lunch. She didn’t look for a place near her friends or near a group of people to whom she might relate. Rather, Robin looked for a place that was as distanced from her fellow students as possible. She found such a place at the end of one of the many benches that filled the Common Area.
Robin took her seat at the end of the table and began to eat her “food”. As more and more students began to eat their lunch, the less isolated from them Robin became. Finally a huge group of people sat down near Robin. This group included Robin’s tormenter from elementary school, Shannon. As well as some of her friends from elementary school as well as some new friends they had recently met. Most of the group did not take note of Robin, except for Shannon. Shannon looked at Robin with an absolute sense of scorn.
“We’re sitting here,” said Shannon to Robin.
Robin responded, “Okay,” then went back to her lunch.
Shannon, still expressing hostility, said to Robin, “You should move.”
Robin, calm and confident, said, “I was sitting here first.”
Shannon then motioned to one of her male friends who among the group of Shannon’s friends was sitting the closest to Robin. This guy shoved the tray that Robin was eating from, sending the tray flying off the end of the table and down to the floor of the Common Area. Shannon then smugly said to Robin, “Sitting where?” Then Shannon and her table full of friends began to laugh lightly at what they had done to Robin.
Robin didn’t respond to Shannon and her friend, she had long since learned the folly of doing that. She just went over to where her tray had fallen to clean up the mess she wasn’t responsible for. The tray had fallen in an area that served as a walkway through the common area. Robin couched down and reached into this walkway to grab the lunchtray. When she did this, somebody stepped on the tips of Robin’s fingers. Robin pulled her hand back in pain and looked at the person who had stepped on her. The person who had stepped on Robin’s fingers continued on through their school day, not looking back at Robin, as if nothing had happened.
Adolescent Robin left the tray and stormed off out of the Common Area on the verge of tears. The angel and Robin followed the adolescent Robin to a sparsely used hallway. This was a place where the adolescent Robin get be away from her classmates. The angel and Robin looked on as adolescent Robin began once again to sing.
To accept me.
No matter how
I alter me.
If they do not want me
Then I do not want them.
After singing her sad little song, the adolescent Robin curled up into a ball and began to softly weep. The angel could not be more sympathetic toward the adolescent Robin at that point. The angel looked at her and said, “Isn’t just so that sad?”
The elder Robin had an opposite reaction. “Sad? This isn’t sad. This is liberating! This is the day my life started turning around.”
The angel looked at Robin strangely and said, “What do you mean?”
Robin took a dramatic breath and began to explain. “Before this, the way I was living where I was trying to satisfy other people, was sad. Sad because I was always failing at every attempt. I try to be nice to people, fail. I try to wear the same clothes as them, fail. Try to watch the same movies, watch the same televisions shows, listen to the same music, fail. Every single attempt I made to please those people, to conform to their norm, fail, and why was I failing? Not because I didn’t try. I racked my brain and drove myself to tears trying. I failed because those people refused to let me succeed.”
The angel looked at Robin with disbelief written all over her face. “You actually believe that?”
Robin emphatically replied, “Yes, I absolutely do. It only makes sense. If they don’t accept me and I change myself to try to get them to accept me and they still don’t accept me, it’s obvious. The problem is them. They were never going to accept me in the first place. What other conclusion can you draw?”
The angel plainly replied, “That you need to try harder?”
Robin emphatically replied, “Harder? Those people were immovable objects. Trying harder would have been a waste of effort.”
The angel looked at Robin. She didn’t respond, just looked. The angel then walked from the hallway the adolescent Robin was in back into the Common Area. Robin followed the angel just in time to see her snap her fingers. When the angel did this all the students in the Common Area started walking around like they were in hyper speed. Kids quickly walking in and out of the Common Area eating the food-like substance and socializing with one another, all at a very fast pace but looking like nothing unusual was going on.
Robin watched hyper speed in action and said to the angel, “If you could do this, how come you didn’t do it before?”
The angel responded, “I had to change locations before. Here I just have to advance time forward.” The angel snapped her fingers again and the Common Area returned to normal speed. Not much had changed among the students of the high school Robin Anderson had gone to, except that everyone was one year older. The angel said to Robin, “Do you see yourself in the Common Area, Robin?”
