Wonder, страница 16
i don’t know her, she answers quickly. i don’t know who that pink-haired cheerleader is. the girl i knew was a total dork who collected american girl dolls.
oh come on, olivia.
you come on!
you could have mentioned it to me at some point, i say quietly, pretending not to notice the big fat tear that’s suddenly rolling down her cheek.
she shrugs, fighting back bigger tears.
it’s okay, i’m not mad, i say, thinking the tears are about me.
i honestly don’t care if you’re mad, she says spitefully.
oh, that’s real nice, i fire back.
she doesn’t say anything. the tears are about to come.
olivia, what’s the matter? i say.
she shakes her head like she doesn’t want to talk about it, but all of a sudden the tears start rolling a mile a minute.
i’m sorry, it’s not you, justin. i’m not crying because of you, she finally says through her tears.
then why are you crying?
because i’m an awful person.
what are you talking about?
she’s not looking at me, wiping her tears with the palm of her hand.
i haven’t told my parents about the show, she says quickly.
i shake my head because i don’t quite get what she’s telling me. that’s okay, i say. it’s not too late, there are still tickets available—
i don’t want them to come to the show, justin, she interrupts impatiently. don’t you see what i’m saying? i don’t want them to come! if they come, they’ll bring auggie with them, and i just don’t feel like …
here she’s hit by another round of crying that doesn’t let her finish talking. i put my arm around her.
i’m an awful person! she says through her tears.
you’re not an awful person, i say softly.
yes i am! she sobs. it’s just been so nice being in a new school where nobody knows about him, you know? nobody’s whispering about it behind my back. it’s just been so nice, justin. but if he comes to the play, then everyone will talk about it, everyone will know.… i don’t know why i’m feeling like this.… i swear i’ve never been embarrassed by him before.
i know, i know, i say, soothing her. you’re entitled, olivia. you’ve dealt with a lot your whole life.
olivia reminds me of a bird sometimes, how her feathers get all ruffled when she’s mad. and when she’s fragile like this, she’s a little lost bird looking for its nest.
so i give her my wing to hide under.
i can’t sleep tonight. my head is full of thoughts that won’t turn off. lines from my monologues. elements of the periodic table that i’m supposed to be memorizing. theorems i’m supposed to be understanding. olivia. auggie.
miranda’s words keep coming back: the universe was not kind to auggie pullman.
i’m thinking about that a lot and everything it means. she’s right about that. the universe was not kind to auggie pullman. what did that little kid ever do to deserve his sentence? what did the parents do? or olivia? she once mentioned that some doctor told her parents that the odds of someone getting the same combination of syndromes that came together to make auggie’s face were like one in four million. so doesn’t that make the universe a giant lottery, then? you purchase a ticket when you’re born. and it’s all just random whether you get a good ticket or a bad ticket. it’s all just luck.
my head swirls on this, but then softer thoughts soothe, like a flatted third on a major chord. no, no, it’s not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn’t. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how
infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and
admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension
how like a god! the beauty of the world! …
The Spud Lamp was a big hit at the science fair. Jack and I got an A for it. It was the first A Jack got in any class all year long, so he was psyched.
All the science-fair projects were set up on tables in the gym. It was the same setup as the Egyptian Museum back in December, except this time there were volcanoes and molecule dioramas on the tables instead of pyramids and pharaohs. And instead of the kids taking our parents around to look at everybody else’s artifact, we had to stand by our tables while all the parents wandered around the room and came over to us one by one.
Here’s the math on that one: Sixty kids in the grade equals sixty sets of parents—and doesn’t even include grandparents. So that’s a minimum of one hundred and twenty pairs of eyes that find their way over to me. Eyes that aren’t as used to me as their kids’ eyes are by now. It’s like how compass needles always point north, no matter which way you’re facing. All those eyes are compasses, and I’m like the North Pole to them.
That’s why I still don’t like school events that include parents. I don’t hate them as much as I did at the beginning of the school year. Like the Thanksgiving Sharing Festival: that was the worst one, I think. That was the first time I had to face the parents all at once. The Egyptian Museum came after that, but that one was okay because I got to dress up as a mummy and nobody noticed me. Then came the winter concert, which I totally hated because I had to sing in the chorus. Not only can I not sing at all, but it felt like I was on display. The New Year Art Show wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still annoying. They put up our artwork in the hallways all over the school and had the parents come and check it out. It was like starting school all over again, having unsuspecting adults pass me on the stairway.
Anyway, it’s not that I care that people react to me. Like I’ve said a gazillion times: I’m used to that by now. I don’t let it bother me. It’s like when you go outside and it’s drizzling a little. You don’t put on boots for a drizzle. You don’t even open your umbrella. You walk through it and barely notice your hair getting wet.
But when it’s a huge gym full of parents, the drizzle becomes like this total hurricane. Everyone’s eyes hit you like a wall of water.
