Gert Fredriksson only had about 155 students, and relying on 155 grants from the government to run that private school was not nearly enough for the whole experiment to work financially. My year, Berlin, Paris, and London, were the only year that went through all four years at the school, 6th to 9th grade. The same year that I graduated, in 2009, the school closed.
Well, to be honest, it relocated to Östgrund, because that’s where most of the students were from, but that’s basically the same as closing the shithole down. Östgrund is a black hole where all shitty things go to die, especially people. You need to get out before you turn 20. Otherwise, the black hole will swallow you forever and there’s no way out.
My classmate Thorbjörn, directly translated: Thorbear, had been on my ass about coming out and drinking before graduation. It didn’t happen before graduation, but it looked like it was going to happen after the graduation ceremony. My parents told me to be home before 1 am. Sure, mom. I was home before ten.
Nothing happened, maybe it was all just talk, but we hung out for a bit and that was it. I had heard stories about Thorbjörn and Hugo passing out drunk, going delirious, crying uncontrollably after a bottle or two of vodka. For some reason, I wanted to experience that as well, but it didn’t happen. It was going to, just not then and there, and not with those people.
So, by the summer of 2009, I was done with my mandatory schooling. High school, or Gymnasium as it was called, wasn’t mandatory, but you would have no future if you didn’t go, so it was still kind of mandatory.
In Sweden, you choose a direction of study in high school. There were courses focusing on vehicle-maintenance for the non-academic boys and girls who liked to play around with old abandoned cars home at the farm, the Hotel/Restaurant course was for those who liked to cook, another excuse to avoid actual studying if you ask me, there was a wide variety of social science orientations, likewise for the natural sciences.
If math, physics, chemistry, and biology suited you, you chose the natural science orientation, if you were more aligned to history and civics, you chose the social science orientation. The natural and social science tracks were straightforward, university preparing courses. If you wanted to avoid more studies and only went to high school to avoid living a life as a homeless person, you usually chose to focus on vehicles or study to become an electrician.
Some professions were taught directly at a high school level. I didn’t want to go with the most basic social science university preparation course, even if that was the one that fit me the best. I had 280 out of a possible 300 grade points from 9th grade to play around with, I felt like I needed to do something more with them than just the most basic social science course.
This all sounds very noble, but my underlying motive was to avoid all the schmucks. I had had enough of schmucks. My thinking was that if I chose a course with higher entry requirements, I would inevitably end up in a class with smarter people, and thusly avoid the schmucks I had had the unfortunate luck of studying with up until this point in my life.
I chose a version of the social sciences with higher entry requirements, civics with a focus on law and economics at Domsdal, the school where I had played basketball on Thursdays during my time at Gert Fredriksson. I didn’t exactly like law or economics, but I did it to get away from the schmucks. The only problem was that I had made quite a large miscalculation. I had forgotten about the existence of a rather large group of people. The somewhat intelligent schmucks.
Somewhat intelligent schmucks are still better, or should I say, less horrible, than your regular, unintelligent schmucks. I wouldn’t be picked on for the next three years as I had been previously, but I was going to be very annoyed and frustrated most of the time. I actually hung out with some of the schmucks in the beginning, when no one knew each other and everyone tried to get to know each other and find their groupings so you could divide the class into people you liked and people you didn’t like.
There were people I liked, but they hung out with people I didn’t like, so they were, in the end, off-limits. I ended up with two people, one of whom I liked, and another whom I also liked, but who also drove me insane. Jon and Mikael. Jon was quiet and orderly. A rule follower. Never drew outside the lines. Lacking in imagination, but oh so reliable.
I dunno if it was in the second or third year of high school, but one night we drove out to the golf course where my grandpa was a member, picked up a few balls, and played some golf. No-one was there, the course had closed for the fall, it was getting dark and cold fast as the hours went on. Once we had haphazardly played ourselves down to the part of the course next to the lake, I thought it would be fun to get some balls from the driving range and hit them into the water.
Jon didn’t like this idea, but since I volunteered to make the trek back to the range to pick up the balls, he reluctantly agreed. Once I came back, he thought I had taken far too many balls. The course would remain closed for months, no one would notice. Jon still thought we should bring most of them back, so we did.
