"I still don't understand why there are so many phases you have to go through," I said as we continued walking. The hallway was crowded with students between classes. Lots of people were going to their lockers to get different books, but mostly kids were just standing around talking and stuff. High school hallways are like rivers where half the fish forgot they're supposed to be swimming in a certain direction.
"Do you play sports?" Joe asked.
"Then you have to go through all the phases."
"You mean if I played sports I wouldn't have to?"
"Yeah. Athletes are exempt from the general rules of adolescent romance."
"That doesn't seem fair."
"No it doesn't, but I didn't make the rules. Look man, I gotta go, but you should ask her out."
"Alright, I will."
I don't know why I told Joe I would ask Eve out. I was not nearly as sure of myself as I pretended to be. I hadn't even committed to that idea in my head, but I said it out loud and mom always tells me to be a man of my word. I needed to ask someone for help, but the person I would usually go to in this type of situation is Sarah. She's all around smarter than me, so I always go to her when I need help. She's also really good about being helpful without being patronizing, which makes it easy to ask her about anything I don't understand.
Anyway, I don't understand women and seeing as I wasn't going to see Sarah until 4th period, I decided to text her during Biology. Now, you have to know that I don't normally text in class. I think it's rude to the teachers. Also, my Biology teacher, Mr. Henderson, has a very strict rule about not texting in his class. He does this thing where if he catches someone texting he takes their phone from them and reads their texts out loud to the entire class. It's always super embarrassing for the student who gets caught, but super entertaining for the rest of us. Normally, his class is the last one I would ever text in, but I sit in the back left corner and we have tables instead of individual desks. There's no way for him to see under the tables and he never walks to the back of the room, so I figured I was in the clear.
After the bell rang, I pulled out my phone and texted Sarah.
T: hey i need your help
S: whats up
T: its about a girl
T: i wanna ask Eve out but idk how. what do i do?
That's when my whole world came crashing down around me. I don't know if it was the dead silence of everyone in the classroom or the slight sound of breathing behind me that alerted me to Mr. Henderson's presence over my shoulder, but either way it was too late.
"Tim, it appears you have something you'd like to share with the class," he said.
"Umm...no sir. It's nothing I'll put it away sorry."
"I don't think so Tim. You know the rules."
"Yes sir, I just think it'd be best..."
"Do you want to read it out loud, or do you want me to?"
"I want to crawl into a hole and die," I mumbled.
"I didn't quite catch that Tim."
"Now Tim, don't be selfish. Whatever conversation you were having on your phone must have been much more important than whatever I was talking about, so I think it's only fair that we all know what it is that couldn't wait until after class."
Mr. Henderson's sarcasm usually made me laugh, but right then I wanted to throw up. I slowly handed him my phone and watched as he walked to the front of class with my life in his hands. This was one of those moments when I knew something was about to happen that people would never forget. Joe has this friend that everyone calls Pants. When I asked Joe where the nickname came from, he told me that when they were Freshmen another kid pulled down this kid's pants in front of the varsity cheerleaders. The kid who did the pants pulling was suspended for a few days, but the nickname Pants had been around for over a year. I didn't even want to think about what nickname I might get stuck with after this.
By the time Mr. Henderson reached the front of the classroom I had sunk so far down in my seat that my chin was even with the top of the table. This was it for me. I was going to have to drop out of school and transfer somewhere abroad. Probably Australia.
"Let's see what we have here," Mr. Henderson began. My forehead was now even with the top of the table. "Text from Tim to Sarah 'hey i need your help.' I think I could've helped you Tim, but oh well let's see what she says."
The worst part about Mr. Henderson reading texts out loud was his commentary. As if what the actual text message said wasn't bad enough, he made sure you were thoroughly humiliated. "She responded, 'whats up.' I'm not an English teacher, but I would like to point out that she forgot to include an apostrophe and a question mark here. I do wish you guys would use proper punctuation when texting."
Everyone was laughing now. I remember being on their side when Mr. Henderson was reading someone else's text. His cruelty was funny when you weren't on the receiving end of it.
"Alright Tim, let's see what it was you needed help with."
I began packing my backpack to walk straight out of class as soon as he finished reading. I didn't even care if he kept my phone. I was going to walk straight home and never show my face in this building again.
"Text from Tim..." I started wondering what the public school system is like in Australia. I would need to learn how to have a cool accent like them in order to fit in. Put anotha shrimp on the barbie. Dingo babies. I figured it'd be best to start practicing right away.
"'It's about the geometry homework.'" My head shot up and I saw Mr. Henderson looking back at me. "Well Tim, I can't say that your geometry homework is super interesting or pressing, nor is the rest of the conversation on here. How about we get back to my lesson and you can have your phone to worry about your geometry homework after class."
I nodded my head, not sure what to say. Mr. Henderson had just saved my life.
I spent the rest of class furiously taking notes in hopes that my attentiveness would in some small way convey my gratitude. I don't know why he did what he did, but I hung back when the bell rang so it was just the two of us in the classroom. I didn't know what I was going to say, but I needed to somehow thank him for not ruining the next four years of my life.
"Tim, just walk up to her in person and ask if you can take her to dinner and a movie. That's all. Don't overthink it."
"And one more thing," he said, walking towards me to hand me back my phone. "Please don't ever text in my class again."