Me leaving that school and solving the eight grade conundrum marked the complete end of a turbulent chapter of my life, and the start of a better one.
The next weeks were spent between recovering from surgery, studying and doing the stuff of that written material, playing video games, and watching movies. My dad never knew what happened, and surprisingly, he sent my mom the money to buy me my very own Sega Dreamcast months after Sega got out of the console business and people started selling here at a discount.
I still have my VMU with my original Phantasy Star Online (or offline since it was a pirated copy) character that I played during my recovery and up until 2002. That character was the very first white haired oc donut steel that would influence every other MMO character I’ve made in my life, from Ragnarok Online, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and everything in between.
In between all that, my mother had finished signing up the mortgage for this apartment, and the go-ahead was finally given. I moved in first with my grandmother with just some basic furniture, sleeping with her on a box spring bed that occupied most of this room’s space—the same room that would then become my bedroom, and from which I am writing this blog post, twenty years later.
Those months were extremely chill, and felt like a true respite. It was a great time in a new place, just much smaller, and unfinished but our own place. I’d keep going with my studies, eat my grandmother’s food, play video games, and watch telenovelas with her. My mother and my brother moved in shortly afterwards, some of the old furniture that we owned back in Maracaibo was sent to us, and we continued with our lives.
None of those guys from that classroom ever tried to contact me, except for one: the same guy that I had given my copy of Vagrant Story to. We occasionally talked on the phone and on email, as a matter of fact, he was the first guy that I used a swear word in a conversation outside of my family (yeah, I wouldn’t even swear at school). We kept in touch up until the end of 2001.
Other than the fact that he too wore glasses like me, I vaguely remember his face (mostly because he did resemble an old friend I had in Maracaibo), and I don’t even remember his last name anymore. I hope he fared well in life, and wish him all the best. Perhaps he’s part of the millions of Venezuelans that have fled from this socialist nightmare.
The same goes to every guy and girl in that classroom, even if I’ve forgotten most of their names and faces. But I haven’t forgotten nor forgiven Benjamin for basically stealing my VHS copy of Gone in 60 seconds. So if you ever see this, Benjamin, I want my movie back.
I ended up requiring a second surgery to permanently fix my toes, and as a result, my toes look bad and slightly misshapen, but I very much prefer having two ugly toes than no toes at all. This second surgery is why I stayed out of classrooms until January of 2002 and didn’t get to wear shoes until some time later.
My return to classrooms coincided with a new chapter of Venezuela’s troubled political history, where protests became more abundant, and things really began to slowly but surely worsen up. Ninth grade was a great moment for me, different than seventh and eight, and much better, yet sadly, quite brief, but that’s a tale for another time.
Unfortunately, I was never able to become the brilliant kid that had high grades all across the board once again, and my academic performance was never as good as it used to be up until sixth grade, but it was never as bad as during my time in that school—except for college, where I excelled in some, and was hella bad at others (math, my eternal nemesis).
Perhaps I was not destined to be a great student, and that’s why I kept failing over and over at it. After all, I’ve never been as smart as my mom was. Perhaps my fate lies elsewhere, I am still trying to find my role in this world, I’m just not the sharpest tool in the shed, and I really don’t have much accomplishments to show so far.
This is the first time I publicly share this eight grade story with others, two decades after it all happened. I find no shame in my failures of those times, it is what it is—that does not mean that I’m free of the burdens of regret of past mistakes, though.
One of my younger cousins is almost finished with seventh grade—online, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I told this tale to her in private in the hopes that my mistakes are not repeated and to encourage her as she struggled with some classes. I, dumb as I am, have been assisting her with everything I can to help her with her studies, from internet access to advice to English, it is my way to pay my grandmother for having me saved out of that disaster.
Another conversation with her is what prompted me to accidentally stumble upon my eight grade books, which are now hers to keep in the hopes that they’re of help for her once she starts eight grade in a few weeks.
I don’t even think there’s a moral to all of this, I just wanted to share one chapter of my life so as to bring closure to it. Twenty years ago, this chapter of my life came to an end, giving forth to a new, better chapter. Twenty years later, I find myself trying to leave this country along with my brother after the darkest times of our lives, and after three years of trying and failing over and over again, I finally find myself closer than ever before.
The fact that there’s parallels to be drawn between these two eras is something that, I must confess, intrigues me, more so because I stumbled upon that stash of eight grade stuff almost exactly twenty years after it all happened. Maybe it all just one big coincidence, but then again, my life has always had numerical coincidences like that.
Thank you for having read all of this, I love you all.
Until the next one,