Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta math. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta math. Mostrar todas las entradas

jueves, 5 de febrero de 2015

High School

   I remember I sat down on a corner, by the stairs that came from the soccer field to the main yard, and just ate what I had just bought in the canteen. I believe I had a donut and some orange juice, as it was only a thirty-minute break. Those thirty minutes felt always like thirty hours. I just read something of some book I had in my backpack or looked at what others might be doing. But I stopped doing that quickly because I didn’t want anyone to think I was eavesdropping or something.

 Of course, I already liked boys back then but there was no desire or sexual tension of any sort. Not that I couldn’t be sexual but I thought of the school as a space free of that tension as I rapidly realized no one would correspond those feelings. Especially not the boys I thought were the cutest, normally those who played sports or had some sort of annoying attitude. Somehow that last thing made me look at them even more.

 I got really good at looking at guys without them, nor the annoying girls that always flocked around them, notice me. It’s a skill I still have although I don’t care anymore if a man, straight, gay or whatever, catches me looking at them. At the end of the day, it should be a compliment. Of course, any boy back then wouldn’t have taken it like that. I believe all guys in my school started dating when they were like fourteen but I’m not really sure. It just seemed like it.

 The girls, on the other side, were different. For the exception of some guys, all of them were exactly the same: sporty and mean spirited. But the girls were divided almost equally into two groups: nerdy or artistic kind of chicks and the popular girls. These last ones were only popular because of the money their parents had and because they had a bit more grace than any of the others. They were not especially cute or anything, they were just better actresses from a very young age.

 See, my last high school years were spent in a private school, which used to be very exclusive. Not everyone could get in as money and status were kind of mandatory to get in and if you didn’t have any of those, you had to be related to someone that could help you get in. It was that simple and everyone knew although no one ever spoke about it.

 So I was there, whether I wanted it or not, and I soon realized how much of a nightmare it would be. I had never been great in large groups and there were at least eight groups of the same grade, each one consisting of twenty-five people. That was intimidating and the worst part was, every years groups changed. So you could end up with that person that looked at you as if he had shit under his nose, or you could end up making new friends.

 All right, now we have to clarify that word, that social networking has prostituted in an awful way. A friend is a person that you trust and that trusts you back, who knows all about you and you know all about him or her. Of course the word “all” is not literal, but you get my drift. I think the key to a friendship is trust and that means being real, being just as you are with that person and that person thinking you’re amazing because you are who you are.

 Well, I never really felt I had friends in school. Never. I had good school companions, whose company made the days less annoying and the classes a bit less boring. But I wouldn’t call them friends. They never really knew me and I don’t blame them because I never let them know who I was or who I wanted to be. I think it was, especially towards the end, a huge collaboration effort to make school a bit more fun and bearable.

 They were all women, in my case. Girls that, like me, felt a bit in the edge of the social circles that had formed with the years in that school and we just got along fine because we were all eager to finish up and leave forever. I always related more to women because I found them less intimidating. Even today, I still look more for the support of a women that from a man. Back then, as well as today, I feel intimidated by men. Why? Very easy answer: because there’s always competition between men and I have always hated to compete, as I know I’m no match for anyone.

 Yes people, that was when my self-esteem problems began. I mean, I can maybe trace them back a bit more but high school just compressed al my fears and anxieties into one place. Sports were the worst. Playing football, basketball or even badminton was a torture for me. Not only because I absolutely hate exercising but because it put me in the spotlight. Many will know how awful it feels to be chosen at the end I always ended up being the last or next to last one to be chosen for any game.

 Of course, if that happened today, I wouldn’t mind. I would not play actually and I would have a witty response to anything someone told me. I can be very abrasive but that is a perfect answer in many cases. But back then; it was not a choice to be like that. I wasn’t fun enough to just make a fun statement. The reality was that I was a shy boy and I’d rather shut up that say anything to anyone. I felt bad enough as myself, because of all the pressure around. There was no need to make it worse if I could avoid it.

