Antidisestablishmentarians: we were in the library discussing people going against the establishment. Anarchists and protestors people who create rebellion, strife and all that good stuff. I am supposed to be their mentor, but I can't stand my mentees – they are all in need of a good lesson about respect – but they don't know it. I signed up to volunteer as a study aid. To help people find resources in the library. However, I was duped.
On my first day the librarian called me into her office and explained the details of the job.
“We have a big problem in the afternoon during the school week. The police won't help us, and they suggested recruiting a volunteer to help manage the teenagers that come in after school. The teens are supposed to study, but they form groups and talk to much. We figured if we could get someone in here to guide them it might solve our problem.”
“So the problem is they just talk to much?”
“Well, no they walk the library, hide in the corners and make-out with each other, mimic other patrons etc. ...”
“No thanks, I'm leaving,” I stood to walk out.
“Did you finish all your community service requirements?”
“How do you know about that? You talked to Sergeant Backus huh,” I sat back down.
So I got assigned to a meeting room in the back of the third floor of the library. I stand at the entrance on 2:30pm Monday through Friday and march the teens up to the third floor study room. They hate it. The walls in the room are sound barriers with padding on the walls: seems to have been designed for this lowly sort of creature, the teen. I could throw a few against the walls just for fun, and no-one would hear their cries for help.
Each day I look at their subjects they are supposed to study, most lie and say the teacher didn't give them any work. Some try to put their heads down and sleep, while others attempt escape so they can find a private corner: sex in public places seems to be the latest teen fad. Every day the sex capaders say the same thing and ask the same questions.
“Weren't you young once T- Rex? Come on let us have a moment together”
“That's Sergeant-Rex to you, and sit your ass down. Get your work out.”
“Damm -- why you such a butt-hole?”
I look at him quickly and do not answer, starring him down until he buries his head in a book and pretends to read. - Illiterate little shit in black, stinks like he hasn’t had a shower for a day or two, hormones raging. His pricey little bitch tries to give me a dirty look, but bows her head in a book. I speak up and ask them all about respect.
“What is respect? You corner boy, you go first”
“It is something my parents want and never get”
“Just like you they think they have earned it. Well none of you have, we are going to take over the world, change it, make it better.”
“Put your inspiration out there in the world, without respect. What do you have?”
“What did your parents do that was so awful? Did they go to work and buy a house, take you to the doctor, buy you food? You’re all just rocks tumbling down a hill out of control. No regard for anything outside your own self-centered view.”
I stopped talking but my mind kept on thinking, dolts, dweebs – self-absorbed – smashing their families apart, arguing with mom’s, dad’s, for their own personal whims and pleasures.
“We inspire each other, and we accept views from each other.” Said a dark eyed wimp at the end of the table.
“Really, that’s all you have to say. You don't inspire each other and I have seen that first hand many times. What you see as inspiration and respect is really join my club, be like us and we let you in. There is no respect in join my club- it’s all false.”
“Hold on T-Rex, we have individualism, we aren't like all you conformist adults, and we respect each other for our differences.”
They all nod in agreement.
“Hey pregnant girl, you get respect from the boy who knocked you up? Where is he? Nowhere- to- be –found! So now you are sliding up to corner boy over here, you going to give him something that he wants. How about giving yourself something you need. Stop making it easy for the boys, take care of yourself, show some respect for your body and your baby.”
“I hate you … you're an asshole” She gets up and leaves the room, crying. Corner boy follows her out. The rest of the table stares back and dreadlocks -Mr Individualism starts to speak.
“Why did you say that to her, it was mean and disrespectful?”
“Being a mother is hard, you can’t just follow any boy to the corner and take care of a child, that’s not the path to raising a kid. However you’re right about what you just said. I need to excuse myself and go apologize. Mr Individualism, you are in charge. Take everyone down to the second floor video room next to the reference section.”
I leave to find pregnant girl with corner boy – in the corner – but right now he is not trying to cop a feel in public. He has suddenly turned compassionate. My eyes spot a chair near them. They give me an unwelcome stare.
“Pregnant girl, what is your name?
“Would you like to report my behavior, I was disrespectful, and you are owed an apology.”
“No not right now”
“I am sorry Kerry. Corner boy, what is your name?”
“Doug. Who’s watching the group?”
“Dreadlocks or Mr. Individualism- whatever his name is.”
“Let's go down to the second floor.”
