Julius was a normal teenage boy. He liked the sports other teenage boys liked. He liked the music other teenage boys liked. He liked the movies other teenage boys liked. He liked the subjects other teenage boys liked. He liked the clothes other teenage boys liked. He liked the girls other teenage boys liked. He liked the conversations other teenage boys liked. He liked being around other teenage boys. But although he enjoyed their company, they didn’t enjoy his. And neither did the rest of his town: children, teenagers, and adults.
You see, most people feel unique but are actually quite normal. Julius had a different problem. He felt normal, but everyone thought he was unique. And because of this, other people never wanted to interact with him. It was as if his normalcy (or perceived uniqueness) was an affront to their exaggerated uniqueness. So despite being normal and liking normal things, Julius was lonely and had no friends. And this wasn’t because he was excessively shy or awkward. He was none of those things. And nor was it because he was lazy in putting in the effort required to make friends. He tried to invite others to his place after soccer practice, but they all declined. In hallways or at lunch, when others chatted about afterschool plans that seemed normal and delightful to Julius, he was repeatedly given the cold shoulder when he tried to enter the conversation.
Because of this constant rejection, Julius dedicated the past year to journaling about his issues relating to others. His current findings: It wasn’t because of his intelligence, he was an average C student. It wasn’t because of his athletic abilities, he was an average soccer and lacrosse player. It wasn’t because he was too short or tall, he was an average five-foot-eight. It wasn’t because he was skinny or fat, he was an average 140 pounds. It wasn’t because he was handsome or ugly, he had an average face with average proportions that were neither pleasing nor off-putting. He had brown hair and brown eyes. He had average parents, Dan and Jennifer. He had an average older sister, Emily, attending an average in-state college. He scored average in most all of the quizzes he took (both professional -he was an ISFJ, the most common Myers-Briggs personality- and those on BuzzFeed). He lived in an average suburban house. He had average dreams of getting an average job and starting an average two-child family with an average wife.
In fact, the only thing that was abnormal about him was his name: Julius Caesar. His parents promised him that his sister could name him. And they kept that promise. She named him Julius. And his father’s last name happened to be Caesar. His parents said they liked the name, and they didn’t think it would be such a big deal as they decided the day after his birth that he would be referred to as Julien instead of Julius. But at the start of every year his teachers would either nonchalantly or teasingly ask for Julius Caesar, initiating his struggles anew.
But what confused Julius the most about his relational issues was that he couldn’t attribute his isolation solely to his name, as even those who didn’t know his name treated him differently: The people in the street. The people in stores. Clerks. Sales-people. Business-people. Artists. Therapists. The elderly. The middle-age. The young twenty-somethings. The college students. The preteens. The kids. The toddlers. The babies. The newborns. The rich. The middle-class. The poor. The geeks. The jocks. The theater nerds and musicians. The outcasts. The average cliques. The bullies. Even those that others pay no mind to refused to pay him any mind.
So his journaling left him even more confused than when he believed his issues revolved around his unique name.
He expressed this to his mother (another person who hardly paid him any mind) but she cut him off abruptly. He then asked his father if he could go to therapy, who replied with an affirmative sigh. So he went to therapy and spent most of the session trying to describe his predicament as the therapist muttered assenting grunts and gave disinterested stares at either her watch or the notepad resting on her raised knee. This only affirmed his relatable/un-relatable conundrum, as even those who are paid to spend time with him refused to engage in a normal conversation with him.
His mother picked him up from therapy that day with the bored expression she wore in his presence and they drove listening to a normal classic rock station, which Julius Caesar tried to talk about but his mother only curtly answered with one-word retorts.
As soon as he got home, he went to his bed, crawled under the covers, molded his body into fetal position, and cried, vowing to never again try to fit in.
• • •
The next morning, Julius decided to skip school (an entirely abnormal thing for him to do, as he had no reason to do so given his lack of friends, but an entirely normal thing for a teenager to do) and went to see the new Star Wars movie that was all the rage in his school. As he predicted, he liked it very much.
After the movie ended, he stood for a few minutes on the sidewalk outside the theater. Bored, he checked his phone. Not even a call from his mother or the school. His presence was either so repulsively abnormal or so commonplace that no one seemed to notice his absence. He shrugged and looked up. The quirky girl who sat near him in science class was staring at what appeared to be his eye area. He turned to see if there was something she’d be interested in, but all that was behind him was the entrance to Regal Cinemas. When he straightened his neck out again he noticed that she was walking towards him. He cocked his head in intrigue, because no one had ever given him such interest.
‘Your Julius Caesar.’
‘People must tell you that a lot though. Or say something about it at least.’
‘No, not really.’
‘Yeah. No one really speaks to me.’
‘Huh. Well do you speak to them?’
‘And they just ignore you?’
‘Yup. Pretty much. Or give me one word answers.’
‘So, what, you just like hang out by yourself?’
‘Yeah, honestly. Not even my mom really speaks to me.’
‘Damn. That’s rough.’
‘Yeah. I’m used to it now though.’
‘So am I like the first person that’s given you interest?’
‘How old are you? Fifteen, like me?’
‘And you’ve, like, never had a conversation like this?’
‘Nope. Not really. Not that I can remember honestly.’
‘Dude that’s wild. You’re wild.’
‘See, but I don’t think that. I feel normal.’
‘Really? How so?’
‘I like all the things that other kids do.’
‘Like the Star Wars movie I just saw.’
‘Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty average.’
‘And I want to talk about stuff like that. But I just get ignored when I do.’
‘Hum. Well maybe you’re just too normal.’
‘Yeah. Like being normal isn’t actually all that normal. So it’s hard to relate.’
‘Wait. Let me see if I understand you. You think I’m too normal.’
‘Yeah, like uniquely normal.’
‘And that’s why people find me strange?’
‘Yeah. Could be.’
‘Hum. Maybe. I’ll ask that to my mom or sister, see if they actually respond to me.’
‘Or go back to that therapist I went to and see what she says.’
‘Definitely. It’ll be something to talk about other than boring trivialities.’
‘Anyways, Julius, I gotta go.’
‘Oh, okay. Hey thanks for talking. I think you might have helped me figure something out.’
‘No problem. I’ll see you at school sometime when we’re not being truants.’
Julius Caesar shrugged as he watched her leave.
Perhaps being normal wasn’t normal after all.