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Ever since I was a little kid with an acorn haircut and little glasses, I liked school. Unlike other kids who threw tantrums and refused to budge out of bed in the morning, I leapt out from underneath my covers, excited to meet my friends. And factoring that in with the morals ingrained in me as a child by my parents, I have never skipped a class in my entire life. So when, in sixth grade, I transferred to a prestigious school, I felt honored. Yet, in this top-class school, I met some not so top-class people.
When I walked into my first Japanese class, the terror of a new environment filled me to the brim. As I took my first step into the classroom, a chilling breeze passed by my ankles. I’m pretty sure it was just my nerves messing with my head, but at that moment I felt as if I was walking through a graveyard at midnight. But almost a split second later, I heard, “Hey! Why don’t you sit here?” I looked up and saw a face I had seen in the halls many times before: it was Waldo. Immediately, that graveyard vibe flew away, and I was starting to feel the sun’s warmth again. Waldo was a jokester who stood six feet tall and built like a football player. He was hilarious but had a tendency to talk in class.
Waldo had a tendency to skip classes, not very often, but enough that I noticed it. If Waldo was in the heat of a basketball game with a couple of friends, he might just brush off the fact that he had a class to keep playing. I never understood how he did it. If I had the choice between playing a game or being a good student, I could never skip class because I’d feel too guilty.
My eyes jumped from the huge clock tower to the Spikeball. We only had five minutes left in the period, and I kept trying to score the final point for Waldo and my team. But the game seemed like it would go on for eternity; the tension was so high you could cut it with a knife. Every slap of the ball, every “tsch” seemed to be in slow motion. The minute hand passed the hour and the clock tower chimed twelve o’clock. All I could think of was, the game isn’t done. I can’t leave. Students flowed out of the building to go to their next class and my mind was in a panic. I thought to myself, What if I just skipped once? No, you were taught better. But just this once. NO. Come on, just once. It can’t hurt. NO NO NO NO NO. But then the serve of the next point came to me. As I saw the small yellow rubber ball bounce off of the net onto the ground and land in front of me, I had no choice; I had to skip class.
The first few minutes of skipping were incredibly fun. The diving, the smashes of the ball, the fakes were unending. Grass stains on our clothes from diving and our shirts covered in sweat, the intensity was on a new level. Waldo and I went on to win the game. As soon as we won, the reality hit me.
I JUST SKIPPED MY CLASS!
At that moment, I knew that the rest of the period would feel like a never-ending flood of feelings. I wanted to rush to history class and apologize, but the embarrassment would be unbearable. When my teacher, Mr. Greene, would ask for the reason why I was late, there would be no good excuse for coming into class ten minutes late, covered in sweat and having grass stains on your pants. Also, chilling with Waldo was so much more fun than a boring history class. So I decided to be a rebel.
Despite convincing myself that I was a cool rebel, the lush green grass that we played Spikeball on felt like it had become a mix of lava and quicksand as I nervously thought about what to do next. With every step I took, it was as if my feet could barely move despite my antsiness. I could not shake the feeling that someone would catch us in this wide-open space. Though I was jumpy, Waldo, as usual, did not have a hint of regret or fear on his face. I tried acting as if I wasn’t nervous, but in my stomach, I could feel everything being turned upside down. We were almost off the field and on the gray concrete that looked so comforting when I saw a teacher walking towards us. Butterflies flew up from my stomach into my esophagus, ready to fly out of my mouth. I moved to the other side of Waldo, hiding behind him so the teacher would see less of me. Right then Waldo, still covered in sweat, told me, “Dude, just have confidence. No one will question you if you look like you aren’t doing anything wrong.” At first, I was confused, but then it started to make sense. In that one-hundred-yard walk across the field, I felt nervous, guilty, happy--but I also learned how to act like you are doing everything right. Imitating Waldo and holding my head high, I tried to ignore that my stomach felt like it was going to drop.
Once we passed the teacher and hit the concrete, I immediately felt better because we were mostly out of sight of our hawk-eyed teachers. We walked off the campus and downtown towards the restaurants and Van Cortlandt Park. I could have never dreamed of going off campus without permission and especially skipping a class for it, but no one stopped us as Waldo led us to get pizza at Broadway Joe’s. I looked at him and thought, is he crazy? So many people go down there, we are most certainly going to get caught! Immediately I told Waldo that I wasn’t feeling pizza today and that maybe we should get Chinese food. Being Waldo, and not really caring about anything, he gladly agreed. I felt so relieved until I stepped into the Chinese restaurant.
As the cold wind from the air conditioner hit my still sweaty face, my eyes darted straight towards a very recognizable teacher. Mr. Petras, towering at 6’2 with his jeans and button-down plaid shirt and the pencil resting on his right ear, stood looking at the menu. My brain went into a frenzy, but I could not move my body to run. My feet like they were trapped in concrete. Waldo, on the other hand, GREETED MR. PETRAS!! Why in the world would you greet a teacher while you are breaking a rule that can get you multiple detentions??? I could not understand the logic behind Waldo’s actions. I wanted to yell and run, but I just stood like a statue. Waldo ordered his General Tsao’s Chicken and I got my regular beef and broccoli combo with rice. I don’t know if it was because the feeling of skipping class, but the beef tasted stale and the once juicy broccoli felt dry in my mouth.
The guilt started to build up inside me as I ate my meal, filling me from my stomach to my neck. Mr. Petras got take out, which was a huge relief because I could not imagine if he had sat down and eaten right next to us. As I was around halfway through my “guilt meal,” I realized that skipping class was not just breaking the rules, but it was also incredibly rude. As I saw Mr. Petras leave, I thought about Mr. Greene. My teacher was spending his time to teach us and better our knowledge in the subject, and I had just ignored the teacher’s precious time. I looked down at my black and blue Swatch watch on my left wrist; there were ten minutes left in the period. The first thirty-five minutes of the period went by so quickly, but these last ten seemed to drag on forever. Somehow, right at that moment, Waldo said, “Hey Allen, why so tense? Loosen up, man!”
During the walk back to campus, Waldo talked about his football game last night and how he needed to get his grades up by the end of the year. Even though I wanted to suggest that skipping class less often might help his grades, I tried to enjoy the rest of my first ever ditched class. But, as soon as I stepped back on campus, the feeling of guilt and fear rushed back into my system. I slowly walked back into the building and then BAM!, I saw Mr. Greene. Immediately I ran and hid behind some lockers.
Panic and anxiety rushed to my head. Waldo had disappeared. I did not know what to do or where to go because Mr. Greene was coming straight for me. His footsteps inched closer. Making a break for it, I sprinted for the closest bathroom. I went into a stall and waited. I looked at my watch and saw that the next class started in less than two minutes.
I held my breath and waited. The bathroom doors never opened. The coast was clear! Walking into the empty hallway, I made my way to my next class and apologized to my teacher for being twenty seconds late.