The poetry of details
On skipping school.
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
When you live in a small city, you're neighbors know you quite well. When you're parents are teachers in a small town, everybody knows you - or knows of you. I was a good student most of the time. I was never late, did my homework, didn't get into arguments with my classmates, was polite to my teachers, ate my lunch and cleaned my desk. Until one day, when I decided to skip a class.
We were 20+ students in one class and rarely changed classrooms. We had to pack our things for the gym class and go to the other building, which was 10 minutes walk away, but other than that, life was pretty standard. Come to school, learn some stuff, go home, do homework and repeat.
There were three rows in a classroom, and two people shared a desk. I wanted to stay next to a boy - and it happened that I was the only girl in that row. I never question my choice; Anto is one of the funniest people I met in my life. We used to laugh a lot during classes, just by pointing to the famous dead writer who had his picture hanged on the wall next to us. "Ioana, I don't care if you give me back my pencil. I will forget about it at some point. But look at him", Anto used to say, emphasizing on the pronoun. "Look at his eyes. You know he's watching you, and he will not go easy on you - he knows."
And during the breaks, the guys from my part of the class were discussing football and cars and motorcycles. Zero interested in any of the subjects. I pretended for a long time that I am a big fan of a certain football team and nodded in agreement every time they were complaining about the performances of certain football players. Of course, I knew nothing about the Romanian championship - I still don't, but growing up with a brother and my dad being a sports teacher made my pretending very easy. I was part of the "boys gang," and I loved it. And so I started doing things "only boys do." I started skipping class.
Another boy I was friends with was Andrei, and he was sitting in the middle row, right in the back. He was also sharing a desk with a girl and one day she wasn't there, and he had an idea. "Let's go and do something bad!"
I thought it was a brilliant idea - it was late spring, and I wanted to be outside anyhow. I followed Andrei to an abandoned house who was twenty minutes away from our school - so getting there was an adventure itself - and climbed to the attic. The roof tiles were long gone, so we had a view of the city that took our breath away. The sun was shining; the birds were flying above our head; we had to watch the steps when moving from one corner to the other. We were "the bad kids" who turned into explorers and - suddenly - philosophers. Andrei lit a cigarette and explained how adults are annoying sometimes. I remember the roof bearing structure casting a shadow on his face and in that moment - while he was still learning how to smoke - I told him that he is a genius. Everything he said made sense. The last few puffs of the cigarette also meant that the decision was made - he will make music for a living. Another brilliant idea, I thought.
We went back to school and Antoniu, without asking me where I was or what I did, pointed to the back of the classroom, at another portrait of a famous man and whispered: "He knows. And he's a spy." I burst into laughter and promised to behave for the next days - which I did until I discovered the wonders of the Internet.
An Internet Cafe opened in our small city and that meant you could get online and talk to strangers on mIrc and play online video games. I spent many hours acquiring skills at Counterstrike - I was better than a few guys there and took a lot of pride in that. It was also a place to meet people from other schools and since I was about to go to high school soon, making friends was my excuse when my father discovered that I'm skipping class. My Counterstrike days were over, and I had to behave again.
The school was getting in the way of my fun, and I blamed geography for that. Paying attention to geography and learning about mountains and rivers was so dull, that I dreamt about skipping every class for as long as I can. But not because of the teacher - she was quite charming and tried everything. She gave me a book about The Kon-Tiki expedition, a book I returned without reading more than 30 pages. She gave me "The old man and the sea" and explained some things about Cuba. My lack of enthusiasm put an end to her efforts and told my mom that I should not consider a career that is even slightly related to geography.
And then I found other reasons to skip school and was better at hiding it from my parents. Or so I thought. They decided - without telling me for a long time - to let the failures of the previous day disappear as each new day dawned. They allowed me to experience life from my point of view, acknowledged that my thoughts and feelings are separated from them and I'm the only one who can decide my journey in life. And that's how I learned about freedom.