Okay here’s another embarrassing story from when I was little, because I have lots of them and they are fairly straightforward to write. This one’s about another close friend in middle school. I’ll call him Dave, but that’s totally not his real name.
This is actually pretty difficult to write about and make public, but I’ve been having trouble thinking of topics for posts. So here I am, writing a story which relates the distance I was willing to go in order to avoid doing my homework. It’s time to come clean.
Throughout middle school and high school, I wasn’t a great student. I was generally capable, but severely unmotivated. I didn’t like to do homework, or go to school, or anything really. Dave was a like-minded friend, and we’d been together since elementary school. I don’t know why, but he was a pathological trouble-maker. He enjoyed getting caught, and loved the attention. Here’s one short example, of dozens:
We had this really horrible vice-principle at our school, Mr. Washington. He was in charge of student discipline, and could only have hated both children and his job with some weird passion. Some student, running or yelling or otherwise committing some similar cardinal sin, was liable to be screamed at for minutes on end and subjected to unreasonable punishments. It was eventually noted that black kids were more likely to receive these treatments. The guy was an asshole. Dave, our saint and savior, took it upon himself to paste Mr. Washington’s face onto some gay porn, print it, and post it on the bathroom wall. He was caught immediately because he had signed the picture. With his name. On the picture. His name.
So that was one of my best friends. When it came to him and his shenanigans, I was usually just along for the ride. I was passive enough to be easily persuaded into doing some really stupid shit.
So in sixth grade I had this social studies class. Students were expected to complete homework assignments of exceptional inanity, and I lacked whatever special trait to convince myself of their usefulness. I don’t remember what the assignment in question was, but I probably had to write a poem about Plymouth Rock or maize or something. I had decided, apparently, not to do it. I knew I would get in trouble. Social studies was my third class of the day, so I had a couple of hours to get out of it somehow. I enlisted Dave’s help in this process.
He was with me all the way, for some reason completely committed to getting me exonerated from my sentence. We put our heads together and seriously considered, among other things, breaking my arm or a rib. Only after much thought did I back away from these propositions. Eventually we agreed that the nurse’s office represented my only serious chance at freedom. A successful plea to the school nurse could result in that holiest of treasures, the Call Home.
It was Dave’s genius which finally produced an elegant solution. It was perfect. No authority figure could comfortably ask questions, and the nurse would have no choice but to let me leave school early. This is what happened: we went to the bathroom during class, when we were sure it was empty, and flooded the urinals so water spilled onto the floor. I sat on the ground and clutched my groin in pain, pretending I had slipped and hit my gonads on some bathroom fixture. Dave rushed over to the nurse’s office to inform her of my fall.
A classmate wandered in while Dave was gone. He was initially shocked, but quickly convinced of my situation. He waited with me for Dave’s return. His excited questioning helped me to finalize certain details of the story: No, I hadn’t actually ripped my scrotum open, but, yes, it totally hurt. And yeah, some assholes must have flooded the urinals for fun and spilled this water everywhere.
Dave returned, trailing a wheelchair, and pushed me back to the nurse’s. After some cautious questioning, I was asked to lie down for a while, and soon allowed to call my mother to pick me up. I was careful to limp everywhere I walked, and speak with an injured voice.
O, the absurdity: I hadn’t even hit puberty yet. I didn’t know what I was going on about, though my act was apparently convincing. Further, the teacher didn’t check homework until the next day. I still didn’t do it. And more, a few days later, Dave told my mother everything. He not only loved getting himself into trouble, but enjoyed seeing it happen to his friends as well. My response was to lie and lie until I couldn’t lie anymore.
For the remainder of middle school, I unhappily suffered my new reputation as the boy who hit his balls on the urinal. And yet I think, for years after, I still refused to acknowledge that the effort I put into not doing homework was greater than anyone could have possibly put into actually doing that homework.