A storm is approaching, I noted as I stared helplessly out the window. It was a crisp autumn day, the falling leaves looked ever so lifeless and shrivelled. This was my life, dull, without meaning; a habitual, menial routine generating no sparks of interest. There was a film from the 90s, the only film I ever watched until that point in my life, where the main character states that “living in Endora is like dancing to music.” I guess that applies to my life as well.
“Daniel? Would you like to answer that question?” the teacher asked. I vaguely recalled him regarding himself as Dr. Smith, or Dr. Smythe, or some other common, nondescript surname.
“I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention,” I replied, wondering why in the world he would single out the kid who was not disrupting his class in any way.
“That's right you weren't. Don't make me phone your parents again!” You have a doctorate, I thought, what in the world are you doing instructing a bunch of spoilt, boisterous 2nd grade kids and expecting them to listen?
The last threat set my back rigid. I became aware of the twenty or so pairs of eyes that were stinging and probing at my head. They were all so neatly groomed, their hair and teeth were all in pristine condition, and they were all immaculately dressed: with their freshly-ironed shirts tucked into their stainless grey shorts and their black school shoes that were so polished I was able to see my reflection in them — a reflection of such contrast, one that I would rather purge from my memory.
I didn't fit in here, this wasn't my place. I felt like Oliver Twist residing in the English upper-class of the 19th Century. I felt as queer as a three-dollar note. And that bitter feeling of rejection, perhaps segregation, from my peers was like being stabbed with the venom of a coiling snake, primed to decimate any shred of hope or joy inside.
I made an attempt to look productive, to will myself to pay attention, to participate, to learn, regardless of what others thought of me, the boy wearing the ragged and tattered shirt, the half-shredded tie and the mud-smeared shorts a size too small.
“Alrighty boys! Listen up! Do any of you boys know what this word on the whiteboard means?” inquired our teacher, panning around the classroom for a boy that would meet his gaze. None seemed to be willing. It was amazing how a teacher could hush the class by asking a simple question.
I stared at the word hastily written in an almost spent whiteboard marker. Words of advice from my teacher last year resounded in my head. “When in doubt, sound it out,” her shrill, piercing voice penetrated through the vacuum of my mind. Oc? Oc-u? Oc-oo? Oc-oo-pat? Oc-oo-pat-ee-on? Was that how you said it?
During my ventures into the realm of four-syllable English words, a boy sitting several rows across was confident yet foolish enough to raise his hand.
“Yes?” The doctor pointed at the boy and gestured for him to continue.
“With your permission to speak sir, I...