“You truly are a Hermione, aren’t you?”
“We’ll have to add this to the list of things that we aren’t telling the others that we are doing.”
“That list is getting pretty long now,” he chuckled.
This was the kind of thing I would do on my own in previous years. It was nice to have someone come along. But we knew we couldn’t exactly share our adventures with anyone else. We knew we were the weird ones. We drove around the countryside together once I had a driver’s license, talking and listening to music. No-one living in the suburbs did that.
On my way home from the golf course, after having dropped Jon off, the streets were empty and I changed down to second gear in the roundabouts and drove up with two wheels on the cobblestone that surrounded the traffic circle and when the way out was clear I put my foot down, hard.
It was the only way I could make the front-wheel-drive Saab station wagon become at least a little bit tail-happy. I returned a week or two later, picked up the balls from the driving range and hit the rest into the water, on my own. I was never really that good. I could hit it hard, but not straight and sometimes not at all.
We kept to ourselves and didn’t want others to get involved. We were probably seen as lone wolves, as a bit aloof, but it was our choice. Ironic as it may be, I was now choosing to engage in the very same behavior that I was forced into all those years ago when avoiding all my classmates only became my go-to recess activity after years of trying and failing to befriend them.
After finally having arrived at high school, we spent the breaks between lessons going on walks, talking about anything and everything. During the long lunch breaks, we got on the train to get even further away. The problem with that though was that on our way back we often ran into our civics teacher, Sten. The problem wasn’t running into Sten, we loved Sten and had the most fascinating conversations with this extraordinary, charismatic older gentleman soon heading into retirement. The problem was that he shared it with the group.
“As I was saying to Oscar and Jon on the train earlier today, when I was in Moscow not so long ago, the cab driver wouldn’t accept rubles, only euros and dollars. Now what does that teach us about the importance of having a stable currency for a country’s economy?” As he mentioned our names, you could feel the collected gaze of the room turn to us where we sat in our corner.
Jon was a bit too much of a rule follower and too quiet for my liking. We spent a lot of time together. Until Mikael randomly disappeared one day, we mostly played table tennis. We did that sometimes after Mikael had gone too, sometimes even with the schmucks, although we tried to avoid them to the best of our ability.
We played soccer, walking straight past the pitch closest to our school and onto the next one not too far away. The only time we played soccer with the schmucks was when we got caught walking out of the school with a ball and they insisted on following us. I threw myself to save a shot and got some snide comments. Making any kind of effort wasn’t cool. Just like with school work. Fucking hell, it drove me nuts.
We started going on walks just to get away from the school premises, Jon and I. I tried to keep a dialogue going, but the monologues became more and more frequent. We skated together in the winter, played golf and soccer in the summer, took the train home to his house, played Call of Duty for ten minutes before it was time to go back to school for some pointless lesson.
One afternoon after we had skated on the lake for hours, passing the puck around, my feet hurting in my skates that were now way too small, I asked him something that I knew would create an uncomfortable moment: “Why do we never talk about girls?” I was met with a “Well…” that led to nothing but a prolonged silence.
I of course knew the answer, we were both lonely virgins, and we liked to ignore that fact by never talking about a subject that bordered on that area. Unlike other boys our age, we never talked about what girls we thought were attractive, who, and what we’d like to penetrate. Those thoughts were definitely there, just repressed. We knew we were never going to get any kind of tail, so why dwell on the subject?
Florian was a Belgian dude who I first got to know when I played in the national basketball championship with Östgrund. He had only been in Sweden for about a year, but he still spoke really good Swedish. I liked Florian, even though he was your typical dude, and he seemed to like me despite being a typical dude.
Florian was also going to school in Nybacka, so we used to meet up in the sports center before actually going to Östgrund because you never wanted to go there too early and spend more time over there than you actually had to. There was a girl in my class who used to play for the Nybacka team for girls born in 1993.
“So, Nora is in your class, right?” Florian asked while absentmindedly shooting a shot that just happened to go in.
“She’s fuckin’ hot.”
“So?! Have you fucked her yet?”
