Shift 11: Mental Health Day

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It doesn’t matter that I say my name is Jazz Deon. At school the kids call me Stink.

This isn’t who I am. It’s what happened to me.

It’s hard not to stink when you don’t have deodorant, easy access to a laundromat, or a shower. Do they think I like this? Did I choose this?

If I could choose, I’d be at home with Gran. Or with Mom and Dad. I’d have a bed, a quiet room to study in, a kitchen. I didn’t choose to lose everybody.

But nobody knows, so they think this is who I am.

I can’t make it to school every day. Sometimes I need a catch-up day, a take-care-of-me day. On those days, I walk to Deon’s spa and use the guest pass he gave me.

I still get dirty looks from people when I show up there covered in grime and smelling like a dried desert pond.

But once I get inside, load my clothes in the washing machine, and take a shower, slowly it all washes away.

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It’s so nice there that I usually stay all day. I like to forget everything and pretend I’m normal.

I can get so much homework done in the lounge because it’s really quiet. When I’m able to concentrate, I remember how interesting algebra is.

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The only problem is that I usually forget to bring sandwiches with me. I could go across to the tapas bar, but I don’t want to leave my clothes unattended. What if somebody steals them?

I’ve usually got some carrots or apples or a wild lime in my backpack. But eating raw carrots gets really old, and it doesn’t really satisfy me.

Last time I was there, I ran into Darling. She came to escape the crowds of the city.

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“When I work out at the San Myshuno gym,” she said, “I’ve got to dodge fans and rivals all the time.”

Man, she’s such a star! She said that guys from the other teams try to interfere with her workouts, and then kids from her school stand around watching.

She likes the quiet gym in Oasis Springs a lot better.

It must be amazing to be so famous.

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My favorite part of my spa days are when my clothes are in the dryer.

Then I curl up on the couch and take a nap. If I listen really carefully, I can hear the clack of the buttons of my jeans as the clothes toss in the dryer, that rhythmic clack-snap-clack. That sound brings me back home. I pretend that Gran’s in the kitchen, and I came home exhausted from track practice. Gran says, “Hey, sports star. Take a nap while I fix supper. Then you can change into your clean clothes and we’ll sit down to a big plate of spaghetti.”

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It doesn’t change the truth I wake up to.

But it still gives me some feelings I can remember that night when I lay down on my cot under the wide sky. What if the universe were our grandmother, and when we woke, the universe said, “Here’s the bright sky, track star! You have everything you need! Now get out there and shine.”

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