In class, it was different because there was no interaction between students. All you had to do was stare at the teacher and answer if you were questioned. No, I wasn’t shy because I was smart. I wasn’t smart at all. Besides a few dates and country names I had learned from reading, there was not much more I could bring to any class. Literature, funny enough, was a torture. A load of books I didn’t understand made me miserable. I never read all of them to be honest. That reminds me; in my school all classes were taught in French so it wasn’t as easy as you might have thought.

 Then of course, I had my “nemesis” course: mathematics. To say that I sucked in that class would be a large understatement. I never got anything past the divisions. I only understood equation two years after we had seen them, which of course, was a bit too late. What I always hated was when the teachers said that mathematics would always be necessary in daily life so it was imperative that we got good grades. I never got more that a twelve over twenty, and that was not very often. As for my daily life, I never use equations. Thank God, I’m not a rich man.

 Like later in life, they would always scare us with exams and tests and so on. And, ignorant as one is when young, we would all be scared of them. It’s a natural response that now, I know, is just to make you feel in a rush, in order to be on the lookout for anything. Tests only get easy when you know your answers and how do you that? By understanding in class. Studying at home doesn’t do shit. And sorry if someone disagrees but I’m a strong believer that if you get it the first time, that’s the time that counts.

 At home, I had my TV and Internet. There was no YouTube craze by then, nor Facebook or Twitter. But you could get distracted with chat rooms and even pornography. I cannot say I didn’t check that out when I was younger, it would be a lie. And besides that, the Internet had stories and videogames and news to offer. So I was driven to that and not to study math that was complicated and that, by age sixteen, I had given up to. To this day, it annoys me to see a lot of numbers in a sheet of paper.

 As we all did, I’m sure of it. I handled on one side my home life and, on the other, my school life. That’s why I hated seeing people from school in the supermarket or in a mall. I felt they were invading my space, the one were I felt more at ease, where laughing did not feel out of place. You might think I’m being exaggerated but that’s how I felt. That’s why being parent to a teenager is hard: it’s a person that’s feeling so many things at the same time and they often have no idea how to handle it all.

 In secret, and I’m sure many did the same; I was looking forward to the end of high school, the graduation ceremony. People often say how that time of your life is perfect because there was nothing to be worried, you get to have lots of friends, first loves and you were just happy all around. But that is a filthy awful lie, because it’s not the same for everyone. I wasn’t happy there, at all. I didn’t have any friends and, much less, loves. I wanted to get away from there and once I did I made sure to live a life I could say “Well, it may be crappy but this is mine and I’m me. And if you don’t like it, fuck off”.

martes, 11 de noviembre de 2014

Can you feel me?

He had done it before and knew what it felt like. But he kept doing it, not caring for the aftermath, how it hurt afterwards.

It was so easy now, not like it may have been for boys and young men decades earlier. These days, all you had to do was grab your phone, download an app, put up a picture and voila. That was it. Thousands of men available, just by touching a few commands, just by responding to a message or sending one.

Of course the images were laughable. Most tried too hard to get noticed so they uploaded pictures where their bodies were shown in full exposure. Many were taken at the gym or in a bathroom.

Our guy, he just took a selfie on the street and that was it.

For the last six months, he had intercourse with several men. Sometimes even two on the same day. Always in their homes, their workplaces or sometimes in cars or parks. He didn't really thought much of it, not before or during the moment. It was the aftermath that hunted him.

Curiously, it wasn't the unprotected sex that bothered him. Most guys used condoms so he didn't gave it much thought. What pierced through his head was that emptiness he felt during the process. He had sex to pass time, to forget, to feel liked for at least a second. He wasn't keen on finding love or looking for it. He just needed someone's touch sometimes, and to feel needed or wanted. That was his turn on.

But it all disappeared pretty fast after it had all ended. Most guys rushed him out of their homes and it was understandable: many had couples and were even married, to women. He had even known some of them had children.

