The Rhyme of a Cheater

March 10, 2012
I was a good kid.

Not just the kind of kid that, if I went to jail, was involved in a knife fight, or got pregnant, people would say "but she seemed like such a good kid", but a GOOD kid. A too good to be true kid. A namby pamby. A goody two shoes. I baked for my teachers, for goodness sakes. I had a positive attitude every second of every day. I was THAT kid. All honors, a volunteer on the side, cast in every musical... that kid.

It's amazing how quickly that can be forgotten in the burning eyes of an angry teacher.

For those of you who approach this piece without prejudice, it must seem at this point that I murdered. In a pinch, at least a manslaughter in the 2nd degree. But no, my crime of the hour was stealing. Stealing words, to be exact. Cheating. That being, I cheated. Not on a final exam, not on a chapter test, but on a piddly little 20 point homework assignment about protein synthesis. It was nothing, just copied words in the minutes before class began. Started by a simple question, "can I copy your homework? I forgot to do mine." This of course was a lie, I hadn't wanted to take the time to understand the content, but didn't want to sacrifice 20 points at the beginning of a semester. So I frantically scratched the words that would be my unravelling, words like "correlated mutation" and "UAG Codon".

Of course, like all first time offenders of violent crimes, I was caught.

I should have known something was up, when I flashed my frightening to most, blinding to the rest, 20000 watt smile at my teacher at 7am on a Monday and he didn't smile back. Hesitantly, I took my seat. A few minutes later, he asked, in a voice from below, for me to please follow him to the corner.

A moment on the corner. It never spells good things. You never hear someone say, "Good girl! To the corner with you!" And why? Because the corner has come to represent shame. It is where two walls meet, no longer good enough to be their own, and are forced together. It's where the dunces stand. The children not good enough for seats, the adults not good enough to watch what's going on in the middle of the room. It's embarrassing to be in the corner, so that was my first sign.

When I get there, after not just smelling the roses, but watering and singing to them too, I find a red faced teacher and another girl from my class. He is holding our papers. He shows us the similarities, several answers misspelled identically. We glance at each other, fear spelled clearly on our faces. I look into his eyes with the terror of a baby rabbit, and he gives no mercy. He tells me this is an honors class, that he expects better of me, and that I am a fool for trying to pull the wool over his eyes. I meekly accept the blame, suggesting that he take all our points away, trying to accept the consequences. This is, apparently, a mistake, because now I am seen as trying to tell him what he can and cannot do. He bellows, his chubby cheeks puffing out at me, trying to shame me into tears. Unfortunately, this works. I retreat to my chair, stare at the wall, blink back my shame until the bell rings. At the very least this is embarrassing, but for me it is earth-shattering. In the days and weeks to come it appears he will not forgive my crime. I am banned from drawing on the board, given no more than an accusatory stare when I try and smile. To him, I probably look like I'm trying to win him over. To me, I'm trying to move on, do the things adults constantly scream at me to do...move on. This is my first taste of life on the wild side, and I hate it so much that I tumble back into my little shell.

It may not seem like a big thing, but it was a bomb in my church. I am no longer an innocent flower, a dirty child has rubbed me carelessly with a rusty thumb. I can't get over this incident, but I can't seem to fix it either.

I've since then decided that being completely perfect is overrated. Sure, I still smile way too much, and am probably too nice to the world, but I know enough to not expect it to smile back once I frown, no matter how many cookies I bake it.





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