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At Middle Creek Middle School we were nothing, except ordinary, run of the mill. They did put middle in the school’s name twice! How midgrade can you be? A middle school, with average test scores, mediocre teachers, humdrum students, moderate class schedules, even our school lunch was standard.
Everyone was exactly proportionate to each other, except for one eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Doherty.
Mr. Doherty was the kind of man who could play the guitar and the harmonica at the same time. The kind of man that has black and white paintings of his literary heroes; the kind of man that puts Tupac in between MLK Jr. and Lincoln on the wall. The kind of eccentric man that nobody seems to question.
But in spite of all these great things he is still a teacher, and he does give assignments. We have to give a speech on something we feel strongly about and among all the commonplace problems of too much homework, more recess, race and better school lunch. I feel like being a little shit, so, in front of the only teacher who I think won't suspend me for this, Ryland “Thomas the tank” Harris, capping off at 120 pounds soaking wet at 5 feet and 6 inches about to recite the speech of a lifetime where heads will roll. The soon to be class clown of Middle Creek High here I go:
“You know, I almost feel bad for the people who grew up without the internet. Actually turning to real tangible hard copy books to get their rocks off. The lack of variety, oh the humanity! To have to have some covert mission to the “special” box in you parents’ room only to see the same nudes you saw the week before.
“Or you have friends that also get into their parents hiding places and you trade. Best case scenario; somebody has an older brother who buys it for you, but there’s still the monotony!
“With the internet I could change my preference every week and there would still be something I haven't seen before or some newly released longer version, so don’t panic. There is no possible way to get bored because it's all there, at my fingertips, whenever I want it.
“But I guess at some point it becomes sensory overload. All of that variety now hinders you when you actually get the real thing. Your expectations were so high before you even got to experience so that once you do you’re set up for a lifetime of disappointment, or celibacy, because no actual person can live up to what you’ve made for yourself. So in a way our parents lives end up fuller than ours. They had to have the thrill of getting it on in a real movie theatre, and we only netflix and chill.
“What I really mean is I have access to everything, everywhere, and anytime. Unless my parents are around in which case sound off, screen off, and in a pocket. And it's not like I would care that they know, but they would feel like they failed me. How could you fail as a parent because your child has sexual interests? Isn't that how I got here? Mom and dad decided to bump uglies without a condom and roughly 40 weeks later, me. Why should they care if their son wants to see some young people fornicating for a change? My point is that it's completely natural and I know that most of us have seen it at least once, I’m just putting it out there so we can all be more open.”
I stepped off the stage in Mr. Doherty’s classroom and was received not with applause, but with silence. I know what I did. It was brilliant! But if people dont understand thats fine by me. At least I did this on a thursday and long weekends aren't that bad. I go to turn in my speech and he looks at me like he doesn't know what to say, I wouldn't either, but I’m not in charge.
I go back to my desk and the next person is called like nothing even happened, I was a little upset. I mean, I just blew your mind! Some credit please, nobody else would have had the gall to present that. I Ryland “Thomas the tank” Harris, writer of the greatest eighth grade speech in Middle Creek Middle history, is about to get no recognition for his masterpiece!
At the end of class, after all of the mainstream speeches Mr. Doherty asked me to stay after. I thought to myself, ‘this is the moment of truth. I’ll either get all of the praise I yearned for, or I get suspended. Or both.’
He turns to me in his swivel chair and gives me an undecipherable look, “Ryland, I appreciate your spunk, but go to the administration office. Your piece was highly inappropriate, and you know that if it up to me I wouldn't mind as much because I’m all about creativity, but this isn't something I don’t have to report. I’ll probably see you on monday, here’s your pass.”
I took my pass, and traipsed out of the classroom and down the labyrinth of hallways until I came upon the main office. I handed my pass to the receptionist who never seems to know anything, sat down in one of the poorly upholstered chairs and waited for the principal to come for me.
It wasn't actually him, and it wasn't a one on one affair. I felt like I was walking into a board meeting, they got a panel to “discuss my indiscretions” as they put it. They each droned on and on about propriety and respecting others and a bunch of things that, quite frankly, I don't care about at the moment.
They told me I would not be coming to school tomorrow and I should take that day to think about what I did wrong as well as write a letter of apology to my class. And when they asked me why I could have possibly thought this was a good idea I glanced back at them from looking out of the cloudy window and said in my best psychiatrist voice, “My diagnosis, puberty.”