Many Faces of the Same Tune: Chapter One
Posted May 11 2012
Sometimes whenever Boredom and his friend Exhaustion comes knocking and I have nothing else to do—like in Mr. Deveroe's math class—I find myself wondering why people are the way they are. Not as in how they look, because it is written in the unwritten teenage rule book that what happens in Health class, stays in Health class. No, I mean, like, the way a person acts. Every time my mind wanders, it's this same concept that pokes at the pink folds of my brain:
Are we born with our personalities or is that something that changes as we get older?
Because if people are born as they are, it's sort of the same thing as saying destiny is real. Which would pretty much be the perfect epitome of life if you were, say, a world-class assassin that traveled the globe, ridding it of miscreants and flirting with your cute Asian sidekick. But, if you really contemplate it, could also mean if it was fated my ending up like a semi-hobo crashing in my parent's basement and raising lab rats for scientific experiment would also be inevitable.
Or is a personality something others can influence, something that is cultivated as you grow—like vegetables. So let's say at first everybody thought you were going to be a sweet little radish, but them you suddenly grow into a nasty red tomato. Because let's face it, tomatoes are a freak of nature. Are they vegetables? Are they fruits? Are they fruitables? I would ask, but all the people who would know are super geeks, and most likely on some weird mental steroids since nobody should ever be that a smart unless you plan on being an astronaut or some other such otherworldly profession. I mean, we go to a liberal arts school, so our motto is pretty much 'Who needs brains when you've got natural aesthetic talent?'
Which, I decided, was pure genius and was getting ready to share with my friend Jeremy when I felt the sharp crackle of pain on my skull. It wasn't, like, excruciating, but it was definitely enough to thoroughly freak me out. Snapping my head to the side, I found myself peering into the stern face of Mr. Deveroe, his bushy eyebrows furrowed like a tiny forest creature and his ham-like pink head glistening under the florescent school lighting. When I finally managed to tear my gaze away from its unnaturally shiny luster, I also noted—within horror—that his wakening tool had been a finger skating magazine curled up in one hand, which everyone who isn't gay knows is gay but everyone who is gay seems oblivious to.
“Miss McLoughlin,” he addressed me with almost mock severity, “would you like to take your dream addled brain out into the hall?”
My reply came so instantly that I barely had time to register that someone had actually uttered the words 'dream addled.'
“Yes, if you wouldn't mind,” I blurted out.
And it was in that moment that I decided the best way to be roused from your rare physiological deep thoughts is Not To Be, especially by an angry ham-like teacher who can't take a joke. Not even a dream addled one.
He led me out into the hallway like a Man On A Mission—namely, to ruin my life. Trailing after him like a guilty puppy with a limp in it's step, I kind of did this slumping, dragging-my-feet thing. I knew where we were going. It was a place where happiness goes to die, the slaughterhouse for teenagers. The place where they call your parents and rat you out. Yeah, that's right.
The principle's office.
Swinging the door open with a decidedly triumphant flourish, Mr. Deveroe paraded us into the tiny waiting room. Seriously, it was miniscule, like the kind of place a hobbit could happily make home and person could easily develop claustrophobia in. With menacingly low ceiling, it was pretty much an ivory box. But it wasn't the kind of blank canvas an artist such as myself would find tempting, the kind that practically begged you to rescue it from emptiness and deliver it into the World of Beautiful Color. No, these plain white walls seemed to taunt me, daring me to escape from my impending Doom. In one corner of the room was a strangely large desk, or at least it looked strangely large in this midget cave, where a homely black secretary was hard at work doing whatever it is secretaries do. Which, as far as I could tell, involved a lot of typing.
Mr. Deveroe cleared his throat importantly and announced with as much authority as his strangely feminine voice could muster (which wasn't much), “I assume you you are licensed to take it from here, Mrs. Flemming?”
I swear I saw a look of annoyance cross her face, but then she fixed her expression with a placid business smile.
“Of course, Mr. Deveroe, you are welcome to leave now,” she replied, but her tone made in quite clear that all that was welcome to him was the door.
To me, however, she offered a pint-sized chair. But apparently Mr. Deveroe could not take her not-so-subtle hint, instead he allowed himself the time to cast me the most unfriendly wink in the history of winking before stalking off to torture another unsuspecting student. It was then that I decided he fed off the torment of others, like vampire except for with torment. I opened my mouth to thank the secretary for delivering me from the clutches of a particularly frightening emotional vampire, but found her perched in her swivel chair again with her fingers flying over her keyboard at what was roughly the speed of light.
So there I was, staring blankly at blankness—in fact, I even managed to write a very impressive analogy pertaining to my life and how, like the walls, bleak it was—when Doom popped her perfectly made-up face out of her office. Doom, or more commonly known as Principle Callaway, herded me into her office with a firm pair of hands on my shoulders and plopped me down in an overstuffed chair. She had a grip, I noted, that was surprisingly strong for a woman of her advanced years. I was about to make the comment that a hand on the shoulder is the first sign of rape and hence made students—i.e. me—uncomfortable to be touched in such a way by their 'educational elder,' which is the term Principle Callaway prefers to be address as because she claims that learning is a life-long journey. I sincerely hope it isn't. I'm only a sophmore and my brain already feels fried. But before I could point any of these observations out, her voice adopted a sickeningly down-to-earth quality
“Now, Aoife, can I call you Aoife?” Principle Callaway asked, but it was clearly not a genuine question since she just plowed on ahead with her trademark plastic-y smile.
She went on, ranting about the obscene challenges teenagers face nowadays but how she still has faith in my generation despite the odds (I don't), but all the while I was just thinking she looked way more like an elderly hooker than anyone's 'educational elder.'
When she finally decided that she had properly steered me onto The Path of Enlightenment—which to her meant weekly mani-pedis with regular rounds of botox injections, no doubt—I was allowed to retreat back to my classroom and into the waiting embrace of my 'educational equals,' as the delightful Principle Callaway refers to those of us trapped in the same vile grade.
As if my entrance set off some kind of alarm, they mobbed me as soon as I set foot the room. Not mobbed in the unpleasant, gang-banged sense, but the slightly overbearing yet friendly kind.
The kind I was used to.
I launched into a animated retelling of my lovely chat with my Educational Elders, adding in very realistic imitations of not only Mr. Deveroe's creepy eye twitch but also Principle Callaway's claw-like hands. The whole class encased me like a human wall, barring my view. But through the gaps in their shoulder I caught the glimpse of one girl perched alone in her desk.
She was unmoving, unbreathing, like a statue, with cold, hard features. She was beautiful, but discreetly so—an elegant jawline, a smooth caramel complexion, a stray lock of ebony hair falling into deep, liquidy brown eyes. Eyes so knowing... eyes... so full of pain.
An eager hand falls on my arm, yanking me back to reality. My reality—a place so surrounded by love, showered in smiles, and dipped in laughter.
I tried to push the thought out of my mind, but now a new question haunted me:
What is her reality?