M.E.S.S.—Don’t tell me what to do

Ahoyhoy™,

We’re taking a brief detour from our previous story. We’re skipping ahead from Junior Kindergarten (1996) to Grade Eight (somewhere in between 2005-2006). I realize my diversions might disorient you, but I assure you they will make sense at the end…

Today, we’ll look at an event—in third person—where I’m a total jackass. I narrate the story in first person—so it’s not completely third person. Look, it’s detached enough to help me empathize—at least cognitively—with others. In the next few days—starting tomorrow—I’ll provide context from my life leading up to this event. After I contextualize it, we’ll revisit the event—in the first person!

I can’t control whether you freak out or judge me prematurely (don’t worry, I hear it happens to every guy…); however, I end up burying the lede in my stories. It’s not something I (usually) plan, but that’s how my stories progress..

In this story, we have four characters who’ll show up in future stories: Emily Joyce (aka Ms. Joyce), Erin Aptopoulos–Panayiotou (aka Ms. Aptopoulos), Padma Iyer (aka Padma), Martin Emilio–Cohen (aka Martin)… Technically Roybert S. Henanigans makes a fifth, but that’s just something I’m going to take for granted moving forward… Here’s the story:

“Ms. Joyce is pregnant!” Ms. Aptopoulos’s announcements usually initiated murmurs; this one was no different.

“Oh my god, she’s pregnant!” 
“I knew it.”
“Huh? I guess that’s what was different about her…”
“Who cares?”

The class fell silent.

Ms. Aptopoulos looked like she caught Roybert drop-kicking puppies into a wood chipper… You’d think a veteran eighth-grade homeroom teacher would be used to juvenile impertinence—she wasn’t. Perhaps her previous year—or two—away from teaching eroded her ability to tolerate 13-14 year olds. Maybe she felt personally attacked by his question. Something about the way Roybert said “who cares?” just irritated her. 

“Who cares? How could you say something like that? She was your homeroom teacher for an entire year! She’s pregnant; you should care. Do you ever stop to think about others?” Ms. Aptopoulos was livid, but Roybert showed no sign of remorse or regret—he just stared blankly at her. 

“I don’t get why you’re upset.” His callousness failed to diffuse the tension, but Roybert wasn’t aiming to diffuse. Roybert barely respected Ms. Aptopoulos. Well, he didn’t truly respect her: he afforded her the same courtesy he offered the average person. Roybert was polite, not kind. He wasn’t rude, but he also wasn’t particularly warm…

“I need to have a talk with your parents about this. I can’t believe you would say something like that.” Roybert noticed an empty threat when he heard one. People annoyed him. Empty threats presented a socially acceptable opportunity to deconstruct why people talked so much yet said so little… Her announcements seldom mattered; they were usually trivial gossip, or they were redundant… This was functionally a rerun. Roybert hated reruns. It felt like he was watching the same show again and again and again… It reminded him of watching Home Improvement reruns… Why did Wilson never show his face? Did he have really bad teeth? Was he lipless? Why the f—I digress; let’s get back to the story…

“Is that a threat or a promise?” A shit-eating grin had replaced the blank look on his face. This wasn’t going to improve anytime soon.
Tension in the class mounted.

“You have no friends Roy!” Martin blurted. Why? There was no clear reason. Martin and Roybert didn’t get along—the reasons don’t matter right now though. Martin’s interjections made little sense—they seldom did.

Ms. Aptopoulos sat down—still fuming. Now she just wanted to move on with her lesson “Okay class, let’s move on with the assignment—”

Unfortunately, the rest of the class didn’t care anymore—gossiping’s hard work.

“Wow, I can’t believe he would say something like that.” 
“What a jerk…” 
“Sexist jackass”

The comment about sexism always came from the same girl: Padma. Sometimes Roybert played a game where he counted the number of times she called something sexist in a day: one day her high score reached somewhere around twenty and Roybert stopped playing that game. Padma generally disgusted him, but that’s a story for another day…

Ms. Aptopoulos snapped: “HEY! I SAID LET’S MOVE ON WITH THE ASSIGNMENT!”

A few students scrambled to collect themselves. Sounds of rustling papers had replaced the murmurs; it felt like the students just wanted to sound—and look—cooperative. The period ended before the class gathered themselves.

Roybert hated people. 

I realize how this looks, but you’ll change your mind after I contextualize this. Granted, at the end of it all, it’ll probably leave you feeling disoriented—not bad, not good, just uneasy. That inspired my title: when someone (I sort of know) tells me to “have a good day,” I respond with “don’t tell me what to do”—that always changes the mood. Nobody feels bad nor good—just uneasy… 

Thank you for your time,
Roybert S. Henanigans

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