As you may remember from last week, me, and two of my pot-smoking buddies, had just been introduced to two detectives who were eyeing us like wolves surrounding a stray lamb. (If this sounds unfamiliar, then I would reread last week's blog and then see a doctor.) What happened next made all three of us turn as white as sun-bleached whale bones.
"Meester Smith," our principal said to my friend Brian, who was sitting on my right, "please join us in my awe-feese."
Fear gripped my heart. From the look on my friends' faces, I could see the same sense of dread in their eyes. Brian had nearly an ounce of weed (that's a baggy half-full) and a fairly large pipe stuffed down the front of his pants. Surely, Principal Wright had noticed (it looked like Brian was either the most endowed teen in the school or maybe he was just a little too excited about our adventure). Why else would he pick Brian to be first? It would only be a few minutes before we watched Brian emerge from the office, as they led him away in handcuffs.
I don't know if time has ever moved slower at any other period of my life. They were in the office for maybe fifteen minutes, but it felt more like a lifetime. My mind was spinning so fast (going through every scenario, which all ended in getting butt raped in prison) that I swear I could have solved world hunger, if I had been so inclined. I thought about whispering something to my other friend, Jessie, only to blow off a little steam, but he wouldn't even look at me. He kept his gaze fixed on the floor, with a "we're so screwed" look on his face.
When my ninety-fifth birthday arrived, the office door opened. Brain wasn't wearing any silver bracelets and I swear that I saw a smirk flash across his face.
"Meester Steeevens," Principal Wright crowed, as Brian sat back down, "yur up next!"
Upon entering the office, I was told to empty my pockets, take off my shoes and socks, and then sit down. MY pockets! Did he say, my pockets? I had been so focused on Brian's junk that I had forgotten that I had incriminating evidence in my pockets. I slowly withdrew the rolling papers and roach-clip that had completely slipped my mind, and sat them on his desk.
"What do we have here?" one of the detectives said, as he snatched up the roach-clip off the desk before it could stop rocking.
The two dicks (that's the old-school term - I'm not trying to disparage) took the black-goo covered alligator clip to the back of the office and began to mumble to each other. I took the opportunity to survey the office. Neither the pipe nor the bag of weed were anywhere to be seen. The following interrogation confirmed my suspicion that Brian still had both in his shorts.
They grilled me for at least a half-hour. Who provided the marijuana? Where did we get it? Where is the rest of it? Who else in the school smokes weed? Who sells it? Why won't you answer any of our questions? Do you know what they do to small teenage boys in prison?
At first, I denied that we had been smoking anything except for cigarettes. They scoffed at that and said that they had more than enough evidence with the tar that covered the end of the clip. It would "go much better for me" if I just came clean and told them all that I knew. I ended up telling them that it was I that provided the single joint that we had smoked and we had used-up every single bit of it with that very device that they were still fondling. I wasn't about to roll-over on two boys who were older than me. Prison would be better than the humiliation of being labeled a 'snitch'. I wouldn't give them any other names or information. They scowled at me and threatened me a few more times before taking me back to my seat.
As I sat and waited for Jessie to return to his seat, the pressure of the threats began to get to me. I had to give them something to save my own skin.
"Um, Mr. Wright?" I asked, when they returned. "Can I talk to you guys again?"
"I think that that would be a good i-deer," he replied, with a big, shit-eating grin.
Brian and Jessie gave me death-stares, but I didn't care; it was my ass on the line.
I didn't change my story about what had transpired behind the boys-room, but I did give them a few names of guys who were dealers of drugs in the school. I picked a couple of guys who had given me the cold-shoulder, and a guy who had gotten caught out of school and was waiting trial. The truth was that 90% of the high school population sold a joint now and then (you had to pay for your hobby some way), but I wasn't about to tell them that. They would have hauled me off to jail for giving false information to a police officer.
They wrote everything I said down, nodded to each other, and then told me to take my seat. I felt like screaming, "That's it! I freaking risked my friends thinking that I'm a snitch for "take a seat"! No 'thank you' or 'good job'? What the hell did I come in here for?" but I didn't. I turned around and left the office as I had been told.
In the end, we were suspended for ten days with the charge of 'suspicion of smoking'. None of my butt-raping fears came true. But that didn't mean that my ass wasn't on the line and about to get pounded; I still had my father to deal with. More next week on how my parents reacted to their baby-boy being a part of the first almost drug bust in ROVA High history.
So, are there any stories quite as rebellious and self-destructing in your teenage past? I'm just getting started with my acts of defiance and ignorance.
Your American friend,
That’s quite a story, with perhaps the most astonishing aspect being your recall of fine detail, given the power of weed to obliterate memory. My own period of dalliance with narcotics didn’t begin until I was nineteen, so I’m not being priggish here in changing the subject.
For I must confess to being a bit of a goody-two-shoes in my mid to late teens. I always, always did my homework. I enjoyed studying for exams, and I was more than one teacher’s pet. The worst thing I ever did was smuggle alcohol in through the toilet window at our “Matric Farewell” (the equivalent of your American Prom). But that’s about as bad as it got. Oh, hang on a minute, in my final year at school I did refuse point blank to participate in weekly gym classes, because of a profound and lifelong aversion to running around chasing a ball and getting sweaty.
What defines those teen years, aside from the South African socio-political background I talked about last week, was that they were largely spent with my nose pressed into a book. I read voraciously, although not always discriminately. We lived across the road from a library, Polly and I, and I can still remember the exact layout of the shelves: where the romance fiction was, where the biography. I can remember the smell of the place.
I can even remember the exact moment my hands connected on one of those shelves with Dear Theo, the abridged version of the letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother. It was on the third shelf from the bottom, about midway along.
It’s funny the things we remember in great detail as important, and the great swathes of time – months and even years - we completely wipe from our memories. I’ll try and dredge up something a bit more exciting from this great blank next time, but I rather fear there’s nothing of great import awaiting excavation until I hit eighteen-nineteen-twenty years of age, the period when I started to go completely off the rails and was a goody-two-shoes no longer.
I rather dread reading of your father’s reaction to you being busted at school. I’ve got a suspicion it’s not going to be a particularly joyous encounter...