“What are we going to call you, T-Rex?”
Neither Kerry or Doug were as I previously imagined. We were separate entities, but out of that, a conversation emerged and nothing was left out. Families, problems, and friends all became part of the dialog. Kerry told me the father’s name and told me how abusive he was so she broke up with him. I told her she had courage and did the right thing. She smiled. I asked Doug a question.
“Why did you follow her out of the room?”
“ Because you upset her”
“Is that the only reason? How did you feel when she left crying?”
“It hurt me inside. I didn’t like seeing her upset and hurting”
“You had compassion and empathy, she was more than a pair of breasts”
“Damm you cut right to the bone Mr Joyce. But you are right. Kerry is a nice girl, she needs love and respect. You know I have a job, yea I uh bag groceries at Super K foods.”
“So what is next?”
“Mr Joyce my baby is due in July. Doug has been with me before I was showing. I told him I was pregnant on our first date. He could have ran, but he stayed with me.”
“Wow Kerry, it must have been a hard moment, but you told the truth. You showed courage again. Kerry … I was wrong about you.”
We went down the elevator and walked into the video room. I walked over to dreadlocks – Mr Individualism- and asked him his name.
“Dreadlocks- what is your name?”
“You know I could tell the rest of this bunch looks up to you.”
“How’d you figure that out?”
“I watched, black eyes, sourpuss, and dream weaver all look at you when you responded to my questions. They all wanted to hear what you had to say and couldn’t speak for themselves. And the gay twins were in a trance. You were bigger than life.”
“Their not twins, but they do dress alike, very strange. What is your name T-Rex?”
“We have been meeting here for more than two months and things were about to get a lot worse. We all voted to push you off the balcony or something. We didn’t want to kill you, just hurt you in some way.”
“You know I would’ve taken a few of you over the edge with me, used you all as a landing pad. But I felt the tension, and something had to be done. At first my approach to the group was to be a tough guy, show everyone who is boss. My roots in the Marine’s I guess. But this week I just wanted to talk to all of you. Instead I had to play babysitter and track you all down again and again. So I devised a plan to get us talking. I know it was risky, but failure would do nothing for any of us, because we would not change. I don’t like failure. Can you get everyone back to the room?”
“Yes Mr. Joyce”
Leon rounded up everyone in a few minutes. It was clear he was well liked and respected by the others. As they took their seats they all began to stare at me like some collective thought was ready to burst out of their uncontrollable mouths.
“Mr Joyce, why are you here?”
“I got into a fight last year”
“No … we don’t believe you, nice thoughtful Mr. Joyce,” said Doug.
“What happened, did you whip some butts, blacken some eyes?” commented Leon.
“I was in a bar, minding my own dam business, commiserating about my lost buddies. The news was on the TV, some story about three marines killed by a roadside bomb. A regular patron of the bar was sitting about three stools away from me, he started saying stuff – ‘jarheads, didn’t know what hit them, bet they couldn’t find any pieces of em.’ He was drunk, and I ignored him for a little while, kept on drinking my beer. Then he gets up and asks me, ‘hey you were a jarhead, what’s it like over there.’ I just ignored him. He poked me. I told him to back-off! He jabbed me in the side again and said, ‘you got a softspot there don’t you?’ I hit him hard he went over a table and some chairs got knocked down.”
“He deserved it”
“No, I could’ve gotten up and walked away, but the word softspot hurts deep with any Marine. When I was in the war we would go on patrols of certain areas on a regular basis. Our troop carrier can carry about ten Marines. I was in a patrol that got hit when our troop carrier went over a roadside bomb. Three of us survived, and one of my buddies started to look for injured. He walked a few yards and then I heard those words, ‘I got a softspot.’
A softspot is a dead marine who is buried under rubble. The few of us that survived completed the search - walking slowly and carefully using our feet to look for the dead.”
They all sat there speechless, imagine that a teen with nothing to say, the girls had tears in their eyes and the boys hung their heads. My innate sarcasm waned. I regained my composure and thought about refocusing the group on something besides me, I was uncomfortable with the sympathy and attention that their eyes bestowed upon me. I thought about where I would start, there are fifteen students in front of me, none of them depending on me to save their lives, carry them through battle, the stuff I feel like I understand. But I did have a gut feeling about a topic.
“Should we as citizens go against the establishment? Should we rebel and why should we do it? My name is Mr. Joyce and today we will discuss this question.”
