You’re supposed to read a book for Castilian class throughout every term. Said book is assigned by the teacher, students have a couple months to read it, and then the book is debated and talked about. You get a grade at the end of this, and everyone’s happy. I don’t know how things are these days, but back in my day this was a very crucial part of your Castilian class grades, and the 2nd term of 9th grade was no exception.
The book chosen by Mrs. Elsa for the 2nd term was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Lucky for me, my mom had a copy of the book, so no need to go out and buy a new copy. All I had to do was read it, right?
Lmao, too long, didn’t read.
I was no longer that ace student, and I don’t know what happened, I just kept procrastinating it and never reading it, even though the book was literally next to the mattress I slept on. I’d just keep getting distracted with other things, and never mustered the motivation to read it, thinking there was always more time later — until there wasn’t.
This is how I got away with it:
On the very last night before the Alchemist debate morning, I read the shit out of the foreword, introduction, and parts of the first chapter, memorizing key phrases and sentences. On the next day, I made sure to participate in class while they were debating those parts of the book, and because it seemed like I had actually done the deed, I got an acceptable grade out of it.
I remained silent and clueless after they moved on with the other parts of the book. To this day, I still don’t know what the book was about. There’s a high change that the book itself is stored somewhere among my mom’s old medical books.
THE THEATER WORKS
For the third and final term, though, Mrs. Elsa changed things around, and instead of reading a book, students had to prepare theatrical plays. Everyone had their groups, some larger than others, and I ended up alone once more — that did not stop me from getting away with it, again!
Once again, I procrastinated all the way up until the very afternoon before the day of the activity. That particular afternoon, though, I was accompanying my mom and aunt with some of their errands, something that extended up until very late.
While they were doing their stuff I was there, daydreaming about what the hell was I going to present. Nothing really stuck in my head, and I was once again scared shitless. The next day, though, it all clicked on me at the eleventh hour. To make matters worse, the entire 10th grade class was to be our audience.
Tavo and Pablo had this play about two rockers, Pablo bought his guitar and amplifier, and they based their play on that entire gimmick. Another group had a sort of family comedy schtick. Others bought props, attires, full makeup, and more good stuff.
I bought nothing except a vague idea.
So when it was my turn I borrowed the teacher’s desk, some magazines, and my calculator to unleash my improvised play: I played the role of a guy that had it all in life, money, possessions, you name it, and he began his monologue by number crunching how much money he had just made in that year so far.
Then he’d rapidly get into the crushing realization that his climb to fortune had left him alone, with no one to share it with, having trampled over many to get where he was at. The most dramatic moment was me slamming the magazines (which acted as his finance reports) and throwing them out of the desk.
Anyways, I got a decent final grade out of it, and the compliments of a girl from 10th grade. Until now no one ever knew I procrastinated my way out of it.
THE SHAMPOO INCIDENT
The last Chemistry activity before the final test involved making homemade products made using knowledge acquired during chemistry classes, which were to be displayed during a school faire.
I don’t remember if the products were randomly assigned, or if they were first come first serve, in any case, I got assigned with making a shampoo. I no longer remember the ingredients, but I had everything, and the instructions seemed easy and clear enough.
What I ended up making was no shampoo, though. I don’t know where I messed up, but I was embarrassed enough to not submit it. I took the L, got my 0 grade, and made up for it during the final Chemistry test.
THE PASTA DAY
Someone had the idea of having a pasta share day. Some bought different sauce recipes, such as alfredo, napolitana, and others. I bought some of my mom’s tried and true pasta sauce, and boy, I had all the right in the world to brag about how good it was.
I’m still in a quest to try to get my pasta sauce as close as possible to my mom’s recipe, which she learned from my Italian grandmother — I’m always so close, yet so far in this endeavour, though.
THE SHURIKEN INCIDENT
The ‘goth’ girl in class happened to have a set of shuriken, and she happened to bring them to class one day. All was fun and games until one threw it at a dry wall and left a noticeable hole.
How to conceal the crime? Quite simple, with a piece of paper. Eventually the jig was up, though. Everyone kept their mouths shut, and no one was blamed for it.
TECHNICAL DRAWING & THE COMMERCE BAIL
I managed to fare decently enough during the 2nd term of Technical Drawing, but I completely dropped the ball during the third. I didn’t have the tools, boards, ink pens, nor the skills to do any of that stuff, and I straight up had zero grades all throughout.
The problem, though, was that, as the teacher would often remind us, “You cannot repair Technical Drawing — you have to repeat it,” and I was on a certain path towards this horrible fate.
