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Moments of Spring

March 20th, 2009 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
  She laughed, and I smiled.  She was one of the few people I could still amuse these days.  I enjoyed making people laugh, making people happy.  I remember the good times my friends and I had, when we used crack up over nothing, often at just ourselves or our mistakes.  That was a few years ago, when at least some of my friends still shared the same classes.  I don't see them often anymore though; our schedules are different and they don't take nearly as many courses.  I haven't laughed wholeheartedly in a very long time.  

  No one else shared an even remotely similar course schedule.  In most (actually all, now that I think of it) of my classes, I was either one of the few people in my grade or one of the few people not in the same school as rest of the class.  Most other classmates in my school (my friends included) decided to take less courses this year.  Being one of the few that bothered taking more rigorous classes, I was stuck in classes usually reserved for other schools.  It wasn't even just one; I'd be in a class from one school during one period and then be in a class from another school the next period.  In this way, I never really saw the same people for more than an hour.

  It wasn't necessarily the rigor of the classes that bothered me.  The workload wasn't hard; I got my homework done, ended the semester passing all classes.  I didn't even try that hard.  My parents keep telling me to drop half my classes, that it wasn't necessary and just a waste of time; I saw no reason to.  Once in a while, I stayed up until morning, but I really didn't mind that - and it usually wasn't because of a class.  No, it was not the courses.  It was the emptiness.

  Yet, even that I cannot blame on my schedule or my coursework.  Rarely did I come home by the afternoon; I almost always had some activity to attend to.  By 6:30 in the morning, I was at school for journalism.   In the afternoon, I either had sports, community service, an art club I started, or just something else entirely.  These activities were always very casual, very informal.  I met plenty of people and had plenty of opportunities to talk and meet with friends.

  So what was it? Why was I so isolated? Perhaps it had to do with just how spread out I was in the community.  I guess you could say that, in a way, I was part of everything and everyone's lives, but nothing and no one was really part of mine.

  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I certainly did my part.  I was one of the top writers in the school newspaper, showcased my club's art and won at various tournaments, went to the local university every other evening to train for the team season, and had one of the highest counts of community service hours in the school.  Yet, I could care less if I did anything at all.  Really, I could care less.  I just did it all regardless.  I had no reason not to, and logically, it was the best thing to do.  What would I do in the mornings if I did not attend journalism? Sleep even more? Where would I go if I wasn't doing something afterschool? Home? For what? I didn't need the extra time; I'd have nothing to spend it on.  I wasn't happier if I didn't do these activities, though, at the same time doing these activities, didn't necessarily make me happier either.  I just did them to kill time, but I did them well.  I guess some people could say I am rather cold and emotionless.

  And yet I complain of emptiness and isolation.  Really, how can I be so distant and yet be so involved at the same time? It's a paradox (something my teachers seem to love pointing out about everything, though really everything is a paradox - which would mean nothing is really paradoxical, wouldn't it? Oops that's another paradox.).  I guess, in a way, it's really my fault.  I had the choice of joining these activities, and I chose them so blindly.  In clubs alone, I'm part of at least seven, but in every club, I know maybe at most five to ten people.  Sure, I recognize a number of other students; I see them in my classes, those from the other learning communities.  But do I know them? No.  I don't see them outside these particular classes and clubs.  Every club I'm in seems to be composed of a different group of people; like my classes, I rarely met the same people across different clubs.

  "For crying out loud, do something - help out," he said.  I didn't know whether to call him my friend or rival (in what, I do not know, but he seems to always compete with me, or at least berate me).  I helped him glue the pieces together as he watched with a critical eye.  He always seems so determined to do things alone, but when he does need help, he never asks.

  One of the pieces fell and rolled across the table.  "Oh god, look what you did now - so clumsy," he muttered.