One of the gay twins spoke first.
“My name is John. I believe we should fight any injustice.”
His twin friend added
“My name is Duke. We should fight all injustice around the world. There is a lot of bullies who are full of greed and they want to control everyone.”
Leon cut in and stopped the conversation. Mr Joyce showed us something today, none of us really knows the other, in fact we do not know each other’s name’s. We don’t talk to each other in school. We all started by description. Leon went around the table and pointed to each group member and wrote down their names.
I am Nelson. “Chuck”
Leon injected, “I knew your name was not Nelson.”
War Gamer. “Joe”
Baby face. “Jennifer”
I stopped them for a moment. “Bailey I was wrong for allowing your nickname to be said in this room. It was hurtful.” The rest chimed in apologies too.
Descriptions are a wonderful thing when you are discussing objects. But humans defy this process, we all have something inside that is not defined by our exterior. We are good, bad, ugly, beautiful, and many times cruel. Leon had control of the room as I continued to think about these once vile creatures as humans.
“Lets’ finish our discussion- going against the establishment.”
“Chaos is good when organized subjugation has power,” said Leon.
“Fancy words, Leon, but you may have a point. How else can you break something that is bad without injecting chaos into the situation?” I said.
“Voting, we can all vote for our party and our causes,” replied Bailey.
“Good one Bailey, We are going to vote as soon as we turn eighteen,” responded Kaitlin, Cheryl, and Jennifer, then they added in unison – as Independents, not dem’s or pink elephants.
“Wow, going against the established parties of power, without anarchy, you all can organize and recruit more independent voters.”
“I’m not going to vote. I’m going to fight.” Then Joe stood up and added, “I do not want this war to continue, and I will be a part of it’s end.”
“Joe why do you want to do that, become some warmongers puppet.” Asked Leon.
The rest of them bowed their heads a little, not sure about how they felt after hearing Joe’s words.
“Joe that is a huge decision. Have you told your parents?” I asked.
“No. Anyway it is just me and my mom.”
“You have to tell her and talk to her about it. You cannot just walk out of your house one day and tell her goodbye I am joining the Army. You’re her boy, the only thing she knows, and you are everything she has worked for over the last eighteen years. You will not be ready to be a soldier if you cannot tell your mother about this – it’s very important. To be in battle you need a clear head to survive- it is not a video game.”
“Thanks Mr. Joyce. Said Joe.
“I need to tell you all something. It’s no surprise that I’m not a fan of your age group. I like to keep my distance. Most adults feel that way about teenagers, but there is a limit to our displeasure- it is finite. We are not filled with hatred towards all of you, and we do remember our own youth. But we need to let our dislike of youth fade, because we also know that you are the future. We look at you and we see our recent past whether we like it or not.
When you look at adults, it’s easy to see imperfections, so don’t expect perfection. Teenagers get caught up in this- this high expectation of perfection from adults- and it leads to trouble. People become misguided when they want to much from other people. Example, a guy likes this girl, they talk get to know each other a little, but the guy gets serious quick, because he needs something- at that moment the girl backs off. The guy fills with tension and stress because he cannot understand the situation. This is a huge moment in the young mans life. It is the moment that he needs to teach himself to walk away, and that is very difficult for a young man to do. The young man can be filled with thoughts of failure, of contempt for his girl, of contempt for society. He becomes immersed in failure. But he has not failed. He has not failed because he tried, and that is more important. So he sits in a wallow of self-loathing. This is where he must accept himself- as is – and get up and try again.
And young ladies, you are not off the hook. You have many problems of your own as you travel on the road to self-acceptance. Your judgment of each other based on looks, your need to have the attention of men. Many young girls believe they are entitled to a fairy tale life, you’re not! Attraction takes on many forms, and looks are a part of that, but basing your life- on how hot you think you are- is a trap and you will be your own prey.
When an adult sees this, they are repulsed, but they know you are young, so many just let it go- without the mentoring that is needed. It is moments of not mentoring when needed that adults fail youth. What both sides need is to talk and listen to each other, especially the last part, our society if very loath to listen to one another.”
“ Mr. Joyce, most of us feel that adults just don’t want to hear it.” Leon commented.
The rest nodded their heads in agreement.
“That is your moment -- that is the time when you stand face to face with an adult and demand to be heard.”
© Copyright 2014 Artemis J Jones