Robin quipped, “Am I going to be walking through one of these doors in a second or two?”
The angel replied, “Yeah, probably.” Sure enough, out of the same door she had passed thought when Robin and the angel had first observed her in the Common Area, in came Robin Anderson, or at least the angel thought it was Robin Anderson. This girl had the face of adolescent Robin Anderson but nearly everything else was different. Robin’s fashion sense had changed from completely horrendous to black. All black. Black pants that hung down to her black flat soled boots, a black t-shirt with a menacing chainsaw wielding demon on it, black hair, black eye shadow, black fingernail polish, and finally a black studded belt. The only vibrant color that was a part of this black Robin’s wardrobe was the red blood on the demon’s chainsaw and teeth.
The angel looked at this girl oddly and said to Robin, “Is that you?”
Robin smiled and said, “Yep. That was during my black phase. All black clothing, all the time. I even had black underwear, not that anybody cared.”
The angel looked at what present day Robin was wearing and asked, “How come you aren’t wearing all black now?”
Robin replied, “Because I have money now. Money allows me to buy clothes that fit my mindset that also include color. When I was a teen my parents didn’t have much money and black is cheap.”
The angel turned back to the Common Area, while trying to put the illogical nature of what Robin had just said out of her mind, and watched as this outsider in black got her lunch. The black Robin bypassed the line dishing out the substance masquerading as food, instead going to the area where the stand selling burritos and pizza stood. She got herself a burrito, a fizzy sugary beverage, and darted off for the hallway just off the Common Area where she would be left alone.
The angel looked on as black Robin tore into her unhealthy meal made of real food. She commented, “At least you look happier now than you were back then.” It wasn’t clear if the angel was attempting sarcasm.
Robin turned to the angel and said, “Are you trying to imply that I wasn’t happy during my black phase?”
Then angel responded, “Well, you’re wearing all black, you’re sitting in a hallway alone by design, and you’re eating a nasty burrito and drinking a soda. That doesn’t strike me as happy.”
Robin took a deep breath and began to explain again. The angel suppressed the urge to roll her eyes as she did this. “Are you kidding me angel? These people made my life unbearable. They tore down any sense of worth I had, completely rejected me, basically treated me like I was unworthy to live. What is wrong with wanting nothing to do with these people?”
The angel, then said, “You weren’t completely rejected.”
“What do you mean?”
The angel didn’t respond. The angel merely motioned to a young boy the Common Area and heading toward the hallway black Robin was eating her lunch in. The young boy was dressed in subdued tones, brown and blue but not black, in clothes that were either second hand or passed down from a relative, and his hair was styled like a stereotypical television anchorman. This young boy looked to be about as different from the rest of the boys in his class as black Robin did from the rest of the girls in her class.
The boy sat down in the hallway directly across from Robin. “Hello.” The boy tried talking to Robin. Robin was either really engrossed in her burrito or was actively ignoring the boy. Either way, Robin didn’t respond. They boy pressed on. “Hello, my name is Eric. What’s yours?” Again, no response. “Nice weather we’re having. I’m really glad that storm came through the other day to clear all the gunk out of the air.” Again, no response. “Did you hear the new single from In Bloom? I really love their blues inspired punk rock riffs mixed with strong yet emotionally fragile lyrics.” By this point Robin had finished her burrito and soda and was pulling a notebook from her bag and writing highly articulate insults directed at all she felt had rejected her. All the while Robin was not reacting at all to the presence of Eric.
Dejected, Eric got up and walked back toward the Common Area. Just before entering the Common Area, he looked back, hoping the girl he had tried to get to know would look his way. Robin was too busy rhyming vapid with stupid to even grant him that courtesy.
As this scene involving black Robin came to a close, the angel said to present day Robin, “See, you weren’t completely rejected. One person did try to reach out to you, and you flatly rejected him.”
Robin was completely befuddled by what she saw. “I don’t remember this. Seriously, I do not remember this. I don’t remember that guy, I don’t remember that conversation. I remember that burrito but I don’t remember anything else from that.”
The angel, in a style taken from your garden variety psychologist, decided to delve further into this. “Why do you think that is Robin?”
Robin took a second to gather her thoughts. “I guess it was that I was so divorced from other people’s opinions and so wanted nothing to do with the people I went to school with that this was my normal response to anyone trying to engage me. Because of that, this guy and my reaction to him is not significant and therefore not really memorable.”