The truth was that he felt numb, sometimes during sex but always after it. He didn't really care for anything. He was desperate to feel something but many times couldn't. Physical arousal was rapidly meaningless, empty and hollow.

One day, going to meet a guy, he realized he had lost his cellphone. He had no idea if he had lost it or if he had been the victim of theft. Anyhow, he didn't have the exact address of where he was going as it was noted on a message the guy had sent. He waited until he saw a familiar sight and waited for the bus to stop.

It wasn't a pretty neighborhood but he kind of knew all about it. He had been raised in a house not very far from there but hadn't visited in years. His family had sold the house more than twenty years ago and there were things he didn't remember.

He decided to walk around a bit, eat something and then go back to his house. All the houses looked as if they hadn't been cleaned for years and there was a lot of garbage on the side of the road. It was sad, to be honest, to see how a place could just freeze in time, in such a negative way. It had never been a nice place but it was sad anyway.

The boy saw an internet café and was tempted to go inside but something came over him. It was maybe better to spend the day without any electronic devices, specially not the kind that may make him go to a place he now had no intention of going.

He did enter a Chinese restaurant and asked for the menu of the day, which had lots of rice, soup, a drink and a dessert. All of it for a good price. He was glad to be the kind of person that never left the house without money. He didn't have much, but enough for the meal he craved.

As he ate, he detailed every corner of the restaurant: red and gold veils all over, dragon statues that looked like made of gold but obviously weren't, a Buddha figurine and a one of those white cats that greets people with a paw. It was nice and almost empty. Lunch time had passed so only two tables were occupied. The other one was taken by a young Chinese girl doing her homework or so it seemed.

As the boy finished the soup, a man came from the kitchen and started arguing with the girl, in Chinese. It had always fascinated him how, as different as languages may be, we all have the same facial expressions, body language and reactions.

The man went back inside and the girl continued with her work, typing on a calculator and writing in a small notebook.

 - Is the business good? - he said.

She raised her head an looked at him, a bit confused.

 - Sorry... The rice is really good.

She then smiled and said the recipe had been brought from China by her grandmother and it had been in her family for years. He asked if she was doing homework but, as it happens, she was doing the numbers for the restaurant. Her father had entrusted her with this responsibility a few months ago but now thought it may be too much for her to handle.

The boy said he was good with numbers so he could help if she needed to. She hesitated, so he took a bite of a spring roll. But then the girl stood up and took her things to his table. She explained what was troubling her and in a matter of minutes, the boy had cleared the issue easily.

As he finished lunch, he helped her get everything in order. The father came back and was surprised to see his daughter talking to a client. The boy thanked the man for his food and asked for the bill. The man did not say a thing to his daughter.

The boy then wrote his email in the girl's notebook and told her to remember him if she needed help again. She said she had actually been looking for a tutor, as she needed to improve her grades to one day be able to handle every single aspect of the restaurant.

The man brought the bill and he was introduced by his daughter. The boy thanked him again with a handshake and told him he was going to tutor his daughter, as he realized she was eager to have the best Chinese restaurant in town.

The man seemed very happy, shaking the boy's hand and smiling. After he left, the girl and the boy talked about the business and not much about each other. He then saw what time it was on a clock in the wall and decided to leave. They bid farewell and, some time after, he was on the bus en route to his home, to his family. And for days, he didn't even thought of getting a new cellphone. He finally did in order to be in contact with his friends and family, all the people he had banished of his life and was now getting to know again, feeling them closer.

jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014

Reign of the Ruler

It was the 1960's. Johanna was a catholic and her family thought the best education could only be provided by the clergy so she went to a school run by a convent, by nuns. Her parents were right, actually. In a country with such a low quality in education, only private institutions could provide real knowledge for children.

Johanna at first was unhappy. Before going to a catholic school, she had attended one of the districts institutions. The difference was abismal and there was no doubt that they had better quality with the nuns but she missed being with both boys and girls. She had many friends from both sexes and the change proved hard.

