Nicholas’s Labyrinth

Images attack me. Everything I observe around me has a sens, a symbolic meaning, which seems to point to the same big masterplan. A non-action, an incredible scene, an image that speaks for itself, the meaning s I give to them are unequivocal, as marked by the seal of fatality.Everything I see now confirms all I always saw, the meaning of the world, so to speak.
Let me picture this as a ferris wheel, which turns because all of the right elements are connected: New screws in old rusty holes, leaving marks on the tired white beams, connected to the huge steel structure where the nacelles sway gently. And at the center lays the mechnism of the wheel, turning endlessly, so this monster of imbricted images can reigns like a queen on the circus and its showmans.
I don’t know why I give everything around me such significations and secrets meanings. Who helped me to develop this gift, this handicap? Who could have awakened this sense in me? When I was young, I remember that I used to put my ear on a rock surface to hear its breathing. The tips of my fingers skirted the wind rounded edges of the rock along with the baizes of green moss and I discovered among some of the stony stripes tiny pebbles. To me it was tears shed by the rock, because 10, 000 years without any attention is a long time. So I wiped its tears by throwing the pebbles away. I would confort it and swear to come back really soon. And then, the rock thanked me by asking the wind to blow a symphony in the tall grass and tree foliage. The melody lingered on until I went back home, where was wating my other family, the human one.
I never spoke to them about it. I didn’t need to. I was convinced that they too had this viseral connection with the earth. I guess my parents never taught me to analyze and to utter proprieties almost magical to the world around me. Yes, my family was really close to nature, but they never taught me to systematically personify the elements.
And this is certainly not the teachers at school, who shove up the heads of children with completely foolish concepts, who awakened in me this sensitivity. In general, I had great luck with the cervical ablation that is school. My academical journey went relatively smoothly, althought I shown very little interest. I rather make up stories while looking out the window. Teachers left me alone even though I wasn’t listening to one single word of their stultifying speeches. I wasn’t bothering anyone.
The years seemed short, but the days were long. The hours and minutes passed with unbearable slowness. On a really hot afternoon, the class was silent, deep into a hard math exercise. A little blond boy sitting next to me was sketching an elaborate plan. He looked at me and I pointed the drawing.
-What is it? I whispered.
-That’s a labyrinth! Sometimes, people are being arrested by the cops, and they bring them here without explanations, and they have to found their way out! He said with enthusiasm, I swear! I saw it in a movie!
The mistress raised her head in our direction. She fronwed her big eyesbrows at us and pinched her lips shut and then returned to her book. The boy drew closer and started to explain in detail the intricacies and pitfalls of his labyrinth. My eyes went to the elaborate draft to the teacher, who was obiously losing patience. Two other kids start chatting with him. The teacher shut her book violently, but the blond kept on talking louder and louder as more kids started to listen to him.
I was in a state of panic as I watch the teacher rose from her chair and walk towards us. I had never defied authority before, never thought of it before, and I wish with all my heart that kid would stop talking.
With her duck voice she demanded silence, but she had no control over her class anymore. She walks between the desks and stop right in front of the boy and yelled at him that he was disturbing the silence of the class. The boy was stunned for a minute, tried to hide his drawing under his book and he told her:
-Well, at least I’m not as loud as you!
I heard laughter all over the class. She went berserk; grab his arm and lifting him out of his chair. She tossed him in front corner of the class and barked at him “On your knee!” The kid, terrorized, droped the attitude, as I heard a cracking noise when his knees came in contact with the concrete floor. She went through her lunch box before she walked to him.
-You want to play though with me? That’s what we will see… Stick your tongue out! She said pinching his cheeks as to convince him he had no other choice but to obey.
So the blond sticked his tongue out and the teacher poored the whole contenant of the pepper bottle on it. She ordered him to face the corner and think twice before speaking with this dirty tongue of his. She went back to her seat with impunity and told us to continue or math exercise. The class was plunged in silence of terror.All that we heard was the muffled weeping of the little boy. My heart was beating as fast as the tears pouring on his face. The seconds were intolerably long and I couldn’t take my eyes off the little blond head facing the wall. Suddenly, the sick silence was broken by the sound of my name.
-Elly, bring me Nicholas’s drawing, if you please.
I was shivering like a leaf, with my mouth wide open. I grabbed the sketch and walked slowly to the front desk. I looked closely the maze, as if I wanted to burn it in my memory for ever. It was beautiful, the roads were sinuous. I don’t think I could have found my way out easily. The teacher snatched the drawing away from my hands and without taking a second to look at it, ripped it to shreds as she glanced at Nicholas.
Watching her tear the sheet, something broke inside of me. I knew it was my fault, because I talked to Nicholas first.And I betrayed him and brought his work to destruction. I felt ashamed and guilty and also disgusted by the teacher’s satisfied smile. She didn’t discipline him, she broke him, torn him in as many shreds as the gray lined sheet.
She had the right of life and death over the students, and the one whit crazy ideas who talked too loud, she killed them. She didn’t give them any chance to find their way, unlike Nicholas’s maze.
If one wanted to know exactly when my aversion for injustice started, that would be the moment, on this sweltering afternoon, the silence punctuated by the wailing of a broken boy and all of these little bowed heads in fear or indifference.
The belt finally rang and I rushed out as quickly as I could. I waited a long time in the school yard to see Nicholas. But he never came out. I don’t know if it was hunger or guilt that gnawed my stomach, but I finally returned home with a weird feeling, like a spot on my heart. I hated math forever.
When my mother asked me what happened in class today, I bursted into tears and told my parents the whole story.They looked at each other, horrified. Maybe they doubted this almost fantastic story, because none of them dared to speak.
– Even if it’s not me who was punished, why is it me that is sad? I shouted, breaking the heavy silence which reminded me of this afternoon. My dad had a surprised look as he glance towards my mother who nodded silently.
– It’s because you are a good person, he answered as he reach for the phone. The next day, I was transferred to another class.
Ironically, I did not feel like a good person. I felt more like a passive traitor. Are we a good person because we feel compassion? Should we not take part in the pain of others, instead of empathize?

When I saw Nicholas in the schoolyard I when and apology for the mess I caused. He looked down and shrugged.
-Nevermind, he said. You’re lucky that you changed class, I didn’t.
My mom told me the rest of the story years after. Since the teacher was a former nun and a teacher since 40 years, she resigned only at the end of the academic year, because the union protected her. As if her holiness and her experience excused her brutality and indolence. The school received several complaints from parents and threats to withdraw their children, so the head offered her a good severance pay along with all of the collective agreement’s benefits for her retirement.

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