Brat Girl Blues — Part 2
A mini-memoir story [22/52*]
My classes bored the shit out of me. I learned quickly — the examples, questions, etc. that followed were just torture by boredom. To alleviate this, I usually had a paperback book open inside my textbook. It was a hell of a lot more interesting than watching some poor soul struggle with the present indicative of ‘to be’ in front of the class.
I was caught a few times, during my freshman and sophomore years, with my attention buried deeply in one of those books. I didn’t look for trouble, but there was always a teacher ready to present someone as the physical manifestation of ‘this is why some of you will be repeating the nth grade!’
Here’s the really painful thing about this for kids like me — when you’re a good kid, quiet, no trouble, do as you’re told, the teachers smile at you, say a few generic words, and appreciate the idea that you were not a source of aggravation. To a child, this translates to the teacher being kindly disposed towards you, an approval of who you are and what you do, someone you can trust.
In reality, however, you are a faceless nameless idea of a child who isn’t being disruptive or difficult. You are not a source of happiness or relief, you are a small human-shaped absence of irritation. The moment you fuck up at all, you hit their radar, full on. In that teacher’s head, there’s no connection between you and the background character you were until just a few moments ago. You get no credit for years of good trouble-free behavior. Suddenly this teacher, adult, authority figure, quasi-caregiver, turns on you.
It’s unsettling at best. It can, and does, cause a dramatic change in a kid’s behavior, usually for the worse. You want to know why some kids make a career of misbehaving in school? They don’t want to be nameless and faceless, and, in a way, I respect that.
Enter Mr. Blanks — Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. Prior to him catching me reading Moreta: Dragon Lady of Pern in his classroom, I was that nameless faceless idea of a kid, a void, flying under the radar. Now, suddenly, I was chosen as the example.
“Mr. Houston! Since you obviously know all of this, I’d like you to step up the board and show the rest of the class how easy figuring percentages is.” What he didn’t know, because he never bothered noticing anything more about me than whether I was present or not, is that I had paid attention, I had listened, I had learned, and then I had moved on to something more interesting. He couldn’t even seem to recall that I had near perfect marks in his class.
Nameless and faceless no more, dammit.
I walked to the front of the class, nervous as hell, and began. I wasn’t nervous about the task. I knew this. It wasn’t even mildly difficult for me. I was nervous because I feared and hated being put in front of people. I didn’t want people’s attention. I hated it. It was like open season on a kid like me:
Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your amusement, a chubby, shabbily-dressed, nerd. You may now commence humiliating him publicly! Enjoy!
What’s worse is that Millie was in this class. I never held out any real belief that she could like me, but school is a harsh place, and now, up there, risking the kind of humiliation that makes you contagious, that pitiful scrap of fantasy had a cigarette in it’s mouth, prepared for the firing squad. I hated them and I hated Mr. Blanks for putting me up in front of them.