I like Postsecret. Sometimes the secrets posted prompt a story start. For the sake of a go-to prompt, I may make Sunday Secrets one of my WP exercises. Here is the postcard and my story start:
I like Mr. O’Grady. He doesn’t try too hard. He probably doesn’t try hard enough. I’ve had him two years in a row for history class because I flunked sophomore year almost entirely. The only class I passed last year was Small Engines because I built one for a final project, to show I’d learned something. I didn’t really learn anything except that all the adults in your life go batshit crazy when you quit trying. Mom put me in counseling and I kept a journal and when junior year started, every teacher pulled me aside within the first month to say they believed in me, except Mr. O’Grady. He asked me how my summer was and when I didn’t say anything, he said, “Yeah, me too.”
By mid year I had a C average and Mom was trying to negotiate credit recovery so I could graduate on time. Everyone was really sensitive about how I’d feel if I had to stay in high school for a fifth year, even though I said forty million times I didn’t care if I had to stay for a fifth year.
“You say that now,” Mom said.
“I mean it,” I said.
“Okay, well at least meet with Mrs. Kubicek.”
Mrs. Kubicek is the junior-senior counselor, though I’m technically a sophomore until next week when the report cards come out. I did meet with her and said I’d rather stay an extra year than spend every weekend and all of summer doing online classes. She sighed and asked if there was a teacher I would enjoy working with, someone who might oversee my credit recovery. I said Mr. O’Grady and she pecked that onto her tablet. Later that week Mr. O’Grady asked me to stay after class.
“You want to work on some credit recovery?”
He rocked back on his heels. Two years ago he’d gotten divorced and grown his hair out, but it didn’t look good. He was always putting his hair in a ponytail and then taking it out, smoothing it down again. “Then tell Mrs. Kubicek no. No sense doing this for them if you’re not into it.”
That’s what I thought. So I said no and Mom, who’d been meeting with her own counselor and must have been advised to let me choose my path, didn’t argue. She drank two glasses of wine and went to bed, but she didn’t say I had to graduate on time. I know it bothers her. My cousins are overachievers. We get emails with pictures of Troy at the state track meet or Tina playing first violin. One time I told Mom to take a picture of me sleeping on the couch and we laughed.
Today is my last final exam, in Mr. O’Grady’s class. I studied until midnight and then ate breakfast before coming to school. Eating breakfast is supposed to help you concentrate. I feel good. I have three sharpened pencils and a bottle of water. I’m surprised by how much I know. The multiple choice is easy. The short answer is easy. The essay is a bitch. But I finish five minutes before bell and turn the test in, face down. I sit in my desk and wait for bell.
Mr. O’Grady walks to the front of the room and clears his throat. “I wanted to say something to you,” he says. There are three minutes left between us and summer break. “You guys have been great this year. I think you should know that. Seventh period has made my day.” He takes his ponytail out and runs a hand through his hair. “Sometimes I hate coming in to school. A few of you know what I mean.” A couple of us laugh. “But I’d get to seventh period and think I’d made it and you’d come in and humor me for fifty minutes and we’d all get to go home after. I guess I want you to know that if I can get to seventh period every day, you can too.” The bell rings then and a few girls get up. Mr. O’Grady holds up his hand and says, “Wait. I also want you to know something I wish I’d figured out when I was your age.” The girls sit down again. “You matter more than you think.” We wait for minute but he doesn’t say anything else. The class starts to leave. A few kids say thanks to Mr. O’Grady. I’m on my way out when he says, “Kevin,” and I turn. “You do,” he says.