At this point the angel saw an opportunity to fulfill her purpose. “Does this make you regret the way you live your life?”
Robin took some time to pour over that question. Finally Robin came up with an answer. “No.”
“No,” the angel asked.
Robin reiterated, “No. I didn’t ask to be put in that situation, those people, my fellow students, put me in that situation and I reacted to it. They could have reached their hand out and-“
The angel interjected, “One of them did.”
“One did,” said Robin in a determined tone of voice, “just one. One is not enough to make me change.”
The angel looked at Robin for a second and saw flashes of not the current day Robin that she had brought to this place but the black Robin that was sitting on the floor writing away in her notebook. The angel started to shake her head slowly as she went back into the Common Area. Robin didn’t bother to follow the angel, so when she snapped her fingers again all Robin saw was the black Robin eating burritos, drinking soda, and occasionally being approached by Eric.
When the angel snapped her fingers to bring the Common Area out of hyper mode very little had changed. The students were older, those that were Robin’s age were near graduation, outside of that things had went along their predetermined paths as they had before. Even the substance masquerading as food had not changed much. The angle chose to comment on this saying, “The lack of change doesn’t inspire much confidence.”
From the sparsely used hallway, Robin replied, “Neither does this.”
The angel walked out of the Common Area and back into the hallway to see what Robin was referring to. Robin was watching black Robin eating what she usually ate for lunch at that time, a bag of potato chips and a large soda. The angel commented on this, saying, “That’s not good.”
“I know. Salt and vinegar chips. What was I thinking?”
The angel again shook her head slowly then continued to look at black Robin. Robin finished her bag of chips then dug into her backpack and pulled out her notebook. Black Robin began to sing and write down what she was singing as she did so.
The clock slowly
One day soon the day will come
When I’ll be rid of everyone.
Upon hearing this, the angel grabbed the arm of the Robin standing next to her and frantically asked, “You’re not about to try and kill yourself, are you?”
Robin looked at the angel dismissively and said, “You’re the angel here, not me, remember?”
The angel let go of Robin’s arm, calmed down a bit, and said, “I know. It’s just, the song you sang, the lyrics sound like something someone would say when they’re looking forward to death.”
Robin responded, “No. I was looking forward to finally being free of that environment and those people that sought to bring me down.”
The angel commented, “You sound like some sort of conspiracy cook.”
Robin replied, “If the truth is a conspiracy, then yes, I am a conspiracy cook.”
Robin and the angel continued to watch black Robin as she wrote down thinly veiled revenge fantasies involving herself, a chainsaw, and a magic act turned tragic. Then a figure appeared in the hallway. A slowly moving figure, slow moving not because the figure was sneaking around but because the figure lacked the energy for fast movement. This figure was Eric. Like many times before, Eric made his way down the nearly empty hallway, sat down directly across from black Robin, and attempted to engage in conversation with her.
“Hello Robin. I know what your name is Robin. Shannon told me, or rather she was insulting me and said, “You even hang out near that Robin chick no one likes.” Robin gave no response to Eric. “Of course, if you actually spoke to me. You could have told me your name, Robin, and we could share our pain and possibly learn to overcome all those people who perpetually mock us.” Again, no response. “At least Shannon and her friends are motivated enough to make fun of me. You can’t be bothered Robin. You’ve never said one word to me. Not one. Not even to tell me off, Robin.” Still no response. Eric began to slowly get to his feet. “Well, maybe I’ll see you around Robin, or maybe not. Whatever.” Erick then slowly went back the way he came. Just before re-entering the Common Area, Eric looked back at Robin, still holding a small sliver of hope that the girl he had tried to connect to would at least acknowledge he was there. Even a hint of scorn would have satisfied his need for acknowledgement. That hope was dashed as Robin continued to write in her notebook.
The angel looked as if she was about to cry as she watched this scene unfolded. “That is so sad. That boy tried over and over again to try to connect with you and you shot him down every time.” The angel then punched Robin in the arm. “How could you do that to him?”
Robin, rubbing her arm in reaction to the angel’s punch, said, “It wasn’t personal against that guy-“
“Eric! His name was Eric,” the angel interjected.
