I Don't Think So
High School. While the trappings may change, the experience tends to stay the same. It has to because its roots lay in hormones and adolescence. No matter how much the clothes, or the hairstyles or the slang differs over the ages, the underpinnings are the same. The changes, the awkwardness, the discovery of new feelings and new desires. It was a time when friendships took on extra meaning, where trust was earned and broken, when a glance and a smile could increase your heart rate for no apparent reason. We learned more during that time of our lives than any other. It wasn't the learning from text books. It was the growing awareness of who we were and what we were becoming. It was when we really started to figure things out, and a time when we first realized how hard life was going to be.
I attended several high schools when I was growing up. We moved around a lot as did most of my school mates. We were grounded in who we were and not so much where we lived. We made strong friendships fast, and just as quickly we were gone. Looking back it almost seems like a blur.
During my final year of High School, we finally got some of the 'good' professors. The ones reserved for the more mature students. The teachers that were hip, and cool and hadn't been ground up by the system. Those were heady times, we were scared, but we were excited. We knew we were approaching the end of youth and our futures were uncertain. Things were moving.
One of the senior classes I had was a literature class. Can't remember the specifics of it, but I recall that we had to do a recitation in front of a school assembly, on stage, during some sort of talent show. It was a rendition of "Spoon River Anthology" by Edgar Lee Masters. It was a play in which tombstones speak in verse and in doing so reveal the entire soul of the town and its people. Our hip professor chose several in the class to read portions of the play. I was picked, as was my girlfriend, and one of my best buddies along with a few other students in the class. For some reason, the teacher also chose one of the class slackers to perform one of the roles.
Every high school has their 'click' of bad boys. They never studied, smoked cigarettes, had bad reputations and generally were just assholes. This guy was no different. So the teacher's choice in picking him seemed somewhat odd. No one expected him to show up for class or take the assignment seriously. He indicated that "He wasn't going to do it", and voiced his concern that the whole project was "stupid".
Never the less, the next week we started rehearsing in class and memorizing our lines. Much to our surprise the slacker showed up and actually participated. He was awful. He could barely read, and became frustrated with the assignment. He was obviously uncomfortable in trying to express emotion through his character and felt that this wasn't something macho tough guys did. Still, the teacher must have seen promise in him and we continued the recitations over the next several weeks until we had our lines memorized. By the time the assembly came around, we were all pretty good. We had the inflections down, we had the timing and we had stage freight. Even the slacker was pulling his weight and wasn't half bad.
On the evening of the assembly we gathered at the school. We were full of opening night jitters, even though the whole thing was only going to take 15 minutes to perform. Other school talent went ahead of us, music recitals, short plays, and other entertainment. By the time we were set to go on everything was ready...except for the slacker. He was a no-show. We waited until the last minute and he never came, so our professor filled in for him and read his parts. By the time it was all over, we were proud and relieved and somewhat giddy. Another one of youth's hurdles had been overcome. We all felt just a bit older.
The next day, I was sitting in the classroom waiting for class to begin. I was leaning my chair up against the window. Outside, winter was moving in. There was an overcast sky and the temperature was dropping as the wind started to pick up over the Dakota plains. As I sat chatting with my friends about our opening night triumph, I heard someone rapping on the window behind me. I turned around and there stood the slacker with some of his buddies smoking cigarettes. As I looked at him, he flipped me his middle finger and I could see him mouth the words "Fuck You" and then he laughed at me.
I don't think he was able to appreciate that Kodak moment. His posturing and bravado through the window was obviously to impress his friends. But to those of us that had faced our fears the previous evening he seemed pathetic and sad. All his hard work and effort had been wasted. He had let his fear win.
We all knew we could go on to bigger and better things. We could make something of our lives. The slacker was a coward. When ever the going got tough or things got hard, he would cut and run. He had no future. I turned away from the window and looked at my classmates. I am sure there was a hint of a smile on my face. Many folks learn much to late, that Karma is a bitch.