  I watched the piece roll; it reminded me of billiards or shooting pool.  It was one of few things I enjoyed doing; it reminded me of a summer trip I once took, where the hotel we stayed at had a pool tournament.  My friends and I were staying the night and had spent the evening playing.  It was our first time playing, and none of us were really any good.  However, it was fun.  That was many years ago though, when we were still in middle school; I don't remember having ever stayed out with my friends as much since.  Lately, I've just been playing at local events outside of school; my friends no longer play.

  "Are we still having a party at the end of the year?" I wondered out loud.  "We should play pool again."

  "If you want," she said.

  "I'll kill you in pool," he said.  "What would be the point of that?"

  "You play too?" I asked.  He didn't answer.

  "Maybe we can even set up a game," I suggested.  "We just didn't have enough people last year."

  He turned to her instead.  "You were there last year, right? Does he play well? 'Cause he's so short - doesn't look like he can reach the ball on the table, even with a pool stick."

  She laughed.  "I don't know.  I don't play pool.  But he takes forever to get the 8-ball in, so I guess he's not that good."

  * * * * *

  "Alright I'm done for the day."

  "Wait, but we're still in the middle of a game."

  "Who cares, dude? Season's over."

  The conversation began after a rather quick game of tennis.  We were in the middle of a match when my tennis partner abruptly quit.  There was no convincing him to stay.

  "We were just getting warmed up though," I lamented.  Then I added cheekily, "and I was about to beat you too!"

  "Yeah right." His reaction was just cold, as if he could care less. "Besides, even if you did beat me, so what? Team's over now."

  We used to play so competitively.  I couldn't understand how he changed so much.  I looked at the rest of the courts, all empty.  It used to be a pain just to nab one.

  "Why even bother to play then?"

  He grew irritated.  I seem to have that effect lately.

  "I told you, man. One hour a day, enough to stay in shape.  That's all."

  That was the last time we ever played.

  * * * * *

  The spring ball was coming up again.  I loved swing dancing and wanted to try it there this time.  I have been dancing for three years, the first being at a summer camp where my friends there at the time decided to just jump in and try everything.  The rest of the year, I attended nightly classes to get better and learn more.  It's not slow or boring like some others often believe, especially if you get good at it; I think most people just don't want to put time into learning the steps, which is a shame because it really isn't all that difficult if you try.

  Such is the case at my school.  I knew no one else who knew any form of partner dancing, let alone swing.  I've helped out with a teacher at the school that taught dance lessons for the past two years, and every year, we start fresh.  People who show up have either never danced in their life or they try to "move to the music" and just do whatever moves come first to their mind.  By the time a few people get decent at dancing or at least can keep stepping in rhythm, they leave and never come back, claiming they will never use this in their life anyways or that the lessons are too time-consuming.  We then get a new batch of students, who again know little to nothing.

  The lessons were definitely time-consuming; every weekend, I spent the afternoon helping the instructor.  I don't know why I did it.  I remember telling myself I needed to attend, so I don't forget how to dance over the years.  Yet, starting from basics year after year doesn't necessarily help either, and we never got nearly as far as the lessons I used to take in my first year at the summer camp.  Why did I continue? Was it nolstalgia? Did dancing remind me of earlier times I missed? I don't know.  I just know I attended consistently, sometimes even putting the lessons above my schoolwork (though my grade really never changed).

  Ironically, I never attended a single dance the last two years.  No one ever did actual partner dancing in these events; it was always grinding or "freak dancing." After learning to swing dance, I didn't want to see that again.  It was, to me,  pointless.

  But this year was my last year before graduating, and I wanted to make the most of it - to do more, to go all out, while I still could, and not just be shy or kept to myself like I usually was.  Most of all, after two years of idleness, I wanted to dance, to really dance - everything that I knew, not just basics over and over again.

  There was a brief period where I thought I finally did meet someone else who also knew swing dancing.  I would never have expected that person to know it (though now I suppose I should never have to expected begin with), and when I heard that she was looking for a dance partner, I was interested.  How much did she know? Did she know more than me?  For no particular reason, someone suggested she ask me.  I never considered it before; I had only thought it'd be interesting to see how much dancing she knew, as it seemed like no one else at the school shared the interest.  I wouldn't have minded going, but she had a different thought on that.

