Sometimes when I'm very bored or pretending to listen to someone, I begin slouching in my chair... and then I hear it, CRACK! The sound of a ruler smacking a desk.
With the rapid reflexes of a jungle-dwelling ocelot I spring back up in my chair, cursing the day I was ever forced to attend Catholic school.
Weird people aren't born weird, Catholic school makes them that way. If you see a man smoking weed in front of the mall with a towering pink mohawk and a giant nosering, you can bet that his parents are in the nearest church just begging the good Lord above to get their son to move out of the house. Following this logic makes it easy for me to blame everything wrong with me on Catholic school.
When I learned my first curse word in the seventh grade, I blamed Catholic school. In Lawton, you're a certified gangster as soon as you hit second grade. If you're not stealing things in the fifth grade from the nearest Wal Mart and bragging about it to your friends while incorporating three different obscene words in the retelling, then you're seriously slacking. In Catholic school, this was not so. In Catholic school, not eating your vegetables meant a stern talking to and five years added to your purgatory. Saying you didn't like a classmate meant a two-page written apology, and the risk of an eternity in hell. The apology lessens these chances.
But most of all, I blame everything on the first teacher I ever had: Sister Herman Mary, or the Herm for short. I guess it's just because I feel I started off wrong. In books and movies I always saw the same thing, a tender hearted twenty-something teacher kindly nurturing and reading stories to her attentive students. She always had a handkerchief when you were crying and always had snacks and games to bring to the table. Not the Herm, the only things the Herm brought to the table were ass-whoopings. Just as that tender hearted twenty-something southern belle never ran out of handkerchiefs and kind words, the Herm was never short on whoop-ass.
She wore thin silver-wire glasses, her gray hair always went in every single direction as if it was trying to flee from her scalp, and only cracked a smile when she saw that someone's uniform was untucked and she had the opportunity to ram it back into place with her giant, yellow, crooked nails. I find the whole uniform thing hypocritical in the first place, Jesus practically lived in a simple bath robe.
I still recall one particularly brutal day of kindergarten where we were all making art for the archbishop. Our job was to paint different colors on a styrofoam plate. My classmates were all using reds, yellows, blues, and pinks, and using the same colors would just make me feel like a conformist. So, always the artist, I chose to be edgier and use blacks and grays. After handing in all of our work, I felt like Picasso. I had broken the mold, no one could deny it. I envisioned the archbishop shuffling through twenty plates that all looked the same, tossing them one by one into the nearest garbage can, and then stopping as he reached mine. "Why, here's a creative little student!" he would say, "Now this one I will keep!"
Then I saw the Herm stomping towards me with my artwork in hand. I thought at first she might be coming to applaud my artistic efforts, but by the look on her face I began to doubt it.
"Do you know what the archbishop will think when he sees this?" she wheezed, the journey from one side of the room to the other had taken its toll on her.
"No." is what I said. I wanted to say, 'that he likes it', but I didn't think we were seeing eye to eye on this one.
"He will probably cry!" she declared, waving my black and gray plate in my face, "He will think you're a sad boy for making it so dark!" Her eyes narrowed, it was the kind of look a hawk gets when it sees a mouse in the field. I noticed my uniform was untucked. The Herm was ready to hand out yet another heavy dose of whoop-ass.
But not today, I had suffered enough today. I had been pushed to the egde. I darted for the door, leaving her yellow claws in my wind, still groping for something.
I ran out the door and into the boy's bathroom, hoping that she wouldn't follow me. I was wrong. I heard the door begin to open, and I darted into a stall and started making gagging noises. She waited. Eventually, I walked out.
"What was that?!" she demanded. I had to think quick.
"You made me sick, I got nervous and had to throw up."
She thought about it a while, grabbed me, walked me back to the classroom, and firmly sat me down in my seat. She was obviously too upset to just let it go, but too afraid that I might actually be sick and cause a conference.
I looked down at my plate, what at first was a masterpiece now looked like sad blobs of gray and black thrown randomly in every direction. I glared at the Herm, hoping that one day I would paint a masterpiece similar in nature to my plate, and then, in time, make my triumphant return just to rub it in her face.