Thus starts Metamorphosis: Junior Year, the story of a high school junior named Ovid, whose sister got hooked on meth and ran away, leaving him home alone with his hovering parents. Ovid is an artist and a poet, so occasionally there are poems (by Betsy Franco, like the rest of the text) and drawings (by her son, Tom Franco - and yes, he's one of James Franco's brothers).
Ovid spends a lot of time talking about his friends in high school, all of whom are in situations that are very much like those faced by actual teens - a girl with an eating disorder, another who shoplifts and might be bisexual, another who prefers to hang out online and can't really deal with an in-person relationship; a guy who totally loved his girlfriend and was messed up when she dumped him; another who cuts himself. There are others, too, with different problems.
Ovid talks about his parents, too - how they are trying so hard to get everything "right" with him so that he won't turn out like his sister that he's going mental. He talks about his sister, too - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and about his artwork.
The thing is, the stories Ovid tells about his friends are all related to the stories told by the Roman poet, Ovid, about 2000 years ago. He retold ancient stories - like the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun - and it's one of the reasons those stories are still known today.
Here's an excerpt from Ovid's journal:
Perfect PitchWithout spoiling the plot for you, I will say that one of my favorite quotes comes from near the end of this slim novel (a mere 117 pages total, including pages with poems and drawings):
The minute me, my friend Jack, and his girlfriend walked into the Abyss, this underage club, I knew I was in one of my envious moods. Through the dark of the room, I could see Orpheus (that's what I call him now—lyre, saxophone, what's the difference?) warming up with his band, his jet black hair under the spotlight. He came over, all smiles, and led us to a table near the front.
"He's got perfect pitch," Jack laughed, after Orpheus hopped back onstage. "Someone farted in math the other day and he yells out 'B flat!'"
When the gig started, Orpheus was so damn smooth on the tenor sax, I could see all the girls at the nearby tables leaning forward. By the time he got to his killer rendition of "Soul Eyes," he really had 'em going.
I mean, Jesus, Orpheus got a girlfriend in record time, right after he moved here to northern California from Chicago, last spring. Dalia, no less, "Miss Independent." I wish he'd bottle what he's got with girls—I'd buy a couple cases. Course, so much of it's tied up with his music. It seems like he connects with the girls through his eyes when he's playing.
But, he's not a player. He's real into his girlfriend Dalia. I wouldn't be surprised to see him serenading her under a window. And he'd go to Hell and back for her. All the way. No question.
Orpheus and Dalia
Doesn't the rain need the clouds?
Doesn't the ocean need the sand?
Doesn't the wind need the sky?
That's how Orpheus needed Dalia.
And Dalia liked it fine
until she stopped liking it.
"I love you, Orpheus,
like the lightning loves the thunder,
like the mountain loves its trees
but it'll never work between us
if you don't give me some fucking space.
Give me some space
and we'll be great again.
Just prove you can do it.
Just for a few weeks."
Orpheus didn't call her
didn't msg her text
didn't text her e-mail
didn't find her between classes
until he felt like
rain without a cloud
sand without an ocean
wind with no sky to blow around in
and he sent her a text
just that once
And it was over.
It seems to me that we all navigate our way through high school - solo or in ever-shifting pairs or groups - trying to find some rhyme or rhythm, some sense.
Sometimes we throw light on our faces, letting other people get a glimpse of us. Then we retreat.
Seems like we're all just groping our way through a labyrinth, fighting our personal minotaurs, morphing into who we really are, like it or not. And along the way, we cross paths with other people.
There's no golden thread to follow. That's for sure. So we all just try to help each other through the maze.