“Eric,” said Robin, “it wasn’t personal against Eric. I was doing that to everyone at that time.”
The angel persisted, “But you could have made an exception. You could have let one person in, just one. Why didn’t you do that?”
Robin contemplated the angel’s question for a second. She wasn’t trying to come up with a response but rather a good way to phrase it. “I don’t have an answer to your question, other than I feel I did nothing wrong.”
Frustrated, the angel walked away from Robin, out of the hallway and back into the Common Area. Robin let the angel walk for a bit before she followed after her. When Robin turned the corner to enter the Common Area what she saw was not the Common Area. What she saw was an office. An office filled with people sitting in little rooms with walls that only went halfway up to the ceiling. These rooms had everything an employee could need during a workday, save a bathroom and a fountain to get water from. Robin recognized this office right away. This was where she worked each and every day.
Robin looked around her work environment for a bit and found the angel trying in vain to get a cup of purified and absurdly expensive water. Robin said to the angel, “Hey, angel, can you tell me how exactly we got here?”
The angel gave up on getting some nominally refreshing water and said, “We flew through the air, we traveled through solid objects, we even traveled through time. Does it honestly astound you that I can instantly transport us to different locations?”
Robin was dumbstruck by the angel’s response and only said, “It’s just if you could instantly transport people, why didn’t you do it before?”
The angel sighed and said, “Because people are usually awestruck by the fact that I can make them fly. They usually aren’t as hardheaded as you.” The angel then turned out toward that office and made a grand sweeping motion with her hand as she said, “I know that you recognize this place, as you come here on a daily basis, but do you know at what point in your life I have taken you to?”
Robin quickly responded, “July 25th.”
The angel was astounded by Robin’s answer. “Wow. How did you know that?”
Robin pointed into one of the cubicles and said, “There’s a quote-a-day calendar on the desk in there.”
Hearing this, the angel closed her eyes and sighed in utter frustration. “Can you at least tell me what year it is?”
“Nope,” Robin responded. “Things don’t change much in the office where I work. This office could have looked like this a year ago, twenty years ago, or last week.” Robin and the angel watched the office full of busily working people untill the front door of the office opened and they felt air go rushing out the door untill the person closed it. Robin looked at the person who entered the office and said, “Look, that’s me.” The person they saw was Robin, well almost Robin. The black attire that had defined Robin’s teenage years had been left behind with her former classmates. Robin still had black hair but was wearing a modest blue knee length skirt, while blouse, and low heeled shoes. Her dress would be considered business casual but, given what the other people in the office were wearing, in this case Robin was a little dressed up.
The angel looked at the younger Robin, fresh faced and beaming with optimism, and said, “Well, that’s a welcome change.”
A look of realization came over Robin’s face as she looked at her younger self. “I remember this now. This is my first day at work.”
The angel chimed in, “You mean your first day at the place you currently work at?”
Robin corrected the angel saying, “No, I’ve only had one job, and this is my first day at it.”
Robin and the angel looked on as young adult Robin walked up to the receptionist desk and said, “Excuse me, my name is Robin Anderson. I’m here to see David O’Malley.”
The receptionist lifted her head long enough to say, “Sure, just a second.” The receptionist then picked up the phone to summon David O’Malley from his office as Robin politely took a seat and waited.
Shortly after the receptionist hung up her phone, a well groomed man in a sharp business suit came out of one of the only fully enclosed offices in the workplace. The guy walked from his office over to where Robin was sitting and said, “Robin Anderson. David O’Malley, branch manager here at the Midtown Branch, pleasure to have you aboard.” David then extended his hand to Robin which she shook earnestly.
“It’s a pleasure to be here Mr. O’Malley,” said Robin, beaming with optimism.
“Please, call me David.”
“Will do sir,” said Robin, efforting to sound like she was optimistic while not sounding like she was sucking up.
“Follow me Robin, I’ll show you to your cubicle.”
David started making his way through the office with young adult Robin not far behind. As they did so the angel remarked to Robin, “It sure seems you mood has completely changed.”
Robin replied, “Of course it did. Before I was stuck in this perpetual pit of despair around people who were content with keeping me there. At the moment that you’ve taken me to now, I was in a new environment that I thought was ripe with opportunity.”