My saving grace was that, for some reason, Commerce and Technical Drawing counted as a single subject towards the government, therefore both of these would get their grades averaged at the end and shown as a single subject in the final report card. While I had a 01 in Technical Drawing, I had a perfect 20 in Commerce — the average of which was a low, but a passing 10/20 grade nonetheless.
THE MATH CALAMITY — REDUX
Math was my calamity during both 7th and 8th grade. The one subject I flunked over and over again, and I could not get good at. For all my efforts, 9th grade was about to be a repeat, much to my dismay. I ended up with a 09/20 final grade, just one point shy of passing it.
I could not do another math flunk to my mom once more, it would’ve meant that I learned nothing from two years’ worth of failures. My mom was not happy with me at all — in my defense, I wasn’t the only one, and more than a quarter of the classroom was in the same situation.
The day of the reparation test came, and less than half passed it. I failed that test big time, and I was ready to accept my fate and ‘drag’ 9th grade math during 10th grade. Many of the parents protested, and because more than half failed the test, a second shot at a reparation test was triggered, but there would not be a third.
THE FINAL DAY
The school year was over, but I had one final trial ahead: the repeat of the Math reparation exam.
There were no other chances, no do overs this time. My mom had me take some preparation classes with the teacher that put me up to speed earlier that year. This guy had been instructed by the school in the stuff that I was supposed to do for the test.
The final day arrived. There was no one else in the school but Mr. Argenis, the math teacher, Mrs. Gilda, and the handful of students that were to take the test. Everything was shut down, closed, barely any lights on.
“If you have to use your fingers to count — use them,” my mom said to me the day before. She already had the displeasing experience of seeing me fail math all throughout high school. Mrs. Gilda oversaw the test. I was scared. Some of the things I understood with ease, others, not so much.
I gave it my all to prepare myself for this final test, believe me when I said that I truly did. I tried my best, but once again, my best was not good enough. Then something happened. Mrs. Gilda was the one that gave out the results, one by one.
“You passed, Christian Caruzo. You passed!” she said to me with a smile.
I did not believe it, there was no way I could’ve possibly passed the test. To this day I still swear that I did not pass that test. Mrs.Gilda must have certainly altered my grades there to give me a 10/20 — that is the only plausible explanation I can give, even after all this time.
Whatever the truth was, what mattered the most was that I had officially passed 9th grade, and I was now two years away from completing high school. All that bad experience aside, I was more than willing to return to that same school for 10th grade, but my mom had other plans. She decided to move us to a nearby school — the one choice she made that I could reproach.
I never got to see that school nor my 9th grade classmates ever again. This is another “what could’ve been but wasn’t” moment of my life. Had I remained there, then perhaps, I would’ve ended up becoming a more normal person and not the mess that I ended up becoming. The same can be said about Maracaibo, alas, it is what it is.
I don’t wanna talk about the last two years of high school, a lot of bad stuff happened, and I ended up reversing all of the progress I made towards opening up and being more sociable. The end result was a more socially inept and withdrawn me. The only silver lining is that my social isolation set me on a path towards Jedi Knight, Ragnarok Online, and ultimately threw me towards many more online adventures at the cost of having zero social life skills.
It’s been twenty years since those days and, like many good things from my youth, this school no longer exists. They closed some years later due to financial issues, I believe. I don’t remember when, but it certainly was long before the collapse of the country. A new school now exists in that same place.
Mrs. Gilda would stay in contact with my mom and would often ask about me and my brother. When I chose to write about 9th grade and began drafting these posts my brain immediately prompted me to try and contact her after all these years.
I recently found out through a simple Google-fu that she passed away sometime between 2014 and now. I’m extremely saddened that I wasn’t able to reach out to her one last time and thank her for everything now that I’m a somewhat ‘mature and more functional’ individual, so to speak.
I don’t know if any of my old 9th grade classmates remember me at all, for I was a brief six-month passenger in their respective stories. If they do, and if life presents me with the opportunity, I’ll gladly share a drink or two with them. They may not be aware of it, but they were part of some of the best times of my complicated and atypical youth.
With time, I will forget more and more about the good days of 9th grade. As I become older, I will continue to forget their names and faces — but now, by writing some of what’s left of those memories here, they’ll be preserved in a way.
I hope you liked reading these memories of better times, for building better days for myself and my brother, and helping others have better days through my limited abilities, is and forever shall be, part of my unending quest of finding my role in this world.
Until the next one,