School Optional

I’d like to say that my brother was an upstanding citizen of the youth community as a teenager but I’d be lying.  He was a little shit, but he was also a boy.  The distinction between the two has always been a gray area for me.  A bit like Men are from Mars, Women are for Venus but adjusted for siblings and not hot dates.

Bill often did things that befuddled me and in high school the confusion ran at an all time high.  I would come home from school early as my inexplicably lax senior year schedule allowed and there Bill would be, sitting on the couch with thirteen other burly dudes just…hanging out.  I didn’t really understand why he didn’t want to be in school.

Me: Like, you don’t want to learn?

Bill: I dunno.

Me:  Like, you have more fun at home watching TV all day?

Bill:  I dunno.,

Me:  Do you want Mom to kill you?

I couldn’t really do anything about Bill’s blatant disregard for the public school system.  As I saw it, my school was the one that students would want to flee.  We had mandatory dress code, community service requirements, the occasional “celebratory” mind-numbing Mass service, drug dogs, and demand for participation in higher learning.  By comparison, Bill’s gigantic, nameless, faceless, structurally lenient school was a piece of cake.  Buck up, kid.  No one cares what kind of nail polish you’re wearing here.  Live it up.

Bill didn’t look at his school as an in-house, government-subsidized opportunity for growth.  Consequently, he felt no need to really be there.  As our mother instructed, I dropped him off in the morning and then continued on my way to my own little school of horrors.  Bill probably would have been stranded at school for the seven-hour window in which he was required by law to sit through, but our house was less than a mile away.  The temptation was too great to resist.

As soon as I dropped Bill off, he’d be hiking it back to our house.  If he was feeling generous, he’d stick it out at school for a couple hours, enough time to rally up some fellow degenerates and caravan by foot back home.

What really pissed me off was that Bill didn’t much care about getting caught by me, probably because, for whatever reason, I didn’t tell our mom.  I’d stumble in on his lame sausage fests, yell a bit, and the group would disperse.  Sometimes I would even drive them back to campus; five or six 200 pound basketball players crammed into the back of my old Mercedes, while I tried to not to bottom out my car as I drove over speed bumps.

There were a few “Bill Days” that I did not get to witness first hand, but only heard of later after a screaming match between him and my mother ensued.  There was the broken back door that Bill blamed on his friend Harold (actually, Bill broke it himself after ditching class and realizing that he didn’t have a house key).  There was the broken picture frame, which Harold actually broke when throwing an orange around the kitchen (this was Harold’s fault, for real).  There were the excessive calling card charges billed to my dad’s account (also blamed on Harold, also true).

Bill’s choices in clothing were also an enigma to be during this time.  Giant ENYCE sweaters, some FuBu, and definitely a pair of cherry red suede construction boots that looked like clown shoes that he never got the courage to wear in public.  Everything in his wardrobe at this time was extremely colorful: banana yellow, North Carolina blue, tangerine.  He was truly dedicated to this persona.

We lost long distance service on the house phone after Bill spent about $300 on a bill with a “girlfriend” who lived in South Central.  This was long before the days of teenage cell phone use.  The romance ended soon after that, as he had neither a car nor the means to contact this young lady after school hours.  The long distance service never returned.  To this day we can only dial out into the 818 area code.

Eventually Bill moved in with my dad to continue his antics on the Westside of Los Angeles.  At this point, any of his shenanigans I would not be a party to.  If he ditched, I never heard about it.  If he came home drunk, I didn’t know.  He soon enough grew out of his white-boy-does-hip-hop phase.  He started wearing neutrals and blacks.  Years later, he would actually take school seriously.  But no matter what phase he goes through, he’ll always be that little shit who stole quarters off the floor of my bedroom.

*  Names have been changed to protect the guilty.