“Because I don’t fuck people just because we happen to be in the same class. It’s not like on induction day I ask every girl in the class to bend over so that I can insert my dangle into her fun-place. ‘Hi, would you bend over, please? Great. Ooh moist, didn’t expect that to be honest.’”
This was an early venture into the young, teenage, male way of thinking that often baffled me. These sayings sound like jokes but the people who said them seemed serious. They didn’t even factor in consent, the consequences of hooking up, the fact that the girl in question might be out of my league or that you just don’t go up to a girl, and before you say or do anything else, you ask if she wants to fuck.
Maybe some guys do, and maybe it works for them, and maybe that is why they think everyone does the same thing. I would do that too if it was that easy. But it isn’t. I could see where he was coming from though, even if he gave up all logic when asking the question. Nora definitely was something to look at when you were bored in class.
Hilda usually sat next to her, right in front of me and Jon. I was often able to spot a hint of thong as she sat down. Hilda always wore a thong. Jackpot. As they stood up, they would always move their hands towards the hooks on their tight jeans, my gaze, the ever so controversial “male gaze,” would fall to their asses, almost instinctively.
Sure, it was disgusting, but my eyes would fall as they pulled up their skinny jeans, making the crotch seam dig in, snugly cupping their cheeks. I would play around with my papers as an excuse to stay seated and watch them walk out of the classroom. It’s like they want us to look, well, they don’t want me to look, I’m a walrus, but they want someone to look. Why else would they do that, or wear those pants?
But of course, that was never true, they wore the thongs and the skinny ass jeans because they thought it was comfortable and because they thought it looked good. It’s possible that the “male gaze” was countered in, but I’m sure it was never priority number one. I don’t dress thinking first and foremost about what others would think, so why would they? I don’t think that a pancake of makeup looks very good, but they cake it on anyway because they don’t give a flying pig’s ass what I think, and that’s the way it should be. Right?
Have you ever seen a girl so hot that you had to go wank immediately? Let’s just say that my sexual frustration was bad from 7th grade and on. I went to the bathroom in the middle of class without having a piss, if you know what I mean… I often assumed good-looking girls were bitches, because I knew that I couldn’t ever, ever get them, they were way out of my league, so instead, I just snarled at them from a distance. Bitches. It was a self-defense mechanism mostly driven by self-defilement.
In my last year of high school, one of the subjects we studied was psychology. One of the assignments was to write an essay about a mental illness. One of my favorite artists, Markus Krunegård, wrote a song called “In Love With A Borderline” so I examined the mental illness called Borderline using his lyrics as a base. I could’ve written about some mental illness I felt that I had myself experienced, but that would just be sad and depressing.
I think most of the girls did though. All of them, without a fault, wrote about anorexia. Ok, one girl didn’t, but she was also the only one who looked like she could use some anorexia. In moderation, let’s not get crazy. But the rest did write about wanting to be a skeleton. They might not have had the full-blown version of the disease, but I’m sure they all felt fat for no reason quite often.
I realized early that even though I feel like my life hasn’t been all that easy, (I know, I know, boohoo, feel sorry for me you cunts) it’s harder to be a girl than it is to be a dude. You’re kind of bullied even when you aren’t. I was picked on outright, but girls as a whole, even the ones with actual friends, are picked on to look and act a certain way because, you guessed it, society sucks donkey testicles.
For example, my sister thinks she’s fatter than me even though she isn’t. Once, I overheard her talking to our mom after a New Year’s party she went to. She talked about how she was the fattest girl at the entire party again. This had apparently happened before. I don’t even notice stuff like that.
I was born with a kind of metabolism that will give me a wedgie every chance it gets, but I work out, not to get a six-pack, but to someday be slightly less fat and not die from a heart attack at fifty-two. Although that would be quite nice. You know how I feel about life. It’s an ungodly mess.
Obsessing over it made her throw up and she had to leave. It’s not this bad for all women of course, but I assume they experience versions of the same thing at some periods of their lives. I think I realized I was a feminist when I was about fifteen and I read the definition of a feminist in the newspaper.
