A full week has passed since the moment I spoke to Sam about my plans and nothing has really happened. It’s Monday morning and I find myself on my bike, on my way to school. I’m thinking about my plan to go on vacation on my own. What do I need? During the trip I want to ask random people if I can sleep on their couch, but what if after a full evening of asking, no one decided to give me my deserved rest? Where will I sleep?
I decide to bring a hammock with me, so if I don’t get a place to sleep, I can at least find a comfortable position to spend the night in. Of course I’ll need to eat, but apart from that I’m not planning on spending any money. The money I do need, I have from donations some readers sometimes give me. I always said I didn’t want any donations, but you know, sometimes people give away money even if you don’t want them to.
When I arrive at my high school, I store my bike in the bicycle rack and walk into the building. This is the fourth time in one week I’m on time for my first class. It’s physics, a subject I don’t need to pay attention to. But, when I walk into the classroom I see all desks are separated from each other. That could only mean one thing: we have a test.
I see many classmates with concentrated faces, scared of the test to come. I sit down next to Marc. It’s as if Marc read the confusion on my face. “Didn’t you know we had a big test today?”
“No man, when did he tell us about this?”
“Uhh, I think it was last week or something?” he says.
I try to think about the previous week. Then it hits me. “Shit, I skipped that lesson, remember?”
“Oh crap, I should’ve told you about it,” is his response.
I put my hand up to get the teacher’s attention and say to Marc: “It’s not your fault, I skipped the lesson, it’s my fault.”
“Mister Rills, is anything wrong?”
“Yes, there is mister Keyl. I was sick last week so I didn’t know we were having a test today.”
His response was quick, but clear: “I know you were, you always are. But, when you’re sick you should ask your classmates what you missed. Remember that for next time. Now, let me hand out the tests and let’s see what you’ll make of it.” The teacher manages to smile while saying that.
I don’t need much more to get angry. I hate teachers who think they are better than us. I don’t understand them either. I’m one of his best students, but due to the fact I never come to class he suddenly hates me? What does he want instead? Does he want me to attend his lessons and act like I really need his class to pass the subject?
He hands out the test and pretty soon I find out I don’t know a thing that he's asked me. I never did any homework assignment, because normally I just read through the chapters we need to know in order to pass the exam. Out of the corner of my eye I see Mr Keyl looking at me, his face still spoiled with his disgusting smile. I can’t begin to imagine how much he hates me.
I decide to read through the whole paper, because maybe there are some questions I can answer. No such luck.
Getting angrier every moment, I started to realise what I had to do. The class is very quiet, I won’t get a sufficient grade for this anyway, so with my glance fixed on the teacher, I say out loud: “Marc, can you tell me what else I missed when I was sick. Mr Keyl said I had to ask you, so why don’t I do it right now?”
Some guys start to laugh and Mr Keyl’s face starts to turn red. “Adam Rills, you've failed this exam, now go to the Principal and get a think-about paper.”
I smile at him and walk away. A think-about paper is some kind of childish rule my school came up with a few years ago. Whenever you are sent out of class, whenever you do something you’re not allowed to do, you have to go to the Principal’s office to get this paper. It’s meant to be a unique paper. It asks you what you’ve done and why you did it. After you answer the question and explain, you have to go back to your teacher and he has to sign it. This is to make sure the teacher knows you’ve been to see the Principal. It’s a stupid role to make sure you can’t bail out of getting the punishment you deserved and it would’ve been a smart rule, if I didn’t secretly make a copy of the paper the first time I was sent out of class. Now I just have to get a copy out of my locker, fill it in as if I just got it from the Principal and then go to the teacher. He’ll sign it and I’ll destroy it just like I destroy all the letters my mother writes to school.
It saves me a lot of time and problems, because where I normally would have to spend a whole hour at the Principal’s office, now I can go to the shop.
I walk outside and locate my bike. Within minutes I arrive at a shop close to my school. This is the shop that mainly gets its income from students, even when they in theory do not allow students in here. When I walk through the shop I see Dean, a friend of Tyde, doing the same thing. It takes him a few seconds to notice me, but when he does, he walks over.
“Hey Adam! How are you?”
