{October 3, 2012}   Skipping School

When I was fifteen, I spent most of my time locked in my room. I had no social life outside of school because I was on constant restriction, so to have friends, I’d skip classes. If I heard that somebody was having a party because their parents were out of town, I’d skip class to be there. When skipping school, I learned how to drink tequila with salt and a lemon. I decided I didn’t like tequila. I found out first hand about the dangers of drinking too much Boone’s Farm apple wine. I joined the daredevils and outcasts of my school, and smoked with them in the breezeway during the 15 minute smoke break students were allowed. I sneaked out of school with them to eat lunch at Shoney’s or hang out at Lum’s on South Cobb Drive. While everyone else was in school, I went cave diving, swimming at Lake Altoona, and rafting down the Chattahoochee River. The only hitch was, I had to be home by 4:00.

I continued to keep a diary that chronicled my daytime adventures. The small pages of the one-year lockables didn’t have enough space for daily entries and a tiny key and lock was no deterrent to keep my mother out of my diary, so I switched to spiral notebooks that I hid in my closet. As I wrote in my notebook, I’d listen to Bread’s Greatest Hits and Who’s Next.  I’d turn it up so I couldn’t hear the knocks on my door.  My parents conducted random searches of my room looking for drugs. They never found anything, but that didn’t stop them from searching. Because I spent so much time with my bedroom door closed, Mother threatened to take the door off the hinges so they could observe everything I did. What I did was draw in spiral notebooks with colored pencils. I loved the fantasy of Peter Max’s swirls and colors. I also started writing poems.

I was introduced to poetry by Mrs. Johnson, my tenth grade English teacher. Mrs. Johnson was a short, blonde haired woman of about fifty, with very intense brown eyes with dark circles beneath them. She didn’t care about the rumors that she was the most boring teacher at Osborne High. She didn’t care that most students put their heads on their desk and slept through her class.  I hung on Mrs. Johnson’s every word. I looked around the class to see who else was as enraptured by Mrs. Johnson’s reading of Wordsworth’s “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey”. No one was awake. How could anyone sleep through such divine descriptions of nature and god?  “…and I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts…” I imagined Wordsworth lying in a field of grass, looking at the sky as he wrote in his notebook. I underlined the important passages in my textbook and notes in the margins.

We also read classic novels in class. Mrs. Johnson taught us about symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. She clarified meaning and illuminated the pages of Wuthering Heights. She urged us to read H.D. Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. With a title like that, I knew I had to check it out. She drew an outline on the chalkboard of the soul’s journey that leads to nirvana, a path that few choose to take. The most important thing about the journey was to leave nirvana and return to the world to share experiences with others. This is what made the lives of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed distinctive from other seekers. I would re-write the notes I took in class in my journal and draw pictures. I bought a copy of Walden from a bookshop in the mall where I worked after school. Mrs. Johnson was the teacher who gave me a small key to the private entrance of elevated thought.

These elevated thoughts sometimes conflicted with my newfound identity as serial school skipper, although I always tried to make it to Mrs. Johnson’s class. It wasn’t long before I started getting caught. I was in trouble at school and at home continually throughout the year. The random raids of my room by my parents grew more frequent. Finally, I was forbidden to shut the door to my room. I shut the door anyway, and locked it.  This was the beginning of my own civil disobedience.


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