Mom and Dad hang around my table a lot, along with Jack’s parents. It’s kind of funny how parents actually end up forming the same little groups their kids form. Like my parents and Jack’s and Summer’s mom all like and get along with each other. And I see Julian’s parents hang out with Henry’s parents and Miles’s parents. And even the two Maxes’ parents hang out together. It’s so funny.
I told Mom and Dad about it later when we were walking home, and they thought it was a funny observation.
I guess it’s true that like seeks like, said Mom.
The Auggie Doll
For a while, the “war” was all we talked about. February was when it was really at its worst. That’s when practically nobody was talking to us, and Julian had started leaving notes in our lockers. The notes to Jack were stupid, like: You stink, big cheese! and Nobody likes you anymore!
I got notes like: Freak! And another that said: Get out of our school, orc!
Summer thought we should report the notes to Ms. Rubin, who was the middle-school dean, or even Mr. Tushman, but we thought that would be like snitching. Anyway, it’s not like we didn’t leave notes, too, though ours weren’t really mean. They were kind of funny and sarcastic.
One was: You’re so pretty, Julian! I love you. Will you marry me? Love, Beulah
Another was: Love your hair! XOX Beulah
Another was: You’re a babe. Tickle my feet. XO Beulah
Beulah was a made-up person
There were also a couple of times in February when Julian, Miles, and Henry played tricks on Jack. They didn’t play tricks on me, I think, because they knew that if they got caught “bullying” me, it would be big-time trouble for them. Jack, they figured, was an easier target. So one time they stole his gym shorts and played Monkey in the Middle with them in the locker room. Another time Miles, who sat next to Jack in homeroom, swiped Jack’s worksheet off his desk, crumpled it in a ball, and tossed it to Julian across the room. This wouldn’t have happened if Ms. Petosa had been there, of course, but there was a substitute teacher that day, and subs never really know what’s going on. Jack was good about this stuff. He never let them see he was upset, though I think sometimes he was.
The other kids in the grade knew about the war. Except for Savanna’s group, the girls were neutral at first. But by March they were getting sick of it. And so were some of the boys. Like another time when Julian was dumping some pencil-sharpener shavings into Jack’s backpack, Amos, who was usually tight with them, grabbed the backpack out of Julian’s hands and returned it to Jack. It was starting to feel like the majority of boys weren’t buying into Julian anymore.
Then a few weeks ago, Julian started spreading this ridiculous rumor that Jack had hired some “hit man” to “get” him and Miles and Henry. This lie was so pathetic that people were actually laughing about him behind his back. At that point, any boys who had still been on his side now jumped ship and were clearly neutral. So by the end of March, only Miles and Henry were on Julian’s side—and I think even they were getting tired of the war by then.
I’m pretty sure everyone’s stopped playing the Plague game behind my back, too. No one really cringes if I bump into them anymore, and people borrow my pencils without acting like the pencil has cooties.
People even joke around with me now sometimes. Like the other day I saw Maya writing a note to Ellie on a piece of Uglydoll stationery, and I don’t know why, but I just kind of randomly said: “Did you know the guy who created the Uglydolls based them on me?”
Maya looked at me with her eyes wide open like she totally believed me. Then, when she realized I was only kidding, she thought it was the funniest thing in the world.
“You are so funny, August!” she said, and then she told Ellie and some of the other girls what I had just said, and they all thought it was funny, too. Like at first they were shocked, but then when they saw I was laughing about it, they knew it was okay to laugh about it, too. And the next day I found a little Uglydoll key chain sitting on my chair with a nice little note from Maya that said: For the nicest Auggie Doll in the world! XO Maya.
Six months ago stuff like that would never have happened, but now it happens more and more.
Also, people have been really nice about the hearing aids I started wearing.
Ever since I was little, the doctors told my parents that someday I’d need hearing aids. I don’t know why this always freaked me out a bit: maybe because anything to do with my ears bothers me a lot.
My hearing was getting worse, but I hadn’t told anyone about it. The ocean sound that was always in my head had been getting louder. It was drowning out people’s voices, like I was underwater. I couldn’t hear teachers if I sat in the back of the class. But I knew if I told Mom or Dad about it, I’d end up with hearing aids—and I was hoping I could make it through the fifth grade without having that happen.
But then in my annual checkup in October I flunked the audiology test and the doctor was like, “Dude, it’s time.” And he sent me to a special ear doctor who took impressions of my ears.
Out of all my features, my ears are the ones I hate the most. They’re like tiny closed fists on the sides of my face. They’re too low on my head, too. They look like squashed pieces of pizza dough sticking out of the top of my neck or something. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But I really hate them.
When the ear doctor first pulled the hearing aids out for me and Mom to look at, I groaned.
“I am not wearing that thing,” I announced, folding my arms in front of me.
