Sometimes classes are your favorite for all the wrong reasons and there you go, I loved freshman Geography for ALL the wrong reasons. It was an easy "A" in no small part because it was simple to create what the entire class called "a receipt." It was just a little slip of paper with answers on it that we all kept hidden under the covers of our T-81 calculators. You could slide your receipt up or down as needed. Even better, if you didn't have an answer on your receipt, a neighbor surely did. A few whispers and some eyebrow raising was all it took to fill in the blanks. The teacher was seemingly oblivious to it all.
Funny how he taught my favorite class that year, but I don't remember his name.
There was a day when we were all whispering during a test, but we didn't need our receipts. The teacher had left the map with all of the answers boldly on display at the front of the room. Whether it was on purpose or not I'll never know, but we all worked feverishly to fill in the blanks on the test just in case he noticed and took away that map of the other side of the world.
I was on question 17 when the door opened.
I paid no mind to the person who entered the room. Twenty plus years later, I don't remember who it was. He or she didn't seem important when he or she barged in as I read question 17.
An odd thing happened after that person barged into the room -- I was called to the front of the room. I was the most goody two-shoed of goody two-shoes all through school, so being called to the front of the room was odd. It could have been because I had been caught with a receipt, but I was certainly not the worst offender in the room.
A little known secret: I didn't need my receipts. Writing something down is what it takes for me to commit it to memory. The act of creating the receipts was all I needed to remember those names of foreign places long enough to pass that test. So, bring it. Bust me for cheating. I only appeared to be doing it anyway.
But that wasn't why I was called to the front of the room.
I don't remember the conversation. I don't remember the exact words that were said. Sometimes the really important conversations that change everything about everything fly by so quickly that you're left clinging to the meaning, not the words themselves.
The meaning changed everything. The stigma around the meaning changed everything and then some.
"Your mom attempted suicide."
Someone said something like that. I don't know who. As the years would pass, those words would become more familiar, almost like a bad habit, but in that moment, they were raw and ugly like a newborn duckling awkwardly shoving its way out of an egg.
An eternity sat there on a silver platter in front of me. It was plenty of time to consider the consequences of her actions and think about all of the things that were about to happen to me.
I was about to lose my best friend.
I was about to have to change high schools in order to escape the whispers.
I was about to have my entire world turned upside-down and shaken like stubborn bottle of ketchup.
It was terrible and awful and everything you would imagine if you've never been told words that boil down to "Your mom's brain is broken and because of that, she doesn't think you're worth it. She would rather be dead that watch you turn into an adult. She doesn't care what happens to you tomorrow, just so long as she isn't there for it."
Don't tell me suicide isn't selfish. It most certainly seems that way when you're 15 years old and just trying to answer question number 17 on your Geography test.