“Don’t forget to comb your hair!” Her voice bounced off the walls of Jordan’s house.
“Yes Mom!” Jordan sighed as he straightened up his black hair with the comb. He hated doing this, but his mom had a good point. First day in a new school, might as well leave a good impression. He looked down at his watch and saw there were only a few minutes before his mom said that they were going to leave. Jordan rushed down the stairs, his hair freshly combed.
“You excited for your new school? I hear it’s one of the best in the area.” Jordan’s mom beamed at him as she asked these questions. He shrugged. It’s not like he had a choice in what school he went. He definitely didn’t have a choice in the moving decision.
“I guess…I wonder what Randy and Shaun are doing?” Jordan’s mom handed him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as she scavenged around the kitchen. Must’ve lost her car keys again.
“No, honey. Don’t do that again. You know we had to move here, and thinking about how your old friends are doing won’t help the change. I’m sure they’re doing fine, and you can call them later, but I want you to focus on your first day here!”
“Okay mom…I will, don’t worry.” His mom found her keys and they both walked to the car. The drive wasn’t that long, definitely wasn’t as bad as the bus rides in the city. L.A. traffic was the worst, and being out in the relatively open countryside roads really emphasized that.
“Jordan, I think there may be some sort of spirit week? I don’t know, the principal sent us a letter earlier in the week but it wasn’t really clear. Just don’t worry about anything odd you see.” Odd? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Isn’t this just school?
“What do you mean-“ The car stopped, and there in front of them was the school, Beachwood High. There was a gate outside of the drop off area, and you could see several students entering. Some were in a rush, while others were casually strolling along.
“Have a nice day now!” Jordan essentially felt discarded as he left the car. It was just different having her be the one to drop him off instead of some random bus driver. It’s not like being left answerless by a forty year old portly bus driver would evoke such a feeling that he now felt with his mom leaving him. Dammit, forget that, what did she mean by “weird”? Ugh, what a weird way to start the Spring semester.
“Hey man, what’s up! You must be the new kid, right?” Jordan was in awe. Nothing could really describe what he had just seen…this was definitely what his mom meant by “weird”.
“What the hell is up with your hair?” The skinny red haired kid standing in front of Jordan was not what he had expected to see on his first day at his new school. No, this was not your ordinary reddish-orange hair. Nope, this was red like the Crayola color. It looked like it was a wig, which prompted Jordan to do another thing he didn’t expect to do on his first day at his new school. He reached over, and pulled the kid’s hair.”
“Owwwww! What the hell, man? I was just saying hi! Why’d you have to go and do that for?” Yep, it was real all right. The kid rubbed his scalp as Jordan let go.
“I’m sorry! I thought it was a wig!”
“So instead of asking, you just pull on it?”
“Well…I mean I did ask…”
“You didn’t give me time to answer! Jesus, is this middle school or something?” This day just started and it already wasn’t going well. “Anyway, as I was saying earlier, I’m Shinji Matsumoto.” Jordan looked Shinji up and down.
“You’re not…but…” Jordan could’ve sworn that this was the whitest kid he’s ever seen. There was no hint of any Asian heritage could be seen.
“I’m not what? Japanese? Oh no, but I identify more with the culture, so I changed my name. I’m actually Nick. Anyway, follow me.” Jordan followed Nic-well, okay fine. Jordan followed “Shinji” through the crowded halls of his new high school, Beachwood High. There were many calls to Shinji, several people saying they like his hair, and how it was looking a lot better than the turquoise color he had it beforehand.
Jordan plopped down at a desk beside Shinji, and they waited for homeroom period to begin. The bell rang, and a husky balding man entered the room. He had a monocle, and his mustache had a Teddy Roosevelt thing going.
“Ahem! Good morning class. I just wanted to welcome our new student today. His name is Jordan, and he comes from America! Would you please stand up Jordan?” A wide collective gasp was heard around the room. Jordan stood up, bewildered at the surprise. What was so surprising about being from America? This was America? What’s going on? “Please introduce yourself!”
“Oh. Uh, as you guys already know, I’m Jordan. Jordan Smith. I…just moved from L.A. to…here? Anyway, I love basketball, and video games. Another hobby of mine is watching anime.” Jordan saw Shinji’s expression brighten up at this news. Everyone clapped and cheered; yet Jordan saw a few people roll their eyes and scoff.
“Thank you Jordan, you may take a seat. I am Mr. Miwasaki. I hope you enjoy your stay at our school, now please sit down again.” Jordan sat down…but recognized something. Miwasaki? This dude looked like he was from some sort of bloated up Ned Flanders. Something didn’t add up. Jordan sat back down, and listened to all of his classmate’s introductions. Many of them were enthusiastic, while some were hardly anything you could call passionate. There was one similarity however: they all had Japanese names.