The angel listened to what Robin had to say and could see doom on the horizon. “There’s a big but coming up here, isn’t there?”
Robin said, “Just watch.”
David, after showing her the break room, the water fountains, and the realistic looking fake trees in the break room, had finally taken Robin to an empty cubicle situated near the center of the office workspace. “And this is your cubicle.”
The young adult Robin said, “Looks nice Mr. O’Malley,” a clear lie that David picked up on.
“Not really. It’ll look nicer once you add some character to it, which you are free to do, provided you don’t put up anything objectionable.”
“Should be an interesting project.”
“Well, I’m going to leave you in your cubicle to get a feel for the space. Beth should be by to start your training in a bit.” David then extended his hand to Robin and said, “Again, it’s a pleasure to have you aboard.”
Robin shook his hand and said, “Likewise Mr. O’Malley.”
David smiled and walked back to his office, fully intending to again tell Robin she could call in David later on in the day. Robin sat down in her office chair and started playing with all the things there are to adjust on a modern office chair. At about the time Robin discovered that she could move the armrests up and down someone began knocking on her cubicle wall. Robin spun around to where the knocking was coming from and found a middle aged woman standing at the entrance to her cubicle.
“Hi,” said Robin with a bright smile on her face.
“Hello,” said this woman with a look on her face like she had eaten some bad fish.
“Are you Beth, I’m Robin.” Robin stood up and extended her hand to this new woman. The woman looked at Robin’s hand like she was an unworthy heretic.
“No, I’m not Beth. I’m Mary.” With the tone in Mary’s voice, it was clear she was making no effort to mask her distain toward Robin. “You’re the new girl David hired to replace Walter?”
Robin cheerfully replied, “I don’t know any Walter, but I am new here. And might I say, it’s a pleasure to-“
“You can cut it right now.” Mary’s blunt statement set Robin back on her heels. “It doesn’t surprise me that David hired you, he’s always looking for a new chickadee to ogle at. What does surprise me is that he hired you to replace Walter. Walter is a great man. Walter is an indispensible worker. Walter is irreplaceable, or at least less replaceable than a bimbo like you.” This insult hit Robin especially hard. Sure she had taken nothing but abuse from her peers up to that point, but an adult of Mary’s age in a workplace environment hurling that insult just floored Robin.
Robin attempted to respond. “I’m sorry, I just-“
“Can it sweetheart.” Mary said this, continuing her insulting tone. “Let me be crystal clear. You don’t belong here. You will never belong here, and none of us will ever accept you. Isn’t that right?”
As if on cue, the other people in the office, sitting in their cubicles working away, began to chime in. “That’s right. You tell her Mary. You should leave. Yeah, go away and never come back.” This hurt Robin more than anything Mary had said. It wasn’t that her new co-workers were saying anything bad. It was that they were all affirming what Mary had just said.
Mary went back to her cubicle, shooting Robin an absolutely filthy look as she did so. Robin sat back down in her office chair and turned herself around so she was facing one of her cubicle walls. Robin’s face didn’t express a sense of frustration at what had just transpired. Nor did Robin express anger. Nor did Robin express sorrow. Robin was sitting alone in her office chair saying nothing, much like Robin did when she was sitting in the hallway at school all alone.
Robin and the angel watched all of this take place. The angel was the first to respond to it. “How? How could grown adults treat someone like that?”
Robin attempted to explain. “I wondered that too, untill I met Walter. He’s a pretty cool guy who I could see people being loyal to. But I will agree that what we just saw was really messed up.”
“Yeah, but that’s no excuse for how you reacted.”
“What do you mean?”
The angel took a breath and started an explanation of her own. “Robin, I think I’m about done playing dumb here. I know what goes on after this. The way that you act at work is just like how you acted in school. People treat you badly, they push you away, you react by shoving them away and lengthening the distance between you and them.”
Robin dismissively replied, “I’m not dumb either. I know about this. I know about all of this. I’ve gone over these memories over and over again.”
“What’s the conclusion you’ve drawn from that?”
Robin replied fully confident in what she was saying. “That they all treated me like crap and I’m right in wanting nothing to do with them.”
“No, that’s not right,” said the angel.
Stunned, Robin said, “Not right? I wasn’t treated like crap?”