“A feminist is someone who believes in the social, economic, and political equality of men and women,” the paper said. Since that point, my relationship with feminism has been very uncomplicated. I had no reason to be afraid of the label, or agree with, or love everyone else who wore it. It was simple, easy. Sadly, I would come to realize that not all people agreed with me that it was that simple.
There was a girl in my high school class who started talking to me on MSN back in the stone age when that was a thing. She was a so-called butter face. She was a gymnast, so she had a great body, but the face left something to be desired. Her personality wasn’t to my liking either, but that was beside the point, at least according to my dick.
When she contacted me on MSN, she needed help with an assignment. I helped her out, she was incredibly grateful and sent lots of heart emojis. We started texting back and forth and hung out a tiny bit in class. She was constantly ending her texts with a thousand hearts made of one of those arrow symbols and the number 3. Smartphones weren’t that common yet. Yes, I’m that old. Shut up.
The plentiful heart emojis led me to believe that she was interested in me, you know, sexually. That couldn’t have sounded more awkward, but there you are. We started talking about maybe hanging out, outside of school. I made the mistake of sharing this with my basketball teammates.
André, who also studied with those a year older, was in the same English class as me during our last year of high school, but at the time we were just in the same school and he knew who she was. He deemed her “viable.” I clung to the word because I didn’t know how to speak about these things with people my own age. This was the start of my hatred for gossip and sharing details about my private life. It would come to make me sick.
I asked my mom about the whole girl thing. It made me really fucking uncomfortable, but I was lost so there I went. I said that during this time in a dude’s life, one of the most important things was to lose your virginity. Apparently, I had no idea how to speak about this with people who were much older than me either.
I said I wanted to have sex with this girl, but not have a relationship with her, which was the truth. Mom told me that the girl in question might be sad, importunate, and so forth, yadda, yadda, yadda. And of course, she said to, if something did happen, to wear a condom. This was the first time I ever talked with any of my parents about this, they had never had “the talk” with me, it was I who initiated it, crazily enough.
I asked mom if she was good at shutting the hell up, and she said that if that’s what I wanted, that’s what she would do. The girl lived far away, so any kind of hanging out would take some commitment. And I wanted to go to her place, not for her to come to mine. This was not going to be the first girl I brought home, regardless of how horrible that may sound.
I thought about what I would say to get the ball rolling. I had been kissed before, but not since I was eight years old, and never anything inspired by the French. “Have you ever been tongue kissed?” Fucking hell, I really was clueless. Luckily, I didn’t have the opportunity to actually ever ask her that, but it was the best I could come up with in advance. One day we were walking out of class I thought to myself: So… do I grab her ass? How could I have been so dumb?
I finally gave up and texted her that I wasn’t interested and that I was sorry if I had led her on. She was shocked and said that the heart emojis were just how she texted to everyone, and I had always been just a friend. I was taken aback, but maybe that was just her trying to save face. Or not. Who cares anyway?
The schmuckiest of the schmucks in the class was a guy called Wilmer. One of the guys on the team for boys born in 1993 in my basketball club called Elias asked me once if I had ended up in the same class as Wilmer. I said I had. Elias then proceeded to tell a story that involved Wilmer coming over to his house, and for some reason I can’t remember, trying to demonstrate a proper fart, pulled down his pants and promptly shat on the floor.
The next day at school, assuming Wilmer would be embarrassed about this, I asked him: “Do you know anyone called Elias?”
“Yes, I pooped on his floor,” he said immediately without a hint of remorse or mortification. That’s the kind of guy he was. No shame, no regrets. Wilmer ended up crushing on the girl I had had a non-thing with. He showed this in the way that all boys show interest in a girl, by throwing crumpled up bits of paper into her cleavage.
The fact that she accepted it and encouraged Wilmer and his crew of schmucks to do it baffled me. I mean Jesus fucking Christ, have some fucking dignity. They’re basically cumming on your face, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re in a classroom, not on a porn set. Do you think that’s gonna make them like you? Respect you? That’s the preface of a gangbang, which can be nice, if that’s what you want.
They say never blame the girl for how a dude might treat her and I’m not saying that it would’ve been her fault if they had happened to violently take her. It’s just that when you encourage a couple of guys to throw paper balls down your cleavage, you look like a fucking idiot. That’s all.
