It's been like this for as long as he can remember.
By all accounts he should be happy, should at least be pleased with where his life is taking him. Actually, given the fact that he's a football player, by all accounts Whitney should be ignorant of the fact that a better place even exists. Blissfully unaware that things could even be remotely different.
But he's not. Most people seem surprised at that, but if there's one thing Whitney is, it's not stupid.
He finds it easy to pretend that he is though, it doesn't take much, people expect the worse anyway and all it takes is a little irrational behaviour, the occasional drinking binge and everyone has him pegged as the dumb jock. It's an easy enough role to play.
He's learnt that it makes things easier, to sacrifice a little dignity on the path to acceptance, on the road to freedom.
He just has to remember not to let it slip. It's almost an unconscious act now. He keeps the pretence up because that's what people expect.
The disease of his generation, a life spent pretending. Everyone he knows does it. Lana pretends to be perfect, although at least she's as close to being REALLY perfect as anyone he knows is, well anyone in real life anyway, she pretends to be someone from the glossy magazine pages all the girls his age read.
It's the way they all like it, everyone fitting neatly into these preconceived moulds, he knows that if anyone broke the status-quo, the whole town would be in an uproar. The fragile minds of the Smallville populous would be unable to cope. The end of the world, all hell would break loose that would make a meteor shower look like a family picnic in comparison.
Whitney's trapped in a Norman Rockwell painting and just like the real thing, there's no escape. No way to get outside the frame that's trapping you inside, forcing you to eke out a stagnant existence. Whitney's no more capable of escaping than the people he sees painted in oils, on canvas.
He can see only one chance for freedom and he's prepared to do anything to achieve it. If it means he needs to play into the dumb jock stereotype that's fine. He'll count down the days, mark them off on a calendar because each day will bring him one step closer.
So he puts up with it, carries on with the pretence like everyone else. They never talk about it openly but he's pretty sure he's not the only one trapped in the frame, pretending.
Not the only one coated in plastic. A fake veneer covering that conceals the real person inside. Nobody can cope with it anyway, they don't want him to be the best he can be, they just want him to act like they think he should. To win football matches, to take Lana to the dance, to end up marrying his high-school sweetheart, to get a job, something simple. To grow old and to die in the same town he was born in. A whole life wasted because people are too scared to even consider that there might be potential there somewhere.
Nobody ever talks about what that sort of life makes people into, nobody mentions the poverty, the abuse. A life of pretence and boredom can make even the best person into a monster. The sort of thing Rockwell never painted.
Whitney knows that people are scared, seeing others succeed makes your own failure even more visible.
Dave pretends his mother doesn't drink herself unconscious every night, Sean pretends he can score with any girl he wants, Clark pretends he's not moving in on his girlfriend.
Whitney pretends to be dumb. Apparently the concept of a football player with brains is too much for even 21st century America. So he pretends.
It's not that bad really. There are worse things he could be hiding but he can't help but wonder what it really is like. To not be judged, to not have to live up to his father's and the whole town's already high ideals.
He can imagine it now, telling his father that he's decided to give up playing ball, decided he wants to allocate as much time as he can to his studies, to go to Metropolis University and study English. Or, Sociology, or history of the Inuit people, just anything. Anything to make people realise that there's more to Whitney Fordman than the ability to throw a 40 yard pass.
Anything to escape. This town, this destiny.
But of course he doesn't. He doesn't need to remind himself that he's not stupid, he may be pretending he is but he's not THAT good at it.
Telling his father would be stupid, hell, making that decision period would be even worse. This may be his only escape and Whitney's not prepared to jeopardise that.
Whitney knows the only way to get out of here is to succeed. So he pretends, hopes that maybe football is his path to freedom, doesn't mind what people think because as long as he gets out of here, what does he care anyway?
Because there's one thing that scares Whitney more than just being considered a jock, being overlooked because if he plays ball he CAN'T be clever enough to formulate an argument. The one thing that frightens him more is having to keep pretending for the rest of his life. To be stuck in Smallville, to be nobody.
//I don't wanna be a "remember him", Smallville's got enough of those guys.//
So he keeps pretending, stays with Lana, the perfect boyfriend in the perfect high-school relationship. He tries not to think that maybe sometimes she's also pretending, //trapped inside a picture frame// maybe that she's just the same as him. Waiting for something better.
Anything to get out of Smallville.
Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?