An Alternative Way of Thinking

“The University of Houston has many great things to offer,” the admissions lady announces to by Pre-calculus class.

I am concentrated on every word when a voice says, “they need you in the junior office at once.”

My skin shuttered at the sound of what I had been avoiding all day.

“I think they want you to take your stuff,” my teacher says. Without a word, I gather my belongings and head towards the office. Down the empty hall, I thought to myself. I was almost free. What happened? Who snitched? Questions upon question drifted around in my head like alphabet soup. Finally, I made it to the 11th Grade Principal’s office.

Without looking from her computer screen, the secretary says, “Hmm…sit in that chair right there, he’ll be with you in a second.”

In that highly unbelievably uncomfortable chair, my thoughts raced in my mind as if my brain was the Daytona 500. I kept thinking to myself, ‘They’ll only give you ISS for a week and you’ll be okay.”

Time felt like I had been there, in that chair, for years. I was in a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I had never even receive a referral in my life.

“Come on,” the principal says quite dry and emotionless, “We’re going to lunch.”

Down the spiral of stairs and what seems to be an endless hallway we go. Being that I had never been in the office for anything bad, when I was walking with the principal, my friends knew that I had did something. On the way to the cafeteria, I see my friend who was also involved. They called on us at the same time.

“Okay so now what happened man?” the principal says to me with a little bit more sympathy and emotion.

I could barely hear him with the roar of the lunch room around us. I try my best to explain what happened and the expression on his face lets me know that he’s not understanding why I did what I did. He then shoves a paper at me and tells me to write everything I said down. When I finish, I show him and he tells me that I forgot to sign my name. I didn’t understand why I had to but he insisted so greatly so I did and gave it back to him. After that, I waited in the cafeteria by the door and watched many of my friends look at me in trouble. The embarrassment of being on the verge of breaking down showcased to almost every single one of my friends.

I am standing there attempting to hold back every emotion I have when a police officer approaches me.

“You in trouble, son?” she asks me.

I nod. “What did you do?” she continues.

Suddenly, there I am again explaining the bad choices I made and why I made them. She give me a concerned look like a mother and says, “So what did you learn from this?”

That had never occurred to me before. Was this all happening for a reason? Was I meant to go through this?

“Kid, you okay?” the police officer says.

As more than a hundred pairs of eyes look at me, I hold back my tears and realize this is one of my first real decisions. The world around me started to move as if I was thrown into a pool of molasses. My ears rang and sound become almost non-existent. I stand there as people go in and out of the cafeteria watching my friend get questioned.

“Come on, you’re going to ISS”, the principal says without turning around.

I had never been suspended or written up so when I arrived I didn’t know what to say or do. I gave the teacher my name and he asked me for my referral. That’s when I realized I had never received one from the principal.

He looks at me with an annoyed stare, “Where’s your I.D.?”

I feel for my I.D. badge but it’s gone. The teacher quickly became impatient and then just told me to go find a seat.

“In ISS there is no talking, no sleeping, no laying down, no touching, no moving around, and NO CELLPHONES,” he says expressionless as if he has said it every five minutes in his whole career as a teacher. I choose a desk in the back of the room.

Time drags and extends itself out and taunts me, slowing its hands to mess with my mind. Anxiety starts to win the battle that I’m fighting so hard to win. Suddenly, I feel my face fill with fire and my tears burn my face as if they were acid.

I was angry. I’m not sure at who I was angry. Maybe I was mad at myself. As I sat there, I became numb as stiff as a statue.

I outburst, “Can I talk to him?”

The teacher looks at me and makes a phone call to the 11th grade office and then asks the secretary if I can go to the office and then he nods for me to go.

I walk as if every step I take leaves a trail of fire behind me. A few people spoke but I was definitely not in the mood to talk. I was determined. I was going to walk in that office with my head up high and talk to my principal like the adult I keep trying to be. I wait outside his office for a few minutes and then he calls for me to come in.

“90 days in alternative school.” It hit me like a hammer. No, not a hammer. It was more like a building  fell on top of me, crushing my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. At that moment, nothing mattered. Friends, yearbook and school overall was snatched away from me within a matter of minutes.

“What’s your parents’ numbers?,”

I had snapped back to reality. No I couldn’t tell them. What could I tell my parents? They’d literally ground me forever. I was speechless.

“Mrs. Martin? Hello this is Ricardo’s principal at the high school,”  the principal said to my parent on the other end of the line.

This conversation wasn’t going to end well for me.

“I am sorry to inform you that while on a school sponsored trip, your son and a couple of other students did some things they weren’t supposed to. As a result of this, your child will be sent to our district’s alternative school for 90 days,” the principal said then continued the conversation with.  “You can appeal this decision with the school principal within 2 days. His intake meeting into the alternative school will be this Friday at 3:30pm. If he does not make it to this meeting, he is subject to further punishment.”

I hear my mother’s voice of  disappointed. I was disappointed. I felt as if I was starting over again. I felt this darkness coming over me. I was terrified. One night having fun changed everything. No I wasn’t going to be expelled and I wasn’t going to be arrested but at that moment, I felt like my school life and social life was turned off.

They sent me home after that. I hadn’t noticed that I had tears down my face since my sentencing of 90 days. My dad picked me up from school and on the ride home he didn’t yell, scream or punish me at all.

“You’ve managed to punish yourself. I know how much you love journalism. Now, you’re in alternative school. It is what it is, son. You’re almost 17. You’re almost an adult, a man,” my dad said.  “You go out and take control of your life, son. You’re greater than this.”

At this moment, I had an epiphany while looking out the window. Maybe I needed to go through this to discover many lessons. This wasn’t who I was. It still isn’t. I was only 16 and my life wasn’t ending. This taught me that everything isn’t in black and white. You can’t look at anything as only a negative. Everything is not what it seems and high school isn’t forever. Your life doesn’t have to be a mirrored image of who you will be.