“Man, I can’t wait till the football game today! How about you Wes?” This blonde dude in the back of the classroom was awaiting the answer. This “Wes” guy sitting right next to him never responded, and instead nudged his friend. “What dude? Aren’t you…oh, that’s right. Sorry. Daisuke-san, are you excited for the American football game today? I can’t wait for the match up.” This dude’s excitement went from 100 to 0 pretty quickly, and this time around his voice was fairly monotone.
Homeroom ended, and Jordan followed Shinji. Shinji grabbed Jordan’s schedule, and scanned it. He nodded and smiled at his new friend. “Yep, we have the same schedule! We’re off to theater right now.” Shinji grabbed Jordan’s hand and ran off. The locomotive that was their friendship immediately derailed as Shinji accidently ran into a girl, Sakura, who was in their homeroom period. All three of them fell. Jordan shook his head. He brushed himself off and looked in front of him to see what he thought was the sure end of Shinji. Shinji, whether it was mistake or not, accidently grabbed onto Sakura’s boobs. He immediately jumped up, and bowed down.
“I am so so so sorry Sakura! I didn’t mean to-“ Sakura’s hand smashed into Shinji’s face. He flew away, almost comically so. In fact, there’s no way a punch like that could send him flying at all. He stood up, and yelled “Meet me up later Jordan! Sakura is also in theater!” He ran off, fearing Sakura’s rage.
Jordan slowly turned around. He was horrified at the situation Shinji had left him with. He looked, and saw that Sakura’s bright pink hair (yes, bright pink hair) was gone. It was replaced with a chestnut brown. Sakura picked up her wig and stood up, brushing off dust from the collision. What was rage before was now a peaceful calm.
“Sorry about that. We can walk together to theater if you want!” Jordan concluded that the theme of the day was going to be “What the Fuck is Going On?” day, so he just shook his head and accepted the offer.
“Sure.” Sakura placed the wig back onto her head, and continued led Jordan down the hallway.
“Are you liking it so far here?”
“I’m not sure what to make of it, really. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, Sakura.”
“Oh, my name is Sara by the way.”
“You see? Like that. I have no idea why you’re being called Sakura. Or why Nick is Shinji? Or why Mr. Walrus is called Mr. Miwasaki?” Sakura burst out in laughter.
“Oh. My. God. Mr. Walrus!” She kept on chuckling at the wise crack. Jordan, hoping that she’d reveal more about this school, was let down…by his own joke.
They made it to theater class a little bit later than expected. The teacher was very easy going, did not care what the class was doing the whole time. It was essentially another free period. Shinji had his arm around this one girl, doing what could only be called flirting.
“Shinji, you’re such a pervert. Could you get away from me?”
“Come onnnn, all I said was how pretty you were!” Jordan looked to his left and saw that Sakura was gone. He turned around and saw her pull Shinji by the ear away. She pulled him away, her face as crimson red. People back in L.A. would’ve been able to hear her yelling.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“You always say you’re sorry, yet you don’t change. Just leave, stop bothering Senpai so much!”
Shinji left the room; his head hung low. Senpai? Jordan felt like he was plopped in the middle of an Anime, yet no one seemed to acknowledge anything weird, even the teachers. His head was aching. Nothing like this ever happened back in L.A., not even remotely close.
“Hey, you’re the new kid right? Jordan-san?” This tall, built kid stood in front of him. Maybe he was one of the football players playing in the game later today?
“Yeah, just call me Jordan. What’s your name?”
“Oh me?” The guy puffed out his chest and smiled. He put his foot on a chair, as if he was promoting spiced rum. He pointed both his thumbs towards himself, with a level of grandiosity rarely seen. “I’m Yosuke, you’re senpai!” There was this silence in the air after this proclamation. Was he awaiting applause?
“My senpai? Bro, I don’t really understand much of what is going on right now, and I don’t think I can really-“
“Oh I totally understand man, I don’t understand any of this anime crap. They just gave us ‘roles’ to fill, and this sounded like the closest to who I was. ‘The buffoon older brother’ type. Trust me man, not a lot of us here understand what’s going on. Check it out.” Yosuke handed Jordan a pamphlet. “There’s only a few more days left in the week, so better pick a role!”
Jordan flipped through the pages, and what he saw was unbelievable. He read out a couple of the terms listed in the pamphlet. “Tsundere: person who is initially mean and angry, but eventually show that they are caring and kind.” Right next to the definition was a picture of Sakura from the anime Naruto, who would’ve definitely fit the bill of tsundere. The list went on and on, with each word picking up in complexity. Jordan thought he knew most of the words, but as the list progressed, he soon realized how many tropes and roles there were to fill in anime. The volume of words and the absurdity of it all gave Jordan a headache.
