Thursday, April 10, 2008

I’m sitting here at 4:00 a.m. even though I didn’t have to wake up until 6. Normally, I’m an early to bed, early to rise type guy, but lately I’ve been going to sleep later in the evening than usual. The Pride Fighting Championships that I own or order from Netflix are to blame. Call me an addict, but I can’t get enough of mixed martial arts (MMA). Tonight, I’m going to sleep early, just like I promised myself last night and the night before that. Wait—something is wrong with this picture *yawn...*

So how many of you did some detention time in junior or senior high school? Do you remember what you saw and how you felt? Well, there’s no way of knowing for sure, but I may hold a record for total detention hours from the 4th grade through the 9th grade. I wasn’t a bad kid—never loud or disruptive in class. But there was one thing I didn’t do which always landed me in detention—school work. To me, school was the most boring institution on earth. The law states that school attendance is mandatory, but I don’t recall any State or Federal laws saying that I must pay attention while in class or to do homework.

Actually, detention wasn’t so bad. It lasted only an hour, though a major offense could land you two-hours. And although we inmates were supposed to be studying during that hour, I always hid the book I happened to be reading inside of a larger textbook. Detention whizzed by as I lost myself in a good story. But a few times I forgot to bring a book and I had to draw pictures instead. It was during those times that I was keenly aware of my surroundings for that one long hour.

The following would be a typical detention day - minus my book. If you were a detention regular as I was, let's take a trip down memory lane and let me know if you can identify with any of this.


Lock Up

By Joseph Lupoli

The crew of apathetic teachers here expect me, a 14-year-old kid, to sit at home and voluntarily do homework. That’s quite a laugh. You’d think they would have gotten the message by now. I have despised school since my first day of Kindergarten. I’ve never really studied before, I don't plan to start now, and I have refused to do homework since the third grade.

Being in detention is not my favorite pastime, but the mere thought of bringing schoolwork home is far more repulsive. It’s like having a job and being forced to work overtime for free. All things considered, the price tag of not doing homework is affordable.

It’s a light day in this hell-hole of a study hall.

The usual thugs are shifting around restlessly in the back-row seats. There’s Jimmy, the class bully, a long-timer. Jimmy strikes me as a sociopath in training. Next to Jimmy sits Victor, "The Ripper." Victor is Jimmy’s co-extortionist and loan-shark. Oh, and there’s "Michael the Mauler"—also an aspiring sociopath. He's a future lifer, plus 90-years. Michael is doing hard time in detention probably for loansharking or refusing to rat on a fellow hood under investigation. He was once voted ‘Most likely to join the Mafia.’ Michael has sideburns and a five o‘clock shadow which make him look about 20-years-old. For added emphasis, he smokes non-filtered Camels. All of this I find most disturbing. Michael the Mauler once threw a kid off the school roof for not paying his ‘protection’ tax on time. They tried to extort from me, but not only won’t I do schoolwork, I don't respond much to demands either. Interestingly, when I refused to pay them off, they just shrugged and shuffled away. I guess they were too lazy that day to kill me.

Now, normally, this would be a routine day in my life.

Only today is no ordinary day. For the first time ever, the brilliant and beautiful Amy is here in lock-up. Yes, Amy. Amy is a sacred entity complete with a blue misty hue and everything. Just her mere presence purifies the air within a hundred yard radius of her. To me, she is light-years beyond human, and I fear her far more than all the school bullies put together. So why on earth is Miss Britannica/Americana in detention? What could she have conceivably done? Being the loner I am, the answer will never be revealed to me. I’ve never heard of her getting any grade lower than an B+, and she actually cried over it! Amy never missed school that I know of, and she's made the honor roll probably from the moment they cut the umbilical chord and gently slapped breath into her. I love Amy and I dream about her in color. But she has every reason to hate my guts—to her, I'm probably just lowly scum lumped together with all the other under-achieving trolls. The only difference being, I feel more comfortable operating alone. I don't want to belong. That clique bullshit is for sissies.

I'm positive that most of the smart and pretty girls find my entire being revolting. How could they think otherwise? I spend more time in the Principals office and in detention than I do in the classroom. (general population) It’s really too bad that I’m so socially inadequate, few girls even glance my way, let alone talk to me.

Amy made sure she took a seat in the front row to the far right, near the door. I’m also in the front row, but to the far left. Though tempted, I dare not sneak a glance directly at her for fear she might happen to look my way at the same time. What if our eyes accidentally locked? Fuck, what a harrowing thought! What’s to say I wouldn’t have a heart attack on the spot, or experience some sort of embarrassing epileptic seizure? So, I begin to sketch an elaborate schooner with a pencil and a ruler on a sheet of writing paper. That should take up the whole hour.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is busy cutting dirty words into the top of his desk with an unnecessarily large hunting knife. I've seen his pearls of literary wonder engraved on other desks. I’m slouched down so low in my chair that I’m practically laying on the floor. Victor and Michael are engaged in a spirited spitball fight. They never bully me because I’m the one who taught them how to make the perfect spitball, very round and with the right weight-to-size-ratio. And I showed them how to assemble and utilize two spliced and taped McDonald’s straws as the barrel to achieve maximum distance, velocity, and accuracy. Prior to that, they used hollowed pens as their weapons. Their weapons often jammed because the barrel was too narrow and the spitballs were not round enough. Spitball and projectile manufacturing combined with test practice and adjustments are really a fine art and it should be included in the school curriculum in place of say, metal shop.

Of course, there’s Miss Camp, our math teacher, at her desk grading papers or something. I feel sorry for her. So few of us legitimately pass her class, yet the system pushes us ahead anyway. That’s urban life for you. Poor Miss Camp -- burned out like the rest.

My mind wanders aimlessly. I feel my forearms and biceps. Today my muscles are hard and well defined. It's scary. Yesterday I was a skinny toothpick. My bones have been annoying the hell out of me for over a year; A frequent dull ache. I’m growing too fast.

It sucks in this prison, but I imagine they're all the same. I wonder why I’m always so bored in school. Obviously, it's not because I'm too smart. I just compromise doing the right thing, then wind up in miserable detention. Will I ever pull it together? No time soon. I'll start learning after I hit 16, when they can expel me. By then, the stakes between learning and not learning will become much higher. Who knows? A decade or two from now, maybe I’ll wind up back in school on my own free will.

Isn’t it comical that because of my stubbornness, anything I’m forced to do usually remains undone, yet that same task might be fun if only I had the power of choice?

The hell with them all—I’ll do it my way; take the long way around, the hard way, the uphill way. Sure it’s stupid and getting there is a long shot, but if I make it, I’ll wind up stronger than the rest because I’ll have paid more than then them.

If suffrage doesn't bury me first, it will temper me, and ultimately I'll have developed too much self-confidence to even remember what a hue looks like.



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