“Hey man, I’m just great. I got sent out of class so I decided to get some food while I have nothing else to do.”
“Ha ha, you’re a weird person, you know that?” He says and gestures me to follow him. We talk about nonsense, but without any warning he suddenly asks: “Did Tyde come back yet?”
I shake my head. “No, you don’t know where he could be, do you?”
Now it’s Dean’s turn to shake his head. He picks up some beer and walks to the counter.
“I hope he gets back to you guys soon. He's sometimes a little stubborn, but I’m sure he loves you. Both you and your mother.”
I highly doubt that, I think. It’s as if all the gods decided to hate me today, because the cashier says: “I need to see both your IDs, please?”
I quickly excuse myself. “I’m not with him, ma’am, he’s an old friend and I just saw him shopping here. I should go now,” to Dean I say: “Dean, I’ll see you around, if you hear anything from Tyde, please call me, okay?”
“I’m sorry guys, but it doesn’t work like that,” the cashier says before I can walk away. “It’s a new policy, when you arrive together at the checkout, you both have to show identification or I’m not allowed to sell alcohol to you.”
“Ma’am, I just told you, I’m not with him.”
“I’m sorry, but are you not going to show me your identification? If so, I’d like to continue doing my job and help the other customers.”
I sigh out loud. Why do some people make up these stupid rules. In some way, I can understand where it's coming from, you’re not allowed to buy alcohol when you’re a minor, but as I said, I wasn’t with him and I didn’t have any intention of drinking a beer right now. “I come here a lot with my mother,” I say, not sure whether I could convince her or not. “And you never complain then, when she buys beer.”
“That’s because I know the beer is for her,” she responds quickly, a little too quick, though.
I easily have an answer to that statement. “Now, you don’t know my mother, she fed me with beer when I was 3 years old. So, if you want me to call for your manager to tell him you sold us alcohol and destroyed my life, I’m happy to do it.”
She doesn’t looks a bit surprised or scared. “Go on. I’m not allowed to sell alcohol now, so I won’t. Thank you.”
I wanted to say something more, but Dean is fast enough to stop me. “It doesn’t matter, Adam. Let it go, I can do without a beer.”
He pays for everything but his beer and walks away with a smile. When he got almost out of my sight and almost out of earshot, I called after him. “I have nothing else to do today, so I’ll pay her back for being an asshole.”
He waves at me and walks away.
I wasn’t lying when I said that. I decided to stay at the mall for another hour. I sat down on the ground and stared at the cashier. She looked at me, first she looked confused, then perhaps nervous.
I had to wait a good 5 minutes before the first customer with alcohol came to the check out. I put my hand in the air and smiled at him. The reaction I got was a confused smile.
“Hey man!” I say to the old man who was about to buy some beer. “Thank you for buying me a beer, I don’t have any identification with me so I couldn’t buy it myself.”
This gets me another confused look, from both the cashier and the old man.
“Is he with you,” I hear the cashier ask the man.
“Uhh, no…. I don’t know this guy,” he responds.
I start to see the fun in this. “Of course you do! You are the person buying me beer.”
The confusion stays on both their faces and I have to keep from laughing out loud. This is way better than spending my time doing some stupid test.
“I’m afraid I’m not allowed to sell you any alcohol as long as he isn’t able to identify himself.” The cashier shoots me an angry glance while saying this.
“Is this some kind of joke?” The man calls out angrily. “Seriously, this isn’t funny. I’m in a hurry right now, but you will hear more from me.” He storms off.
When the man is gone I take a look at my watch and decide it's time to go back to school so I can ask the teacher for his signature before the class is over.
It’s only when I get to the next class that I find out I missed a lot more when I skipped a half a day last week. This class is Theology and apparently we had some kind of a presentation project to do. I walk into the class and see everyone practicing or showing their posters. I sit next to Seth. I spend two minutes watching my classmates. “I think I missed something,” I say to Seth.
He looks surprised, as if he didn’t even notice me sitting next to him. “Please don’t tell me you didn’t know we had this presentation today?”
I shake my head. This really is a shitty day, I think, what else is gonna happen? “Okay, you have to tell me everything I need to know.”