“You were but not by all of them. What about Eric? He tried to reach out to you. Eric tried desperately to do so.”
“That was one person. One person out of thousands.”
“One is significant Robin.”
“No it’s not!” The tone Robin put into that last sentence, the complete and unbridled anger than came out, would frighten most anybody, most certainly the angel.
The angel took a moment to compose herself and decide how she should go forward. “Yes it is. Besides, you really can’t judge a person or group of people based on first impressions alone.”
“First impressions are all anybody judges me on.”
“Yes, but don’t you aspire to be better than they are?”
“I am better than they are,” Robin exclaimed adamantly.
“I don’t see it,” the angel replied calmly. “You claim they didn’t give you a chance. Whether that is true or not, the fact is that you only gave them one chance, just one. Then you shut down and became defensive to them to the point of complete isolation.”
Robin boldly replied, “Of course I became defensive, I had to protect myself. If I don’t protect me, who will?”
The angel calmly replied, “Robin, you have to open yourself up and become a little more vulnerable in order to-“
“No. I can’t be vulnerable. I can’t be weak. If I become weak, people will take advantage of me.”
“Not all people.”
“Yes, all people. It’s been my experience-“
“Your limited experience.”
“Yes, my experience. It’s been my experience that if I show any weakness, any vulnerability, people take advantage of that to better themselves at my expense.”
In that moment of heated back and forth discussion, a realization began to wash over the angel. A realization the angel hesitated to accept. “I can’t win. I simply can’t win with you Robin. You are so steadfast, so entrenched in your isolationist beliefs that I can’t bring up any point or make any argument that could move you even a tiny bit. I can’t win. I just can’t win.” Then angel turned her back to Robin and started sullenly walking away.
Robin let the angel walk for a bit before walking after her. Robin didn’t feel bad about what she had said or the argument she had made that put the angel in this funk. Robin stated her motivation following after the angel right away. “Hey, where are you going? You’re my only way home. Hey. Hey!” Robin kept on trying to get the angel’s attention as she navigated her way through the cubicle maze that made up her office.
The angel eventually made her way to the door leading to Mr. O’Malley’s office. The angel passed through the office door like she had the wall of Robin’s elementary school earlier. Robin attempted to walk through the door as well and did what most people do when attempting to do that, she was stopped by the door she was trying to walk through. This caused Robin to become angry and she furiously punched the door, blaming it for the fact that she couldn’t walk through it.
Robin then opened the door in the traditional manner and charged into what she thought would be her boss’s office. That is not what Robin found on the other side of that door. Robin was expecting a brightly lit, slightly cold, modernly styled executive office. Instead Robin found a sparsely lit, moderately warm, comfortably furnished bedroom. Robin looked around for a bit, then turned back to the door she had walked through. What she saw wasn’t the door to her boss’s office. It was her door, her bedroom door. Robin was home in her bedroom.
Robin walked around aimlessly in her bedroom for a while, trying to process what had just happened and all that she had just seen. Robin sat down on the foot of her bed then fell back, hoping the comfortable feeling of her heavy down blanket would help free her mind. Then she remembered her first visitor of the evening and what she had attributed that to, heavy alcohol intake.
“I can’t believe I’ve actually done this,” Robin said to herself. “I’ve heard of people having hallucinations fueled by alcohol, but I thought I was controlled enough to prevent myself from having one of them. This is going to be a rough night.”
Robin got up from her bed, fully convinced that she was hallucinating and needed to protect herself from doing anything too terribly wrong. She checked all her doors, front, back, garage and balcony, and ensured they were locked and secure. She took her car keys and put them in her cupboard next to the coffee cups she never uses. Then Robin went to the bathroom, and splashed some water on her face as a way of calming her nerves. As Robin watched the water slowly drip off her face she wished that, if she did have another hallucination, she wouldn’t do anything that would get her arrested.
Then Robin made her way to her bedroom and tucked herself in for what she hoped would be the rest of the night. As she looked around her bedroom at all the things she could break during the next interruption of her slumber, she saw an alarm clock. The same analog clock that she saw at the start of what she dismissed as a really vivid alcohol fueled hallucination. Robin didn’t pay much mind to the clock, and drifted back off to sleep, fully intending to deal with it in the morning. That is if she made it to the morning.