By my sophomore year in high school, I’d never had a tardy. I know, right? What a nerd.
Teachers used to mention it to me, and sometimes ask me if I was proud. I said yes, because that’s what you say to a teacher when you are desperate for attention, but really I wasn’t proud. I would have been, if it had been a reflection of a conscientious nature, but instead it only reflected my need for approval.
And perhaps my lack of anything better to do.
Enter Roger. He had a very different approach to school. When he told me that he’d written three-fourths of his term paper the night before, and made up most of his sources, I almost had a heart attack. Not for moral reasons, just out of awe. How he could just dash something off, and turn it in, with confidence, without seventeen rewrites and biting his fingernails off wondering if the teacher would find his idea original, I needed some of that.
I lost my tardy-virginity that semester. Roger and I were laughing about a flower that looked like our teacher. Obviously very important.
And when that bell rang, I didn’t move, but let out a long breath.
I strolled into class a few minutes later, and maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed like everyone was looking at me. My biology teacher looked at me very closely.
I was so afraid that she’d let it slide, because she liked me, or to preserve my perfect record. So I stuck my chin out defiantly. I stood there, waiting for her to take her pen to that tardy sheet, before I’d sit down.
And yes, of course I got that tardy. It showed on my report card that semester. I wanted to frame it, for reasons nobody else would have understood.
And when Roger died a few months later, I was even more glad that I’d taken those few extra minutes.