(9) Common Sense

Rising from her slumber-like a sleeping soul rising from the dead, Candace spoke, “I can’t believe you made me a character in one of your stories.”  

No longer wearing the hoody that covered her blonde hair, I could see her brown eyes looking back at me and hoped that under her mask was a smile. 

“Well, if you weren’t gonna talk in my class then I decided I’d make you talk in my story,” I said to her; unashamed of making her the hero in last week’s article.

It was Monday and we were in school discussing the story I shared with them prior to the weekend.  It had been a fun discussion but was now coming to a close. Pras jumped in with one final question, “Mr. J, was the article your own sneaky attempt to get us to go out and vote?”

Tomorrow was election day in the United States and the fact it would be the first time many of our seniors in the school were old enough to vote was a hot topic; amongst other things. 

Excited for them, but in no way letting myself get involved in the drama surrounding this election, I deflected the question the best I could, “Common sense might have you think that…but, no,  that was not my intention when I wrote the story Pras.”

Seeing an opening, I changed the subject knowing Pras would love nothing more than to spend the rest of our class time talking politics, “Hey, do you guys want to know a sure-fire way to piss someone off?” I asked. 

“Well, der, look who you are talking to Mr. J,” said Lauryn from in front of me.

“Allright then…I’ll tell you three words to say that will piss off almost anyone,” I said.  “I’ve seen it work on wives.  On husbands.  On friends.  On students.  On Co-workers.  On bosses….on children.  Can you guess what those three words might be?”  

“Go-Fuck-Yourself!” Lauryn said out loud.  

I could hear Nel laughing at what his girlfriend just said as I nervously looked towards the hallway to make sure no other teachers heard the words she just used in my class.

“IT’S COMMON SENSE,” I said loudly once the students gave me control of the room after Lauryn’s disruption.

“What is?” asked Candace.

“Those are the three words you can say to someone to piss them off!” I responded while writing it on the board to make myself more clear, “It’s the equivalent to saying, ‘You’re Dumb.’”

When I was young, a history teacher had once made me read Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense.’  I loved the phrase and remember being amazed by how one person could inspire such a following by picking at the heartstrings of a beaten nation.  Today however, I have learned to dislike it; as using it can unknowingly belittle a person.  Maybe I’ve become too sensitive, too soft, but I have seen these three words start more arguments than I wish to remember.  (And let’s be real, in a world so complicated…nothing is ever common sense anyway.) 

I used the rest of the class time to explain my perspective on the subject.  

Once class was about to end, I attempted to put a positive spin on our day and give them something to look forward to (knowing that most of the week ahead would be filled with turmoil over the presidential election).  

“I was very pleased by our discussion today regarding last week’s article,” I announced to them, “It was important to me that you realize it was simply a story.  Sometimes stories provide the best education.  Speaking of…I’m working on a great one to give you on Friday…I can’t wait to get your reactions to it!”

This time, I laughed; knowing that what I had in store for them would blow their little minds…and I had just decided on what I would title it…


Week 9- (11.6.20) – “Common Sense”

I was experiencing a bad case of writer’s block.  On the radio I heard it said a song by the band Oasis hit one billion downloads last week.  It was important for me to find a creative way to illustrate the importance of such an achievement.  But I was stuck.

Unable to figure it out, I chose to stop fighting with it for a bit.  I’d have a quick ham sandwich, I thought.  It was lunchtime and I needed to clear my head anyway, so, “why not?” 

Deciding that I needed a break from technology, I placed my phone on the kitchen counter and went to the bedroom to enjoy my ham sandwich in silence for once.  

Closing the door behind me I now felt a little naked by the silence that filled the room.  

My walls were covered with posters and I could not help but feel like they were all looking at me.  Sitting on the large bed in the center of the room, I glanced over at the empty bunkbeds to my left and remembered that the twins would be coming over tonight.  This made me happy.  

The three boys and I all slept in this one bedroom together-it was big, so it fit us all comfortably.  We called it our ‘dorm room.’  When we were all together it was like a frat party, so the name was fitting.  I had just gotten a poster made with our name on it to hang on the bedroom door and was excited to let them put it up when they came over later in the day.

