Exploration of Characters by Emily Kompier

Emily Kompier

Scenario 1

Spencer stood outside of his parents’ house, almost too afraid to walk through the front door. It was his childhood home, he had been through the door many times before, but still, there was apprehension, for he knew what was waiting on the other side of that door. He had received a text from his mother, only one sentence, and it was like an ice pick had been driven into his heart.

Your father and I want to talk to you, the text said. And he knew what that meant. He had been waiting for this day. He just didn’t think it was going to come so soon.

Spencer braced himself and walked up the front porch steps and to the door. He debated knocking on it for a second, but he had never knocked before. To do it now would just be bizarre.

“Mom? Dad?” he called as he pulled open the door. “I’m home,” he said, even though it didn’t really feel like home anymore. 

His mom leaned her head out of the kitchen and smiled at him. It seemed–just a little–fake. “Wow, you got here fast,” she said kindly. He didn’t trust her tone. “Come sit in the kitchen, I’ll go get your dad.”

Spencer walked to the kitchen and sat in the chair he had always sat in during his youth. It felt much smaller now. As he listened to his mother walk through the house, he contemplated what he was going to say. He knew they disapproved of his lifestyle. They had never wanted him to be an artist. They wanted him to be a dentist or something like that. A steady job, a lot of money, a monotony so painful he worried that it would kill him if he ever went into that profession. 

He accepted it, that they didn’t want him to live in their house anymore if he wasn’t going to get a “real job,” but the fact that they had brought him back here again, most likely to talk to him about it irritated him. As he waited alone in the kitchen, his nervous energy started to change to anger. 

Both of his parents walked into the room. “Spencer,” his dad greeted, “it’s nice to see you. It’s been too long.” They sat down across from him. 

“I don’t care about chit-chat, Dad,” Spencer said. “I know what you wanted to talk to me about, and actually, I have something to say.”

“Spencer,” his mom tried to say, but he didn’t want to let her get a word in.

“I’m happy being an artist. I’m happy living in a tiny apartment with my friends. I’m happy with the minimum wage job I have. I’m happy that I get to be my own person and I get to lead my own life. I make my own decisions and I make my own mistakes. But it is not up to you to decide what is a decision and what is a mistake.”

“We’re just trying to look out for you,” said his dad. He seemed sincere, but the sincerity only upset Spencer more.

“I know that’s what you think you’re doing,” he said, his voice rising, “but that’s not what it is. You’re trying to control me. You’re trying to make me into the perfect son that you’ve always wanted, but it’s not going to happen. Why can’t you accept that I’m happy like this?”

“Because you’re wasting your youth,” said his mother. While his father seemed sympathetic, she was stern. “You’re spending your prime years doing something that will get you nowhere. What about when you’re older? What about when you want to get married, when you want to have kids?”
“Future me’s possible desires don’t control my life. Right now, that’s not what’s important to me. What’s important to me is doing something that makes me happy, something that makes getting up in the morning worth it. If you guys can’t accept that, then I’m done here.”

 Spencer stood from the table and walked towards the door. He didn’t look back. 

Scenario 2

Oliver was a genius. Everyone always told him he was. He took advanced classes in elementary school, always read every book he could get his hands on, was the leader of every club he could fit into his schedule. Everything he put his mind to, he was amazing at. Usually, when people were as academically talented as he was, they struggled in some other aspect. But physically, mentally, socially, Oliver was always on top of the heap. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Or so he thought.

The final school bell of the day rang. Students gathered their books from their desks, teachers said their goodbyes, everyone started to go home for the day. Strangely, Oliver didn’t have any clubs or any meets to attend after school, so he was also going to be heading home for once. 

He kept copies of most textbooks he needed for his classes at his house, so he didn’t need to stop at his locker for those, but he did need to gather prep work for debate as well as whatever homework he hadn’t managed to finish during the day. He meticulously filed his papers into their exact place in his backpack and zipped it shut, then closed his locker as quickly as he could without it making a loud clang that might give him a headache.

Waiting for him, behind his locker door, was a girl from his class. “Hey, Oliver,” she said with a small smile.

“Hi, Kelsey. Did you need something?”

“I was just wondering what your plans were this weekend? And if you’re free, if you would want to see a movie? With me?”

Oliver was confused by the questions. “Why would I be free? I have homework and club stuff and games to go to the whole weekend. And even if I was free, why would I want to see a movie? They’re not very interesting.”

Kelsey’s face fell. “Oh, okay,” she said slowly. “I guess I understand. Sorry for bothering you.” She took a few steps back. “See you later, I guess.”

Oliver noticed her sudden change in mood, but she probably had something else going on. He wasn’t going to worry about it. “See you,” he said. 

Kelsey turned around and quickly walked down the staircase that led outside the school. Eager to get home for the day, just as Oliver was.

 

The next day, Oliver stood at his locker, gathering his books. Just as he finished getting everything he needed, his locker door was slammed in his face.

“What do you think gives you the right to be that horrible to Kelsey?” said the person who slammed the locker. It was a girl from his class, Marlene, and she looked very angry. 

“Excuse me?” he asked. “I was too busy to hang out with her and movies aren’t my taste, what’s so wrong with that?”

“I cannot believe you. You are so stupid,” she hissed.

And Oliver took a step back. He knew Marlene was angry with him, but no one, no one had ever called him stupid before. He had the top grades at the school, he was the captain of three clubs and the co-captain of two of their sports teams. He had always had a group of friends surrounding him in every class. There was no way he was stupid.

“What?” he asked finally, after being silent for far too long.

“She was trying to ask you out!” Marlene almost yelled. “Kelsey wanted to go out on a date with you! And you were either too stupid to notice or too dumb to care about rejecting her in a way that wouldn’t hurt her feelings.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “You are going to apologize. At lunch. Today. I don’t care if you go on a date with her or not but that was just unacceptable. I thought you were smarter than that, Oliver.”

He was. He had to be. “I am,” he said before he could stop himself, but Marlene just glared at him.

“Obviously, you’re not as smart as you think you are, then.” She stormed off before letting him say anything else. 

All Oliver could do was watch as she disappeared down the hallway. He wanted to argue with her, he wanted to make her take back what she said, but she…she was right. If he had really hurt Kelsey that much and he hadn’t realized, there was no way he was what people always told him he was. 

The label now felt like a stolen hat he couldn’t take off. All day, every day, people talked about only the hat. They complimented him on the hat. They commended him for being able to get the hat. But they didn’t know it was stolen, just as he didn’t until a few moments ago. Even though it hadn’t yet happened today, the thought of the comments started to weigh down on his shoulders and made his head start to hurt. 

The tardy bell rang and pulled Oliver out of his thoughts. He had to get to class. All he could do for now was try to make the label fit. 

He had to make the label fit.