I had a bunch of odd classmates, but also some who weren’t awful. Like Malte. Once, I lent him about 20 bucks. Then he didn’t show up for school for about a month. Then one day our teacher told us he died. Everyone looked really sad and maybe I did too because all I was thinking was That bastard owes me 20 bucks! and now he’s dead. How ungrateful. I almost made myself giggle, which I realize, in the moment, looked terrible. In the future, I reminded myself, don’t lend money to someone with terminal cancer. Or maybe do, but don’t expect to get it back.
Since I quit basketball halfway through high school, and I never really had a social life, my last year and a half at Domsdal ended up being largely uneventful. Nora organized some class party, Jon went, I did not. Apparently, he didn’t want to go, but his dad said that when someone organizes something, you show up. And so he did. I never told my parents there was a party in the first place. Apparently, Wilmer lost a plastic bag and got so upset he locked himself in the bathroom. Sounds like a rager.
In Sweden, when you finish 9th grade, there’s a prom. You don’t have dates, you just go with all your classmates. Mine was pretty fun, I wore my dad’s suit and we jumped around to stupid Swedish music. It was a dinner and dance at an inn in a small rural stretch of Nybacka by the lake. It was idyllic. No alcohol, but it wasn’t really necessary.
At the end of high school, however, there’s no prom. There’s a so-called studentskiva, directly translated student slice or student record, but properly translated it just means high school graduation party. When you finish high school, you “take the student” so to say. It makes sense in Swedish for some reason.
At the end of high school, you rent out a nightclub, have dinner at the club before the party begins, some parents come along, not mine, I didn’t want them there, it would only mean more recollections of this moment within the family and quite frankly one was more than enough. And you were supposed to sell ten tickets each to pay for the nightclub and the dinner. You paid for all the tickets and then you just were supposed to sell them to friends outside the class, who could join the party after dinner.
I of course didn’t have any friends to sell them to, so I spent a lot of money to have the privilege of feeling like shit about myself. I tried to sell some, but no one bought any. I even got a “who dis?” text back from a former classmate at Gert Fredriksson. It was all very humiliating. When the tickets were discussed in the class, you didn’t exactly want to be the person who said “Yeah, I’m all alone in the world so if anyone wants to take care of my tickets, that’d be great.”
That’s basically what Jon and I did later when the girls in the class organized the whole shindig asked how the sales were going. I said someone “with a bigger network, might want to take care of ours,” basically trying to sugarcoat what I really wanted to say which was “Fuck you for doing this to us, you assholes.” No one took care of it. I didn’t feel like I fitted in in the club environment. It made me uncomfortable.
Over the following years, I would go to quite a few nightclubs with classmates from Stockholm University and my university in London when I finally moved there. I enjoyed myself a total number of one time. At a club which played pop-punk. You know blink-182, Fallout Boy, that kind of shit. I actually knew the songs, which was fun.
As I said, it happened once. Back when I graduated high school, I had a blog. I wrote a post about it all, neglecting to include to not so fun parts. Reading it back actually made it seem kind of fun. I was actually rather adept at lying to myself. It went thusly:
The graduation celebration
Around the time of the beginning of May and onwards, streets all over Sweden are flooded with trucks, with a lot of drunk teenagers on the back of them. This is what you do when you graduate high school in Sweden.
What you basically do, besides wearing the silly hats, is ride around on a truck, jump up and down to the sounds of three massive speakers mounted on the back of the truck and try to drown each other in beer. You buy as much cheap beer as possible, put it all on the back of the truck and hop on. When I did this, the floor was so filled with beer that you couldn’t avoid stepping on it. However, we still managed to consume all of it in the 40 minutes we rode around. When I say consume, I mean breaking the can on the edge of the truck and spray it all in the face of the people around you.
As I was getting off, I had to pick off empty beer cans from the bottom of my shoes. When my class did this, it was raining and it was about ten degrees (Celsius), so after about half an hour, people were only dancing to keep warm.