But she grew accustomed to that. She discovered that being around girls all the time wasn't so bad at all and, anyway, she still had friends who were boys in her neighborhood so no problem there.

Besides, she loved many of her new teachers. Sister Glenda, music, was one of her favorites. She brought all kinds of music to class and knew how to play every single instrument, or at least that's what it looked liked. She was very skilled and fun to be around.

Sister Clara, biology, was very strict and poised but she encouraged curiosity in her pupils. The best part of the school year was when she brought dead animals to be opened by the girls. Although contrary to what one may think, every single girl loved to do it and only a few went sick after it. They opened iguanas and frogs and also dissected a cow's heart. It was all fun and learning.

Sister Mary was short and chubby and the funniest woman you would ever have the luck to meet. She cooked the meals in the kitchens and also had an optional course for girls looking to learn how to cook a proper meal. In those times, women were taught to be good housewives from school and no one had anything to say about it.
They made cakes and cookies and also stew and baked potatoes. Even before entering the cafeteria, you knew the contents of the meal. And it was heavenly.

But they were not all nice. Some were even known to be cruel and girls whose mothers had come to the school told the others about what it was like years ago: in their minds, it sounded like a prison of the Middle Ages.

In their years, however, there was Sister Joy. Her name was pure sarcasm as no one thought the woman had ever felt joy in her life. She was professor of mathematics, so it was a prefect combo: most difficult subject, most cruel teacher.

It wasn't only that she hated girls talking or not paying attention during her class. She only hit the chalkboard with her one meter ruler and that was it. Things got bad when, for example, Johanna challenged her once about an exercise they had to do as homework. The girl told the nun she thought the exercise was to advanced for them and that's why many had not even done it correctly.

Sister Joy responded by asking Johanna to put her hands on the table and threatened her not to move them or the punishment would be worst. And then she hit her with the ruler, right on her fingers. The pain was awful. The fingers rapidly got swollen and Johanna had to go to the nurse. That wasn't much better as Nurse Amanda, a nun too, was a bit too old for the job and sometimes didn't handled her strength.

They did denounce Sister Joy's actions but to no end. The school said the professors were actually allowed to enforce respect in their classrooms as they wished. However, they told Johanna's parents that they would talk to the mathematics teacher about her ways of responding to the girls.

They were times children had to respect blindly what older people said, even if they were wrong. And besides that, the church was more powerful and families thought the best thing to do was to live how God intended, or rather, how the church intended.

From that moment on, Johanna tried to be better at math and decided not to give any reason for the woman to be mad. But the truth was the kid was not very good in math, so when she failed an important test, Sister Joy told her she wouldn't be able to pass to the next grade. She would have to get an impressive mark in the last exam to do it and that, in her opinion, wasn't probable.

Johanna told all about it to her parents but they just said "Study harder" and so she did. For other subjects she wasn't as dedicated because she liked them or they were somehow easier for her. But for the final math exam she studied a lot, with friends and her brothers and reading and doing a large amount of exercises.

When the time came, she did the best she could and waited. All other exams had gone fine and she was pleased with it but couldn't stop thinking about Sister Joy and her ways to grade the exam. She didn't think a religious woman would be unfair but this woman seemed liked she liked challenges.

The day came and Johanna got her exam. She received 11 points out of 20 but she needed 12 to pass. She compared her exam to a friend's and noticed one of the answers was the same but the way they got there was different. The thing was her friend had receive the point but not her.

She knew she couldn't complain to Sister Joy so she went to her boss. Mother Superior was also a though woman but fair and really nice if she wanted. Johanna told her about the exam and Mother Superior summoned Sister Joy. She had no way to deny her awful attitude. She just said sorry, changed the grade and almost didn't even looked at the girl.

After the summer vacations, Johanna was surprised to learn Sister Joy had left the school to be in a remote convent, somewhere in a valley or something. The girl didn't care anymore, although the younger girls were relieved to know about her departure. She had made that ruler very popular among them but, from now on, it would only be use from time to time to silence a class or to trace simple and innocent lines.