  "What?! He can't dance!" she laughed.  Then she turned to me.  "Right?"

  I didn't know what to say.  I had never danced outside the lessons on campus; I didn't know if the comment was based on actually seeing me dance or just an assumption.

  "No, you're right," I said.  Then I smiled.  "I can't dance if I tried."

  I called her later that night to ask what was meant by the comment.  I wanted to know if she actually saw me dancing before; perhaps I had regressed over time.  After all, I'd just been stuck relearning basics for two years.

  "You can dance?" she asked plainly.

  "A little bit," I said.  I wasn't sure what she expected me to say after I already said that I could dance.  What conversed afterwards was completely unexpected.

  "Oh, really? Yeah, well, you can't dance like I do though.  You don't know how I dance."  I didn't bother to discuss any further.

  In a way, I was lucky I didn't.  Later that month, she actually came to one of the school's dance lessons I was helping out at.  She claimed to like swing dancing and wanted to learn.  I asked how much she already knew, but she claimed to know little, that she was only be a beginner.  She didn't come again after the one session; I don't know why she came the first time.  Perhaps I'm being harsh, but she obviously didn't actually know how to dance nor was really interested.  Never once did the girl respond to signals or follow in step.  After frustration with two other partners, she demanded I be the partner instead and teach the steps.  It was impossible to predict when she would turn or switch directions; I felt I could just leave her alone and she would continue dancing even without a partner.

  So the one other person that claimed to know swing dancing, perhaps the one person in my school who would ever claim to, didn't actually know how to dance.  Maybe I was expecting too much.

  * * * * *

  I seem to enjoy alot of strange hobbies that no one else would pursue, or at least care for.

  To throw out an example, in a debate team I was part of last year, my teammates would arrive each day begrudgingly, looking for excuses not to go when I actually had to make excuses to my parents in order to go.  Whereas others on in the group would cheer when we didn't score high enough to compete in the final round (and therefore not need to stay for another day), I'd actually feel disappointed.  I had put so much into it; I wanted something to come to fruition, some result or impact to come of it.

  I'm not sure why we never scored high enough to win anything.  I like to wish it was both me and my partner's fault.  My coach sums it up best in the statement that I perhaps stretch myself too thin.  Where most people probably devote hours daily for over a month, most of my research was often crammed into the last two weeks before the competition.  Often, I stayed up entire nights to squeeze more research in, but it could never be as much as I would have if I began weeks earlier.  I was also not a very strong speaker (my parents said I didn't sound competitive enough to possibly win anything), and at the time, my voice had been fading a bit.  I'm not sure if it was an illness or what because it went on for four straight months.  I could very well have been the dead weight on the team.

  My partner, on the other hand, was the team captain.  I don't quite recall how we ended up as partners, but it was before he became captain, when we were both still new.  It was about the first week of school, and I guessed he just asked me to be a partner for the year's competitions.  No, it was more like "You're my partner, okay?" And I just said okay.  I'm not entirely sure what the thought process was; I guess I just didn't know anyone else on the team (recognized anyone else would be the better way to say it; I didn't really know him either).  However, we stuck as a team for the rest of the year.  At the first competition, we almost won; it never got better than that.  I guess I stuck with it, hoping we'd eventually surpass our first "achievement."  We never did though; we actually ranked lower each time - either the competition got harder or we got worse.

   His efforts were questionable.  I remember our last tournament before the year ended, where he brought along literally no preparatory materials to use during the competition.  Smiling, he tapped his forehead and told me, "I'll just what's in here."  Meanwhile I had brought over fifty pages of research, and over the next two hours, he copied them feverishly to his own papers.  When we lost horribly that day, he sighed with relief, stating it was a good thing we didn't have to compete tomorrow because he had so much homework that weekend - that and he hadn't told neither family nor parents about the tournament, therefore not having any transportation to come even if we did happen to win.  Later that same month, before the state competition, I asked whether or not he really wanted to compete.  Of course, he said yes - asking me instead whether I was giving up.  I couldn't say no - that and because I really did want to compete, more importantly to win.  Yet, after a week of virtually no work done on his part, I had to ask again.  This time, the story was that there was too much homework from classes.  I pressed the question again, and he admitted that perhaps we weren't that good and shouldn't waste time on the competition; afterall, even if we won, he had something else to attend to the next day and we wouldn't be able to compete in the final rounds.  That day, I decided to give up.  He sighed with relief, stating out loud to now have more time for schoolwork.

