weeks remained until I graduated from high school,
was winding down, and I was confident that I would
slide under the wire if I held course. I was busy
making a couple hundred bucks by doing American History
make-up work for a couple idiots who were too busy
attending keggers or whatever to actually sit down
and do it, so I spent a lot of time in the computer
lab, assembling a 28-page document answering a couple
hundred banal questions from the back chapters of
a textbook. I was pretty solidly in the middle of
this when my whole life almost wrecked itself.
public schools are pretty notoriously underfunded.
In January of my senior year, a hallway ceiling collapsed,
sending a hail of concrete debris all over the hall
and touching off an asbestos scare that would cause
an entire wing of the school to be closed off. Luckily,
class was in session and nobody was in the hall, or
somebody would have undoubtedly died. Anyways, what
I'm getting athere is that my school didn't have much
in the way of cash, so if a student lost one of his
painfully out-of-date textbooks or other materials,
they took the opportunity to bleed them dry.
got a lot of stuff stolen while I was there, most
notably a math-class issued graphing calculator that
sucked my paper route money dry to the tune of $80.
But three weeks before I was graduating,things got
I was sitting in my second period class, somebody
came from the office with a bunch of envelopes with
the names of students printed on them. I opened mine
up to find an invoice for $220 on it. Listed below
were three U.S. History books and a Math textbook.
Unfortunately, I had only taken U.S. History for two
semesters and returned my book at the end of each,
so that was pretty out of control. And as far as the
math book went, I couldn't even remember what the
hell the deal was with that. All I knew is that there
was no way in hell I had $220 to my name, and if I
didn't pay the fine in seven days, I wouldn't graduate.
break, I went down to the supply office to see if
I could work out what the hell was happening. The
woman who worked there claimed that neither of my
books had been returned, unsurprisingly, and told
me that I either had to find the books in question
or pay the fine. So I headed home to my room and began
cleaning. At this point, since none of my friends
ever came over to my house, and my mother was too
afraid of the nightmarish conditions I had created
in there, my floor was covered by a strata of comics,
books, abandoned homework assignments, etc. nearly
a foot thick.
So I started digging, frantically, bagging up everything
that I could throw away and dragging it out back to
the alley. Most of my comic books left, then, except
for a few that I held back to sell ifthe books couldn't
be found. I was up until three in the morning, restoring
my bedroom to cleanliness, stacking books in neat
piles around my bed, scaring the mice that had nested
in the Mad Magazines into the closet. After all that
work, seeing my carpet again (gray) was small compensation
for no textbooks. I fell asleep and headed to school
the next day bleary-eyed and confused. I muddled through
the day searching my classrooms for the textbook.
I found my disused locker and pried it open, to no
avail. The books were gone. That night, I headed down
to the local comic book store with a handful of comics
that I hoped would bail me out of the mess. I was
never the type to buy comics for the "collector's
value," but I had amassed a few that were allegedly
worth something, including the silver cover "Spider-Man"
#1 by Todd McFarlane, which was being valued by nerds
at $40. So I had hopes that I could make it at least
to $100 with the books I had.
went into the store and laid the comics down on the
counter. "How much can I get for these?" I asked.
looked through the pile, disinterestedly. "Twelve
bucks?" I said, shocked.
I've got plenty of these. I'll give you $20 in store
credit if you want."
took the twelve bucks and slouched slowly home, dejected.
My only solution was to finish the American History
work for as many people as possible and get paid for
it. I spent the next two days almost exclusively in
the computer lab, cracking out the work. The next
day, I went up to one of the rich jocks who I was
doing the work for and asked if I could get paid a
little earlier than planned.
he said. "I'm not paying you until you finish it.
How do I know you won't just take my money and skip
school for the next couple of weeks?"Aside from the
complete idiocy of me doing that, he was already assuming
that I wouldn't be at graduation...
was it. I had three hours left to come up with one
hundred and ninety dollars cash and no way to do it.
What the hell was I going to do?
I decided to throw myself on the mercy of the public.
I was so desperately grasping at straws that I convinced
myself that I could find one lone person who would
donate two hundred dollars to help a poor teenager
graduate high school.
I started stopping people and describing my problem,
running through the events of the past days, breaking
down in tears as I described my goals, my desperation,
and my problem. Nobody even stopped.
I was, standing in front of a shopping mall, crying,
gasping in air as fast as I could. My hands held in
front of me, I tried to explain my situation to the
businessmen passing by, collapsing on the sidewalk
under their unflinching gazes. I tried for two hours,
debasing myself further and further, becoming more
disheveled and confused, bleating out my sad story
to anyone who would listen.
I crawled back to school.
happened? My friend Malia came up to me and put two
hundred-dollar bills into my hands. I just looked
at her, dumbly.
was so grateful that I took nearly a year to pay her