Jordan raised his hand. “Ms. Miyamoto” peeked over the book she was reading.
“Uh, it’s just Jordan. Can I go to the restroom?” She dismissed him, and he got out of his chair leaving behind the still smiling Yosuke. He walked down the hall a bit before he realized he made a tragic flaw. Shit, where’s the bathroom? Inspired by the apparent theme of the day, Jordan got on his knees, looked at the sky, and cried in despair. He chuckled as he got up. Maybe it was fun to just go with the flow with this whole “Anime” theme going on.
“There you are! I see you’re enjoying the school so far.” Jordan looked back over his shoulder and saw Sakura leaning against the wall.
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. It’s certainly been the most entertaining first day of school I’ve had.”
“Yeah, sorry about that by the way.” Sakura played with the tips of her pink wig. She blushed as she did so, and avoided eye contact
“Sorry about what?”
“Sorry about all the hoopla. We’ve grown pretty used to it, and having someone new come in and seeing all this made it very embarrassing.”
“Oh, what’s so wrong about this? You mean all schools aren’t like this?” Jordan’s joke fell flat, as Sakura’s face grew more serious. “Wait, what’s wrong Sakura?”
“Well, I guess you should know sooner or later why we’re all like this. Why I’m, as Shinji may call it, ‘tsundere’”.
“Well…the question has definitely been on my mind.” Jordan pointed at the pamphlet he got from Yosuke as he said this.
“Ok, so-“ The fire alarm went off. The blaring horn sounds filled the hallways, and Sakura looked down at her watch. She shook her head, and smiled. What sounded like a huge explosion came from outside. The classroom doors swung open, and many people started running. Hysteria filled the school. Jordan had no idea what to do; he ducked down, praying to every deity out in the ether.
“What is happening???” Sakura clasped one of Jordan’s hands. She patted Jordan’s head, and smiled once more.
“Calm down, let’s check outside.” The two slowly walked through the mob of students, and pushed themselves through the crowded front doors of the school. What Jordan saw in front of him was astounding. There was some sort of Lovecraftian monster outside. Couldn’t have been more than six feet tall, but it didn’t stop. There were horns protruding from not only its deformed head, but also its jagged torso. What was truly horrifying though was who stood in front of the monster.
“Shinji! Run!” Everyone was screaming this, as Shinji stood quietly in front of the beast. He raised his hand, trying to calm down the crowd.
“It’s fine everyone, I got this! Shinji won’t let you down!” Shinji’s face began to glow, excitement pouring out from him. He dashed towards the beast, and tackled it. The monster flew back, but composed itself, and countered. The two exchanged blows, neither letting up. Jordan couldn’t compose himself. No one seemed to want to help Shinji.
“Sakura, wait here.”
“Wait, Jordan! You don’t-“ Jordan ran into the fray. The monster, although intimidating, was shorter than Jordan. With it distracted, he felt like he could get one punch in.
“Shinji, duck!” Shinji, surprised at this, did as he was told. Jordan leaped, his fist flying towards the monster. Expecting some sort of alien acid to burn him as he made contact, Jordan braced for the pain. The haymaker landed, yet Jordan was surprised. Nothing happened to his hand, other than the pain normally associated with punching someone. Someone.
The monster flew back, not nearly as intimidating as before. It looked back at the crowd, mumbled some weird archaic noises, and ran off. Shinji hugged Jordan and then raised his hand. “Jordan-san! He protected all of us, we have another protector!” The crowd began chanting, alternating between yelling Shinji and Jordan.
“Jordan, thank you so much for your help. These monsters have been really piling since a month ago.”
“Shinji…what’s going on? That monster…was a-“
“I must bid you adieu, I have to rest up for class. These fights can get really tiring. Sakura has the same schedule as me, you can just follow her.”
Shinji walked off. Sakura grabbed Jordan’s arm, and before he could ask what was going on, dragged him away. They soon found themselves in an empty classroom. “Jordan, what the hell was that?”
“I…I don’t know? All I wanted to do is help Shinji!”
“We all do! That’s why we’re all doing this!” She threw off the wig, her eyes locked onto his. Her eyes were welling up, and she constantly wiped the tears away, but never lost eye contact with Jordan.
“Sakura-I mean, Sara, what is happening. Please.” Sara, dropping the whole tsundere anime trope, calmed down. She dropped the wig, and sat down in one of the desk chairs. Jordan did the same, and was ready to listen.