“I know they probably look kind of big,” said the ear doctor, “but we had to attach them to the headband because we had no other way of making them so they’d stay in your ears.”
See, normal hearing aids usually have a part that wraps around the outer ear to hold the inner bud in place. But in my case, since I don’t have outer ears, they had to put the earbuds on this heavy-duty headband that was supposed to wrap around the back of my head.
“I can’t wear that, Mom,” I whined.
“You’ll hardly notice them,” said Mom, trying to be cheerful. “They look like headphones.”
“Headphones? Look at them, Mom!” I said angrily. “I’ll look like Lobot!”
“Which one is Lobot?” said Mom calmly.
“Lobot?” The ear doctor smiled as he looked at the headphones and made some adjustments. “The Empire Strikes Back? The bald guy with the cool bionic radio-transmitter thing that wraps around the back of his skull?”
“I’m drawing a blank,” said Mom.
“You know Star Wars stuff?” I asked the ear doctor.
“Know Star Wars stuff?” he answered, slipping the thing over my head. “I practically invented Star Wars stuff!” He leaned back in his chair to see how the headband fit and then took it off again.
“Now, Auggie, I want to explain what all this is,” he said, pointing to the different parts of one of the hearing aids. “This curved piece of plastic over here connects to the tubing on the ear mold. That’s why we took those impressions back in December, so that this part that goes inside your ear fits nice and snug. This part here is called the tone hook, okay? And this thing is the special part we’ve attached to this cradle here.”
“The Lobot part,” I said miserably.
“Hey, Lobot is cool,” said the ear doctor. “It’s not like we’re saying you’re going to look like Jar Jar, you know? That would be bad.” He slid the earphones on my head again carefully. “There you go, August. So how’s that?”
“Totally uncomfortable!” I said.
“You’ll get used to them very quickly,” he said.
I looked in the mirror. My eyes started tearing up. All I saw were these tubes jutting out from either side of my head—like antennas.
“Do I really have to wear this, Mom?” I said, trying not to cry. “I hate them. They don’t make any difference!”
“Give it a second, buddy,” said the doctor. “I haven’t even turned them on yet. Wait until you hear the difference: you’ll want to wear them.”
“No I won’t!”
And then he turned them on.
How can I describe what I heard when the doctor turned on my hearing aids? Or what I didn’t hear? It’s too hard to think of words. The ocean just wasn’t living inside my head anymore. It was gone. I could hear sounds like shiny lights in my brain. It was like when you’re in a room where one of the lightbulbs on the ceiling isn’t working, but you don’t realize how dark it is until someone changes the lightbulb and then you’re like, whoa, it’s so bright in here! I don’t know if there’s a word that means the same as “bright” in terms of hearing, but I wish I knew one, because my ears were hearing brightly now.
“How does it sound, Auggie?” said the ear doctor. “Can you hear me okay, buddy?”
I looked at him and smiled but I didn’t answer.
“Sweetie, do you hear anything different?” said Mom.
“You don’t have to shout, Mom.” I nodded happily.
“Are you hearing better?” asked the ear doctor.
“I don’t hear that noise anymore,” I answered. “It’s so quiet in my ears.”
“The white noise is gone,” he said, nodding. He looked at me and winked. “I told you you’d like what you heard, August.” He made more adjustments on the left hearing aid.
“Does it sound very different, love?” Mom asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded. “It sounds … lighter.”
“That’s because you have bionic hearing now, buddy,” said the ear doctor, adjusting the right side. “Now touch here.” He put my hand behind the hearing aid. “Do you feel that? That’s the volume. You have to find the volume that works for you. We’re going to do that next. Well, what do you think?” He picked up a small mirror and had me look in the big mirror at how the hearing aids looked in the back. My hair covered most of the headband. The only part that peeked out was the tubing.
“Are you okay with your new bionic Lobot hearing aids?” the ear doctor asked, looking in the mirror at me.
“Yeah,” I said. “Thank you.”
“Thank you so much, Dr. James,” said Mom.
The first day I showed up at school with the hearing aids, I thought kids would make a big deal about it. But no one did. Summer was glad I could hear better, and Jack said it made me look like an FBI agent or something. But that was it. Mr. Browne asked me about it in English class, but it wasn’t like, what the heck is that thing on your head?! It was more like, “If you ever need me to repeat something, Auggie, make sure you tell me, okay?”
Now that I look back, I don’t know why I was so stressed about it all this time. Funny how sometimes you worry a lot about something and it turns out to be nothing.
A couple of days after spring break ended, Mom found out that Via hadn’t told her about a school play that was happening at her high school the next week. And Mom was mad. Mom doesn’t really get mad that much (though Dad would disagree with that), but she was really mad at Via for that. She and Via got into a huge fight. I could hear them yelling at each other in Via’s room. My bionic Lobot ears could hear Mom saying: “But what is with you lately, Via? You’re moody and taciturn and secretive.…”