three failed attempts. that’s all it took.
Today we had some of our more interesting lessons. Some of them could be characterised that way. I say, staring around a milling bus station.
You can always trust bus stations to not be appropriate places to write on a laptop. People stare.
Arriving to class, I felt fully emotionally equipped to seat myself in a desk and dump my bag on the chair next to me. A loud enough “I’m sitting by myself and I don’t give a fuck,”. My expression said it, my soon-to-be-executed action said it, and perhaps the might with which I stared at the vacant desk said it also.
Until I heard the, “Hey, come sit over here.”
Okay yes I could do that. Not sure what all that shit about sitting alone was about.
So I go ahead and sit with this person, who seems very open and has seemed very open since day 1, but whom I haven’t talked to a lot. I make a mental note to fix that, and helpfully kick myself in my imaginary situation.
It’s the first time I get to sit in that row. It’s the boys’ row. Three desks of boys, one desk of girls. Clearly, the boys’ row. And so the lesson begins.
I’m focusing, and I’m soaking in the knowledge, and I’m also noting that the one person I’m hoping to truly socialise with is sitting diagonally behind me. How convenient. I almost talked to him yesterday, but then I didn’t. Can’t have that. My pride was wounded enough already.
The bell signalling the break sounds. I don’t have to remind myself to not be so desperate anymore; I’m not. I make my nonchalant way out of the class and into the canteen. The struggle of a vegan in a school canteen is that the only available option is juice.
Thankfully I’m in the mood for juice so it doesn’t phase me.
Walking back into class, a classmate I’ve managed to socialise with on the bus asks me how my Easter was. My mind does its little quirky thing where it swiftly tells me, oh, this is the point where, if you were a normal human being, you would respond with, “Oh, it was pleasant. How about yours?”
But then it also feels the need to prove to me that normal is not exactly up my alley. So I casually respond with, “Well, I was at a funeral so it wasn’t quite Easter for me.”
She calls me over to her desk to talk.
Well, who would have guessed. (Not me. I didn’t.)
We talk about Easter. I tell her about my dead cancer uncle, and how being at his funeral enabled me to forget Easter was a thing. In my mind, it’s equally a good thing as it is a bad thing. There are not many festivities one can join in as a non-meat-eating person on Easter. Therefore, my complete absence from the scene was a perfect avoidance technique. I tell this person so.
She nods with more understanding than I could hope for and reveals that the feeling is familiar to her. She talks to me about last year, when her boyfriend, Alex, lost his dad. It was emotionally draining, and it made him a colder person, but she stuck through it with him. I congratulate her on doing so.
And then I get back to my desk. And I sit on top of it. And the person I’ve been targeting as a social outlet is staring me right in the face.
Hence I take the most logical course of action.
“So, you do Taekwondo?”
We make our way into the tiny little gym. There’s something about the closure of it; perhaps it allows for less space, but there’s something much bigger to it that compensates for that.
What doesn’t seem to fit in it, is the amount of energy permeating through its padded walls. The place is bursting with it.
Taekwondo was just another martial art to me. The kind that people learn to escape from everyday life; and the kind that people use, once in their lifetime, to truly escape from everyday life. The things you learn to do might never be truly useful in the ways people perceive them, but they do change one’s mind and soul. And body. My God, does it change their body.
After watching Taekwondo artists practice, it’s no longer just another martial art to me. It’s so much more. As an outsider, I can’t describe the familiarity I feel towards it. As a user of the art, I can only imagine how anybody can feel.
We walk into the small gym, where my boyfriend does Taekwondo. My thoughts take an 180 degrees turn.
“Yeah, I do Taekwondo.”
I’m back in the class, with my guess confirmed. The previous week, I’ve just opened up my old computer after returning home. A friend request is sitting in my inbox. It’s one of my new classmates. I accept it, and absently browse my suggested friends. Another classmate I haven’t befriended yet shows up. It’s him. His name is George. He’s the quiet kid. He’s smart. Not the quirky kind of smart that I’m tired of seeing; the intelligent kind of smart. The one I’m hungry to encounter. The one I’ve missed conversing with. I send him a friend request.
Upon its approval, I check our Messenger window. He’s gone to a school in Thessaloniki that I’ve never heard of.
And he does Taekwondo. Does he? He should, it would be the greatest coincidence…
“Yeah, I do Taekwondo. How do you know?”
The second part of his response finally registers, and I catch myself soon enough. I have not taken too long to respond. Just a little. “Facebook told me so.”
He smiles self-consciously. It’s not a shy smile; just an I didn’t expect anybody to notice that kind of smile.
Realising he’s let me lead the conversation, I launch straight into it. “How long did you do it for?”
“Did you like it?”
“I did, it was probably my favourite activity. It still is.”
“But you stopped?” This is an important question and I’ve been itching to get to it. I pause momentarily, giving myself a tiny pat on the back for getting to it naturally.
“I did. Because of time, because of its cost… I miss it, but I do boxing nowadays. I make do.”
I nod. I can’t tell if my excessive interest shows, but if it does, I hope it’s perceived as a hyper-energetic trait. “My boyfriend does it, so willingly or not, I know a thing or two.”
He nods back with a half smile, and proceeds to surprise me by throwing the conversation right back into my face. “But you play guitar?”
I instantly picture him going through my profile same as I did; it’s not an unusual act, but it is an unusual act to confirm to another. “I do. Played with a teacher for a while. Cried during exams. Quit. Played alone for a while longer. Gave up.” I look past George and over at the girl sitting behind him. “But she wants me to teach her, so perhaps I’ll get back into it.”
The teacher marches back into class, and our conversation ends as suddenly as it started. I’m left to process it.
Before turning around to my notebook, George nods approvingly at me.
I nod approvingly back.