“Nick…is sick, lung cancer. He’s always been one of my best friends, and the day the news broke out, the school was devastated. He always tried to play it off coolly, never wanting to bother anyone. But in the past year, his health has deteriorated, and it doesn’t look like he’ll make it to graduation.” Jordan, shocked to hear all this, clutched Sara’s hand, and tried to comfort her as she talked. “The Make a Wish Foundation heard from Nick’s parents how much he loved anime, and came to the school with a plan. They were willing to fund costumes, make up, and special effects. They wanted to make sure that Nick could live the life that he always wanted to. As you can tell, most of the school doesn’t really know what to do, but hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the month.”
“Okay…I think I’m going to head home for now, let the teachers know I feel sick and I’ll hope to be back tomorrow.” Jordan left the classroom, leaving Sara all by herself. Everything made sense now. All the elaborate schemes, and eccentric characters all made sense. Jordan didn’t know what to think of the whole thing. It was madness to see this many people buy in to such a thing. Back home in Cali, there were only a few people Jordan could truly call his friend, but everyone here seems so close, and so willing to help out in the smallest ways to make Nick feel better. It made no sense at all.
In the hallway, you could see several students high fiving Nick who was approaching him. One girl, couldn’t have been older than a freshman, tripped on someone’s shoes. She fell down, smacking her knees against the hard ground, and her green wig flew off. A couple of people chuckled, but not Nick. No, this was the most serious he had seen Nick. Nick feel down to his knees, and patted the girl’s shoulders as he tended to her knee. His voice was faint, but was still audible.
“Hey, Summer. Are you okay?” She had staggered breathing, and anyone could see she was about to cry. Her knee was pretty red, and she was tearing up because of the chuckling around them. Jordan hushed the surrounding students, and went straight back to attending to Summer.
“Yeah…thank you sen-“
“No. You don’t need to do that right now, you’re hurt. Please, don’t let all these people around you bother you. You’re stronger than that. I know you.” The girl looked up, her eyes growing wetter as she couldn’t contain it anymore. She hugged Nick and sobbed, with a few “thank you” ‘s thrown in there. Jordan understood now. Everything made sense. This is why.
Nick stood up, and made sure that Summer stood up and went home. He brushed off his shoulders and looked up to see Jordan.
“Hey Jordan! Oh my god, what the hell was that earlier? Jeez, I would’ve been toast if you didn’t help me out. Crazy first day, right?”
“And then you have Sakura always tripping. She’ll come around some day. I really worry about her sometimes. That temper of hers needs to chill.”
“I don’t know why, these things seem to always happen around here.”
“Nick.” Jordan patted Nick on the shoulder. “I need to ask a question.”
A long paused filled the air. The hallways emptied out, and Nick was going to be late to class.
“I’m not dumb.”
“I’m not dumb. I know all this is fake. I know this is just a dream before I wake up and everything is horrible again. I’m sorry I dragged you into this, it definitely shouldn’t have been the first impression you had of this school. The people are awesome. The people here are truly people I care about. We’ve been through so much, whether it is sports, theater, and just plain ol’ class. I love it here. I’ll let everyone know to stop all of this so you can get a true understanding of how Beachwood High is. It’s a really special place.” The ever so confident Nick showed his soft side for once. The façade was over. Gone was the bombastic player, the flashy warrior, the lovable pervert. The person standing in front of Jordan was Nick, Sara’s best friend, who would only have a little time left on this earth.
“What are you talking about man? I was just wondering what color I should get my hair dyed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean, hey man, you weren’t the only one to stop that monster earlier! I was the one that caused it to run! I need a kickass hairdo like you man, if we’re going to hunt them down and all.” Jordan pointed at Nick’s scarlet hair. Nick sniffled, and wiped his eyes before smiling at raising a thumbs up.
“Of course! And you definitely should go for blue hair. It’d be a good contrast! Come on, let’s go to math, ‘Mr. Miwasaki’ is teaching it!” The two rushed in to class. The wild commotion that was the class after ‘Shinji’ beat the monster was to be expected. Jordan sat down, and was feeling better. The random bright hair colors that filled the room didn’t confuse him anymore. The tsunderes, yanderes, and all the different types of deres didn’t perplex him. All the tropes regarding anime filled the room, but it didn’t bother him anymore. All he could do was smile at the fact that all of these people were doing this for their friend. Even the begrudging kids in the back of the room put on a strong face for Nick. This was all not because Nick was this “Shinji” character, but because Nick was Nick, a genuinely nice person. Now that’s something you can’t find much of in L.A. Oh, and seeing Mr. Miwasaki with a broken nose also made Jordan chuckle.