Seth sighs. I think he planned on using his last few minutes to practice his essay. “We all got a subject to make a presentation about. Mr Hampleton is gonna give turns to do the presentations.” He is silent for a few seconds. “Maybe you'll be lucky, maybe you won’t have to do it today.”
“Let’s not assume the best. What is my presentation about, do you know that?”
To my relief Seth nods his head. “You have to tell us about the meaning of life.” He smiles. “I wish my topic was as interesting as yours.”
“Be quiet children,” Mr Hampleton suddenly calls out. “We are going to start getting some presentations done. Adam, are you willing to start the class?”
Seth immediately looked at me with a worried face. I smile at him, as if I have everything under control. I’m just happy I’m not the worst at improvising and I once wrote about the meaning of life, so I’ll probably be able to quote a lot. “I am, Mr Hampleton.”
“Okay, come forward and show us what you made for us.”
I quickly look around and see that everyone has something to show. Some people made posters, others had pictures to hang on the blackboard. I didn’t have a thing, of course. “Mr Hampleton, I don’t have anything to show.” I see he wants to make a comment, but I’m faster than he is. “But that’s part of my presentation and I don’t want to spoil it.” He seems to accept my excuse, for the moment, so I walk to the front of the class.
The class is still a bit noisy, they’re probably talking about the physics test, so I put on my Mr Hampleton imitation. “Be quiet, children.” Some guys, like Marc and Seth, chuckle. The teacher gives me an annoyed look. “I’m here today to talk about the meaning of life. Before I start, I want to make it clear why I don’t have anything to show you. The meaning of life is one of the oldest topics of philosophy. That’s because there is no exact answer to the question, what’s the meaning of life? To clarify that statement, I decided against a poster or a picture to show you, because that would imply there is something touchable about this subject. However, there is not. I don’t want to distract you from the real question with stupid abstractions, things that are nice to look at. I don’t want any of you to like my story better because I have something to show you. I would like you to like my story because of its content, just as I would like you guys to like life because of its content.”
Marc, Seth, Luca and a friend of Luca called Ebony, start applauding. Sometimes I’m happy to have friends to help me this way.
“Well said,” Mr Hampleton says with the same annoyed look. “Now show us some of this real content before it’s Friday night, please.”
“I will Sir. The meaning of life is something we want to know, because whether you believe there will be a life after this one or not, we need to make the most of what we have. We have a limited amount of time on this earth and because we are human, we wonder about things. We ask ourselves if we’re doing a good job at being human and we want to know what we have to do to be successful as who we are; a living being.” I pause a moment to make sure I’m not rambling too much. My eyes meet Seth’s and I see some kind of confusion on his face. I know I’m quoting too much from my posts, more than I wanted to, but I really need a good grade for Theology in order to pass this horrible subject. So for the first time in my life I risk my cover of being some boring teenager instead of being a popular blogger.
“And that’s why we want to know the meaning of life. Because, if we know everything we can about the holy grail of philosophy, then we know if we are doing the right thing and we know for sure whether we are a failure or not.”
I pause for a moment, partly to catch my breath, partly to look at my classmate’s reactions. “And that is all I want to say about this topic today. I can talk about this for another day, but that won’t make the teacher happy. Thank you for your attention.” I make a little bow and walk back to my place.
“Thank you Mr Rills for giving us your opinion about understanding the meaning of life. I don’t totally agree with you, because we don’t need to know the meaning of life to be successful, as long as we do whatever God wants us to do, we’ll go to heaven. But, maybe that’s what it’s all about, maybe the meaning of life is equal to the word of God. Thank you, Adam.”
When I sit down next to Seth he looks at me questioningly. “The meaning of life is the holy grail of philosophy,” he says. “That’s an exact quote from the anonymous blogger.”
“I know right!” I say with an extreme amount of enthusiasm. “I read some of his posts after Mr Hampleton read them in class and after you said you liked them. I totally agree with you, it’s very informative.”
His look didn’t change. He was about to say something and I wondered if I wanted to hear it. Finally he spoke: “Shit, that means I’m not the only one who wanted to quote the anonymous blogger in his presentation.”
Thank you for reading! Feel free to give me feedback: Stannie
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