Monday, November 22, 2010

Third time is a charm

             I am free!

My third time getting suspended

Detention had become routine during my high school years. I found acting out in school was an appropriate payback for the conflict I was experiencing at home between my parents and me. Reunification with my parents was not going as planned. I was not adapting well to strict parental rules, a foreign culture, and lack of a cohesive extended family.

All communication between my grandmother and me had ceased. Not because I wanted it to but because I was not provided the avenue to by my parents. I missed my grandmother dearly. Much more than I thought I would.

And school did not fill the void left by my transplantation. If anything, school created a canvas for me to recreate myself in America. The result of that recreation was often detention.

I did not see detention as necessarily hurting me as a student. My grades were good and I was ahead of my classmates in terms of understanding the course material presented.

In fact, during my senior year in high school, I was granted special permission to take FORTRAN (an advanced computer programming language) at Pace University at night. There I was - a teenager in class with a bunch of grown-ups with full-time jobs and families at home.

Pushing the limits of rules and regulations were my focus.

The third time I got suspended was for breaking what I thought was one of the most stupid rules on the book. But of course I was young. I did not see the whole picture of how my actions could jeopardize the standing of the institution.

I lived a few blocks from school. It took me approximately 15 minutes to walk from door to door. I would walk in the snow, heavy downpours, and blazing summer heat. We did not have a bus to pick us up.

I was not allowed to leave school grounds once I entered the school gate. It was a regulation that no one tested. I was locked down for the entire seven hours.

One day I forgot my lunch and I had no money to purchase food from the cafeteria. So I did the next best thing, I left school to go home to get some food.

It was easy to leave school. There was a back gate hidden from the peering eyes of faculty and staff. I executed my plan to perfection. I went to the bathroom when my class was dismissed for lunch, slipped out the building when no one was looking, walked down the hill on the Southwest side, and out the gate.

It was my first time leaving the grounds without permission. I felt free, walking, swinging my arms, and whistling. Soon I would be home eating that tasty lasagna that my mother cooked the night before.

I had gotten three blocks away from my house. I stopped on the corner of a street and waited for the light to change. There was hardly any traffic on the roadway.

A light blue late model car was waiting across the street on the side of oncoming traffic. I was on the side with the flow of traffic.

I stepped down off the curb and onto the crosswalk as the light turned green for oncoming traffic and the walk signal facing me turned white.

The approaching car slowed down to a crawl as it passed through the intersection. I turned my head slightly to the left to see who was driving and caught the Dean of Students in his familiar black beard and matching habit looking dead at me from the driver side window.

As if it was a Saturday afternoon, excited, and with a broad smile, I raised my right hand and waved hello.

The Dean stared at me for a moment, scowled his face, turned forward, and continued driving.

It took me a millisecond to realize that it was not Saturday. That in fact it was a school day, at lunch time, outside school grounds, and I had just waved to the Dean as if he was my cousin.

I shoved the thought of trouble out of my head and kept on walking being guided by the rumblings of my stomach and thoughts of lasagna.

I got home, heated my food in the oven, ate in a hurry, and left back out. I had fifteen minutes to get back to school. I walked quickly and for fear of being late jogged back some of the way.

When I got close to the back gate, I noticed a teacher standing guard. He was looking up and down the street as if searching for someone. Obviously, a sentry posted by the now pissed Dean of Students who was certain of what he saw a little less than half an hour ago - Anthony Salandy playing hooky.

I decided I needed to take other measures to get on campus. I circled the block and came across a low part of the fence circling the school grounds. I hopped the fence and headed straight for the school nurse. That would be my only saving grace, I thought.

I could fake an illness and head to my class with a nurse’s pass. I was thinking that I probably could fudge the arrival time on the pass so it read sometime during lunch. I was desperate.

I entered the nurse’s office complaining of a stomach ache. To my surprise, she disposed of me quickly with some TUMS and a recommendation to use the bathroom. This was not what I expected.

I walked to my Science class and did not notice any sentries at the classroom door. Maybe I had beaten it. This was good luck, I said to myself. Although I was late, the teacher did not ask for a late pass - more good luck!

Ten minutes after class started, the Dean opened the door, excused himself, and asked if I could step out of class with my things. I was busted. I knew right there when he asked me to bring my things that I was going home.

“What did you do now Salandy?” whispered my friend seated next to me.

“I will call you later. I think I am on my way home.” I replied as I gathered my things slowly.

I walked to the Dean’s office where I took a seat in his all too familiar office. He looked at me for what seemed like an entire minute and then said, “now you must be an idiot or just brazen. I saw you off school grounds a few blocks from here and you waved to me. You did not turn your head or try to hide. You waved as if I was blind or one of your long lost relatives.”

There are times when a confrontation needs the least number of words to be exchanged. I thought that this was one of those times. I said, “yes it was me. I had to leave campus to go home.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I had to take a dump.” I replied.

“Why didn’t you do it here?” He pushed.

“Because I did not want to.” I said with a sarcastic tone. I wanted this over as soon as possible.

“How did you get back on school grounds?” he said curiously waiting for my answer.

There was no need to lie. I knew he had put teachers at all the entrances. I was going home anyway.

I said confidently and determined to save face by being bold, “I hopped the raggedy fence on the southeast corner of the grounds.”

I knew this would rub him the wrong way. I saw his anger grow.

He had warned students over the loudspeaker during homeroom not to jump that fence. Especially ones that used it as a shortcut to get on school grounds.

He quickly reached for the suspension pad. “Well you will be suspended for two days for leaving school grounds without permission.”

I tuned out the rest of his speech because I had heard it before. It was always something about taking responsibility, keeping up with my school work when I am gone, and how could I be so stupid. I was ready to leave. I knew my mother would be getting a call alerting her of my dismissal. And of course she and my father would be angry. But they always seemed angry at something I did. This latest suspension would be just another drop in the bucket that seemed to be filling rapidly.

I gathered my things and headed out the door, down the stairs, down the same hill I traveled earlier in the day, across the very street where I had waved at the Dean, and into my house.

I was home. I poured a bowl of cereal with milk, grabbed a spoon, went into my parent’s room, flipped on the only television we owned, turned the channel, and started watching Luke and Laura on General Hospital.

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