  I don't blame him for anything; my own club members have the same issue.  Each year, we entered numerous contests, some local, some national; we won only a handful.  Even with the first competition we entered, my members tried halfheartedly, not even fine-tuning the entry before submitting, because they truly believed they would not win, or they did not care to win (sometimes I don't know which anymore; maybe it's both).  Just last month, we spent weeks collaborating on an entry for the national competition; the teachers loved it.  Everyone who wasn't in the club loved it.  The club members, on the other hand, grumbled over it.  Asked what could be improved, they told me (after a few minutes of thought) that I shouldn't put the school name, that our entry might be dragged down by our school's reputation (which was what? I don't know).  Another member hoped we'd at least get top 50.  During that contest, I did not bother to fine-tune the entry; it was the only time I didn't.  I couldn't bear to work on it any longer; I wanted to be done with it and submit.  I guess it's really my fault then that we only did score top 50 (we didn't even have a rank number, just one of the 50 entries who "also" ranked).

  But there's something more.  I'm not sure how to explain it.  Sometimes, I feel that I was the only thing stopping my own members from deserting the club, that if I left the next day, the club would cease to exist.  I'm not sure why that is.  We had a number of staff members, so the work should have been evenly spread.  We had more than enough events, often two or three each week and a major one each month.  The problem is the seeming lack of effort.  The last worthwhile project we attempted was the one we scored top 50 on; afterwards, I let the members decide what projects they wanted to do.  Yet, it's been more than a month now, and pretty much nothing has happened since.  My parents tell me to just shut the club down, that it's pointless and doesn't do anything.

  * * * * *

  The school year was finally coming to a close with an end-of-year party put together for everyone graduating this year.  All my friends from previous years were going, so it'd be a nice reunion of sorts - I hadn't really spoken or hung out with them in a long while.  I considered just going to see what everyone else was up to, just as some of my friends were doing as well - going there just to be with everyone else.  Everyone was going to be there, so it'd be fun.  Yet nobody realized I was coming.

  I'm not quite sure what it is that people seem to doubt me for.  Just the other day, many of my friends were gathered afterschool in my final class.  I guess they were trying to be respectful as I was one of the few people still working on the current handout (though really I didn't have to; it was due weeks later).  Behind me, the rest of my classmates seemed to have grouped further across the room, but I could still hear them.

  The group was excited.  They were all excited.  They had convinced nearly everyone they knew to come.  A few of them went as far as to say there was no one on the list who wasn't coming.  All they really needed to do now was split the costs.

  * * * * *

  They were excited.  A few of them thought they wouldn't be happy going anyways.  Instead, they set up a separate event on the same day.  They were going to try to gather as many people as possible to come.  They asked me to come as well.

  Why they chose the exact date of the end-of-year party? I don't know - I suppose it'd give them something to do while everyone else was going.  Yet, they expected people to come as well, to not go to that other party and go to their event instead.  I suppose they wanted to go against norms - or be rebels- or something.  I really don't know.

  Only now, I'd have no reason to go to either.  About half of my friends were going to the party and the other half was at this other thing instead.

  * * * * *

  In the end, it didn't matter.  They had said that the event wouldn't last, and that it wouldn't be a big deal if it went wrong.  It was a big deal to me though - it was something interesting to look forward to, something worth remembering - it could have been anyways.  It was our last year after all, before everyone parts ways.  Maybe I'm taking things too seriously, but it's not just that one event... - like I said, that doesn't matter anymore.
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