In the jungle, animals generally stick together, unless one of them is different; if one is different, it is singled out, separated from the rest, alone. High school is a lot like the jungle. I’m James, and I am different. People try to be nice, but even to them I’m “The Smart Kid” or “Einstein”. That is, to everyone but Ann. To Ann, I am James, just James. I love Ann, I think; love is one of the few things that I don’t know very much about. One thing I do know about is math; I know a lot about math. I know so much about math I got to go do it at MIT, but then they wouldn’t let me do math anymore, and now I’m really different, because I’m in a little room wearing a funny shirt. Whoever made this shirt wasn’t very smart, because I can’t move my arms.
It all started about a year ago, in one moment, and in that moment I was happy, because I was with Ann, and I was nervous, because I was at a party, a real party, with normal people and everything. Then nervous turned into confused, because Ann’s friend handed me a cup and winked; who was she winking at? I can never tell. Ann gave her a dirty look, or did she give me a dirty look? No, it was her, because she smiled at me. My attention went back to the cup, it was one of the plastic ones that the country people sing about, and it had a funny brown liquid in it; I set it down without drinking.
“So, how have you been, James?” Holy crap Ann is talking to me.
“Umm… Not bad,” I managed, “I got a letter from MIT today, but I haven’t read it. It’s probably just one of those letters they send to be polite when they think your work is crap.”
“James, your math is not crap! Where’s the letter; we’ll open it together,” she barked, barked, really? She’s not a dog! Oh well, it sounded like a bark. I got the letter out of my backpack and started to read.
“Blah, blah, blah, all that polite stuff they say before they reject you, ‘it was a pleasure to’ blah, blah- wait, what? Elegant? Elegant? Ann they said my work was elegant!”
“Elegant is good?” she asked; god she’s pretty.
“Elegant is great, elegant is fantastic, elegant is the highest compliment they could possibly pay!”
“Great,” she exclaimed, “so we’re celebrating!” She handed me the cup.
“No, I don’t have time to celebrate; I need to go home and get to work on my formulas. This is the biggest opportunity of my life!” and then I ran out the door and never looked back.
2 Weeks Later
I was walking through the halls on my way to class. Things had started to go downhill. I found the first of the grey hairs that morning, and I had lost ten pounds since the party, when up walks Ann. She smiled at me, and I felt like my heart was lodged in my throat; this was the beginning of the end.
“Hey James, I haven’t seen you in a while. How are you?”
“I’m alright; I’ve been working on this theory.”
“Look, James, I know this math stuff is important, but you need a life. I mean, you have a gift, but that doesn’t-“
“A gift?” I cut her off, “you think I have a gift? That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“James, what are you talking about?” she looked scared. Am I scary?
“Ann, in nature, when an organism is injured, whatever part was broken heals thicker. That’s what a scar is. That’s how muscles get bigger; when you break a bone, they can see the spot on X-rays even after your dead. I think the same thing happens in a mind. When something is broken, the mind grows thicker, stronger, and then you’re different. Genius isn’t a gift, Ann, it’s a scar,” and then I walked away, and I never saw Ann again.
1 Month Later
“James, I think you need to stop; have you eaten?”
“Just one more minute.”
“How long has he been like this?”
“48 hours now, he hasn’t slept or eaten, but from the smell of it I think he used the bathroom.”
“Did he just make a mistake? I’ve never seen him make a mistake before.”
“The mistakes started 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon; I didn’t say anything, because I was afraid of what he might do.”
“Just one more minute.”
“Get me a phonebook; we need the emergency number for the nearest mental hospital.”
2 weeks ago
“Hey James, how are we doing today?” That’s Miss Jane; I like her; she always asks about me by using “we” instead of you; I like that.
“You got a letter today.” She said, “It’s from someone named Ann, would you like to read it?”
“Sure,” I said, and then I read it.
I heard about what happened to you a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure what to say for a long time. It’s gotten to the point now where I feel like I just need to get it out. I loved you, I really did, and I think you loved me too, at least I do now. That day in the hall I thought you were a jerk, but now I realize that you couldn’t help that. I think I understand what you meant about genius being a scar, and I want you to know that I’m sorry if I made it harder for you.
Very Truly Yours,
“Thank you Miss Jane. Can I answer her?” I asked.
“You really aren’t supposed to write anymore James. I can’t let you do that.”
“Could you write for me?”
“Do you promise there won’t be any math?”
“I promise: no math.”
“Okay then, I guess that would be alright. What do you want me to say?”
You don’t understand, but thank you.