“Damn it’s hot out,” 12-year-old Phillip Marnier said to himself walking outside for the first time that Sunday. Opting for a heavyweight blue and white football jersey and long, baggy blue jeans, he was hardly dressed for the 94 degree weather. It was the first time he’d left the house that Saturday. Phillip didn’t want to leave, but his mother, Dani, had insisted he “get some fresh air”. She hated that he spent most of his days in his room, alone, and Phillip wondered how a hot, humid summer day was considered helpful. He looked around, took a deep breath, and grimaced. The sticky air stung his nostrils and he sneezed.
“Why did she make me go outside,” he groused. As soon as he walked forward a few steps, finally leaving the front porch, Phillip heard an incessant buzzing sound near his face. His eyes locked on to a bumblebee hovering near his right arm. He shrieked and swatted at it wildly. Ducking and dodging as well as he could, Phillip finally ran away from the flower patch where the bee had been. A final check around the area and he was convinced it was gone. Whew! I hate bugs, he thought to himself.
Phillip’s ears perked up again. He swore he heard laughing and, suspiciously, he looked around. Across the street, by the oak tree in front of the old Snyder house, were two girls on their bikes, pointing and staring at him. He knew them from school. The older one was Marla Simpson, the meanest girl in the neighborhood. She was 13, skinny as a rail, and had white blond hair. She was dressed in a very provocative outfit for someone of her age; micro-short white shorts and a white halter top. Phillip didn’t find her at all attractive and wished she’d cover up. Her friend was only 10 and dressed in a short, rainbow-colored dress. Phillip recognized her as Rachel Tucker, one of the popular girls at school. Alone, either of the girls was trouble, but together, they were unbearable. They crossed the street with their bikes and stopped right in front of his house. Phillip turned to go back inside, but the girls were too quick for him.
“Poor fatty Phillip, he’s afraid of bees!” Marla jibed in the most condescending tone he’d ever heard. She whispered something to Rachel and they both pretended to gag at the sight of him, and took off on their bikes.
Phillip tried to brush them off, but couldn’t. He watched them until they were out of sight. “Bitches,” he said out loud; too late. He felt tears behind his light blue eyes, but dared not let them escape. Turning on his heel, Phillip ran up the porch stairs, and into his house. The hot, humid air followed him into the kitchen and caught his mother’s attention. She turned away from her cooking and gave him a stern look.
“Phillip! I told you to get some fresh air!”
The teen tried to gather himself together, but found it difficult. “I tried to, but I almost got stung by a bumblebee out there, and that Marla girl was out there with her friend. I just wasn’t meant to be an outdoor person, Mom. I’m sorry.”
Dani turned around and straightened her ankle-length bright pink dress. She pursed her matching painted lips and rolled her sky blue eyes. Her ornamental fingernails reached for a tendril of her curly brown hair to twirl, a clear sign she was agitated. This wasn’t the first time they’d had this argument. Giving him a glare, she pitched her hair back into place and put her hands on her low hips. She walked over and tilted her head up to look her son in the eye. Dani was a petite 5’5” to her son’s towering height of 6’0”.
With a maternal once-over of her son, Dani saw how just upset he was and understood his emotional state. She brushed his chubby, pale cheek with her fingers.
“All right, you get off this time, but the next time it’s a beautiful day, you are getting some natural Vitamin D, understand? You can’t keep hiding like this. The doctor said-”
Phillip interrupted. “Dr. Melville said that I’m bipolar and an isolationist! How can I fight what I am, Mom?”
Dani scowled and pointed a painted nail at him. “Don’t cut me off like that, young man. You’re still only 12 years old! You may be the size of a man, but you’re far from grown. Have you been taking your Prozac?”
Phillip groaned. “Yes, I’ve been taking it. It doesn’t really help me anymore. I’ve been on it since I was 10. I think I’m gonna need something a lot stronger, especially dealing with middle school.”
His mother put her hands on his broad shoulders. “I’m sorry, honey. I really am. I wish there was more we could do for you. We’ve been dealing with this for so long. Dr. Melville told us a long time ago it would get worse for you around this age. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m at a loss! Your dad and I love you so much, but I think we need to get a bit more drastic with your treatments.”
Phillip’s eyes widened. “Drastic? How? Shock therapy?”
Dani twisted her lip. “No, Mr. Funny man, but maybe have you join a club or a team, or something.”
Phillip backed away from her. “How many times have I told you I’m no good at sports?” he said in an exasperated tone. “I sucked at soccer and Little League, swimming, everything! Please don’t make me join another team now; they’ll just laugh at me again. Please, Mom?” His large, pale blue eyes looked into hers. “Don’t make me do it, I can’t, I just can’t!” he begged. They both fell silent.
Dani’s face flushed for a moment and a few tears escaped. She reached out for her son and took him in her tiny arms. They hugged for a long moment. Her hair tickled his nose. He had to turn and spit a bit.
“Geez, mom, back off on the hairspray a bit, huh?” he said jokingly.
They laughed together.
“Ha ha. Ok, my dear son, I won’t force you on to any teams. But you’ve got to do something soon! You have no friends at all outside this house. I want you to really try to find a friend. Can you do that at least?”
Phillip sighed. “I guess so. Most of the kids just look at me and laugh though; they don’t even give me a chance to talk. I sit alone at lunch or go outside and hide by a tree. Not that I could hide much, mind ya.” He ran his hand over his bulging abdomen. “I look like a pregnant man. I wish that would go away. I wanna grow up and be someone people have to listen to, like a cop or something.”
Dani chuckled. “Well, you could exercise, and before you say it, I don’t mean outside. I mean in here. Go down to the basement and do a workout tape or something. We could get you a treadmill or exercise bike, too. I’ll even keep your brother and sister out of your hair.”
He curled his lip in thought. “That could work, I suppose. I’ll work on it.”
“Good boy.” Dani tousled his hair and kissed his cheek. “Ok, I know it’s killing you to be here. Go on back to your room and play those games you love so much.”
Phillip smiled. “Thanks, mom!” he took off down the hall to his room. Dani rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Kids!”