We also had an ending party, I guess the Swedish version of a high school prom. But we didn’t wear suits and dresses and we weren’t in a pimped-out gym. We were at a nightclub in the middle of Stockholm and we were dressed up as something that began with the same letter as the first letter in our name. It ended as you might think, with most of us looking absolutely ridiculous. First, we had dinner with the parents, and then they left us kids to party and I think the last one of us left at about three a.m. We did shots, drank beer, got drunk, and jumped up and down some more to the beats of very loud music, mostly consisting of different remixes of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know.
So that’s how you graduate in Sweden. You get drunk and jump up and down on the back of a truck while somebody is spraying cheap beer in your face.
Memories are always better than the real thing. You never remember how you actually felt. Nostalgia is your mind editing out all the anxiety, anger, and all that other shit, to form a nice memory to look back on. Which is a nice reason to do things even if you won’t enjoy them because a month later, you’ll think you did.
Jon left the nightclub before me, we went out for a walk to get away from it all, and he didn’t come back in with me. I would’ve left too, but despite not exactly enjoying myself, I didn’t want to waste the night. Jon was taken outside by security because they thought he was wasted out of his mind. He wasn’t. He was sober. He was just acting calm and collected, he wasn’t loud, he wasn’t making any excited movements, and therefore he obviously was high on acid, meth, cocaine, weed or whatever else that made him act so OUT OF THE FUCKING ORDINARY.
He wasn’t jumping or screaming, he was just uncomfortable and calm which of course couldn’t be tolerated. Dad picked me up at about 2 am. He’s such a trooper. Just as I was about to leave, a drunk guy I’ve never seen before came up to me and said: “Hey, you see that girl over there? She’s been checking you out all night.” I assumed he was fucking with me. I could feel it. I looked over. She’s was laughing. At me.
“Oh, come on, she’s laughing, you can’t be serious?” Maybe if I didn’t assume everybody is laughing at me, inside or out loud… I would’ve fucked her. Maybe I would’ve fucked her that night.
Is that all that matters, if you would’ve fucked her or not?
Yes of course that’s all that matters. You’re not becoming a sentimental little shit on my watch.
Jon and I had our own graduation celebratory plans. That night on the golf course we thought it would be perfect to return on graduation night, drown our suits and minds in some alcohol, and drown some golf balls in the lake. But that scenario was always too perfect to realize.
In high school, I was in some kind of limbo. I didn’t really know who I was. I quit basketball halfway through, and with it my entire identity as an athlete went out the window. Although, I never really embodied the athlete identity since I never got chiseled and was always a bit pudgy. Despite the fact that my frame of mind was for the most part pretty dark, I have to say I kept my self-image pretty positive, all in all.
Sometimes I tried to not like myself. I’d say to myself that I was fat and stupid, but that would only make me laugh because really, I’m fabulous. That was a constant retort throughout the diarrhea that so far has been my life. I didn’t like the way I looked, but I didn’t blame myself for it either. I kept my chin up, for the most part.
My sister was once talking about how her boyfriend was snoring because he had trouble breathing because he was a bit fat and all I could think was I went for a run today. Good job, me. My problem was of course that there were a lot of girls in high school I wanted to bang, but as it has been said by so many people on reality shows severely lacking any kind of personality: “You can’t shag a personality.”
The people who actually say that usually don’t see the irony that saying that is the biggest indicator that you don’t have a personality. But then again, I’m sure they get laid since they tend to be jacked. My personality evidently wasn’t even that good, by the standards of the average teenager, it was subpar.
We had a group of guys in the class who were complete dicks and they were grouped together because of it, so they could be assholes together. It was around 2010, and one of the guys had got a Jabulani, the soccer ball from that year’s World Cup, only to play with it inside in the various classrooms and halls.
They pushed tables and chairs aside as we waited for the lesson to start. The rest of us who weren’t addicted to being dicks were shunted to the side, not telling them to sit the fuck down because we didn’t want to be buzzkills. For the longest time, I’ve thought that I’m bad at having fun. That’s probably true, but people who consider themselves “fun” are usually assholes and should be shot.
I had started writing at the time and even noted down the classroom number and the teacher we were waiting for. Room NYG 114. The school had 1500 students and a similar amount of rooms and hallways. The lesson we were waiting for was civics with Sten. I liked Sten. He was nearing retirement, had been teaching civics since the Stone Age, and had somehow retained his passion for teaching through, I assume, a never-ending avalanche of asshole students.