I have a strange obsession for posters.  On the bedroom walls around me were posters of a wide range of famous people.  We only allowed ourselves to hang up posters of people, or characters, that we admired.  This was a rule I had created as it was my personal mission in life to find my kids role-models.  

Gazing at the wall, my eyes locked with those of Emma Watson.   She played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies and was forever a face to bring me back to my childhood.  This actress, however, was so much more than just a character in those movies to me.  I had admired her from afar for a very long time and hung up this poster hoping my boys would appreciate the person she was in the real world someday.  (Yeah, you might say I had a little crush on her or something…whatever…I’m allowed…this was my alone time…so leave me alone why don’t you!)

Looking up at Emma I thought of ‘the move.’  

A best friend of mine always had fun telling people about ‘the move’ that I had taught him when were clumsy teenage boys.  This was ‘the move’ a person should use when kissing someone for the first time.  For some reason I was just now being reminded of it….

“Hand-in-hand, look the person in the eyes,” I showed him.  “Don’t talk, but smile gently–no teeth Alec, this isn’t a class photo…and wait….”

Illustrating the move on this friend, I continued my instruction, “When she smiles back, slowly bring one hand up to her cheek-Like this…. Don’t break eye contact…. Now-SOFTLY…hold her face in your hand and move your thumb just a little bit….”  Holding my friend’s face, I finished my instructions, “Now…move your hand up along the side-like this….near her eye-like this…and then brush her hair behind her ear-like this….Then….”  I showed my friend how to gently go in for that magical kiss… 

My friend would tell this story to people whenever he got the chance.  “Remember ‘the move’ you taught me Jose,” he would announce to party goers embarrassing me-but meaning it as a compliment. 

Laughing to myself, I never broke eye contact with the Emma Watson on my wall.  What would it be like to kiss her, I imagined?

What would I ever say if I met her in real life I wondered…

“There are many things that I would like to say to you…” I’d start.  Then, after explaining how hard I had worked to arrive in her arms, I’d proclaim my love…“I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you right now.”

This would get me in- I thought to myself…lost in this fantasy world of mine while enjoying my ham sandwich….

Then it hit me!  The breakthrough I needed!!  I figured out how to include the Oasis song in my story!!! 

I rushed to finish my sandwich-cleaned up after myself-and jumped to my feet excited to start my writing. Walking up to her poster and looking into her eyes, I spoke, “Thanks Emma.”  Taking the three middle fingers on my right hand up to my lips, I kissed them and softly touched Emma’s face; which felt solid from the wall behind, “Until we meet again beautiful.”

I grabbed the paper towels off the bed and headed towards the door, stopping suddenly I wondered…. “Are you sure you are ready for the real world that waits outside this door?” 

So many times in the past I would get excited to run out a door like this with ideas that I thought were exciting.  Or fun.  Or meaningful.  Or funny.  Or life changing.  Or inspirational.  Or ironic.  Or…so many different things.  My mind often did this to me.  It gave birth to these ideas that I would convince myself were great.  I’d want to share them with everyone.  I’d want to change the world with them.   But often, I’d simply get myself in trouble.

“Was this going to get me in trouble?” I stopped to mentally ask myself.  

On the other side of this door was the real world.  Full of anxiety and fear.  Full of judgement and ridicule. It was not the world that existed in my mind.  I needed to continually remind myself of this:  “Don’t let them into your mind Jose,” I’d say.  (This had become my mantra when I had found myself super-excited by an idea like this one.) 

Debating whether or not I should do it, I again laughed at myself…and the idea.  It was too good I thought.  It’s going to be hilarious.  “Just do it!  What’s the worst that could happen?” I finally said aloud.

Grabbing the handle of my bedroom door I turned it, ready for the real world that waited for me on the other side….   

In that moment I was grateful for the friend that came up with that codeThat code would announce to others that we were enjoying some alone time.  We would use those words, that code, with our parents and laugh at them unknowingly.  Those words, ‘Ham Sandwich,’ that we used to secretly tell one another that we were masturbating.  

Week 9- Question for Reflection:  

If you discovered a pill to cure hopelessness would you sell it or give it away for free?

(Click here to continue to next chapter of the journey)

Music for Transcending Minds:

“There are many things that I would like to say to you.” Wonderwall by Oasis

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Read our story at: RecoveryHighschool.com

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