He was clever, and Jon and I could talk to him about politics and whine about how society sucked. This was code for most people sucking, namely the ones in our class, who were somehow considered to be the civil ones. Sten told the same stories over and over again, like the one about the taxi driver in Moscow who only wanted to be paid in dollars or euros, not rubles because you couldn’t trust it to not be worthless within the next hour.
He would start lessons by walking into the room and announcing that: “Exactly 60 seconds ago, the exchange rate for one dollar was seven crowns and 64 öre.” At the graduation party at the nightclub, three of the students in the class who had organized it all gave everyone a sort of medal consisting of some blue and yellow band put through a paper plate with a description of you written on it. It was apparently custom to do this.
Having never been invited to one of these before, I had had no idea that this disdainful triviality was coming. The headline of mine was “The class’ NBA-Sten,” because I had once played basketball and because when Sten asked the class who the American vice president was, I blurted out Joe Biden without much thought.
I must’ve appeared to be someone who knew a thing or two, which must’ve been astonishing to them. Let’s just say that they didn’t know me or the world outside their own Facebook feeds very well. It would be an understatement to say that I didn’t feel very close to any of them.
There are different ways to look back at your life in high school. I had figured out how to look back at these years in the rear-view mirror while it was still coming at me through the windshield. It all became very clear to me when my English teacher in my final year asked the class this incredible question: “Will you look back at this time as the best time in your life?”
The reason I call this question incredible is that it is incredible that anyone would ever look at the group of students in that room and think we were having the time of our lives. Even more incredibly, the theatre kids at the back said yes. Probably because high school was the first place they had ever met someone remotely like themselves. I did not answer the question.
I think it’s obvious that for me, the answer was a resounding no. Not that I had ever had a “best time in my life.” But I think the least shit time in my life was the time before I could form solid memories, simply because there’s nothing to remember, and there’s a certain amount of bliss in that. How anyone I saw around me at that place felt that high school was the best time in their lives was beyond me.
In the run-up to and during graduation, people were unmistakably excited and giddy. I was not on the fun train. I couldn’t muster any excitement when all I felt was a sense of relief. I cuntily quoted the BBC’s Sherlock out of the corner of my mouth to Jon. “Look at them, they all care so much. All lives end, all hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock, I mean Jon.” He grinned. I continued. “We will drown in a sea of happy people, you know.”
I said it with a quiet chutzpa, the words “happy people” carrying a heavy note of derision. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. Probably because I was always completely unable to ever enjoy myself, but also because I didn’t think graduating high school was something to be happy about. Not that I was sad that it was over, I was ecstatic about that.
I just didn’t think graduating high school was an achievement. Everybody did it, it’s not very hard, all you have to do is put in a mild amount of effort and you’re a high school graduate. Sure, for people who struggle academically it is an achievement worth celebrating. But the only people in my class who didn’t graduate on time did so because they were too busy getting drunk and doing drugs to study, not because they were dumb.
They just didn’t have the self-discipline. The grit. I think most of what I’ve done in life is not super cool, despite people telling me it is. I’m getting better at patting myself on the back but I don’t think I’ll ever appreciate what I’ve done for what it really is and the hard work behind it. There’s always something else to do, and everything I do achieve is just a stepping stone to the next thing. And it’s never going to be good enough anyway.
It’s weird seeing where people you used to know ended up. For example, one of the annoying fuckwits at the back of my high school class became a police officer. I guess some people do actually become adults at some point. Similarly, I saw a picture of my old basketball team on Facebook, and they were all super buff. I looked at myself and I was as flabby as ever. The guys that used to be tiny are now huge and got six-packs and biceps the size of small pigs. All of us were late bloomers, except I never fucking bloomed at all.
Years and years after seeing them for the last time, I saw an old photo of my high school class on Facebook. What was interesting were the tags. One girl was tagged as “brace face,” another as “biggest boobs,” the rich girl “got a BMW for her 17th birthday.” Finally, I hovered the mouse over my own face. The tag read “retard.” Turns out I had them all down to a T all along.