Sunday, 31 May 2015

On the Case

When I was at school, I used to carry my pens in the inside pocket of my blazer. (Originally, I tried my outside pocket; these then scattered everywhere when I tried to demonstrate "exercise enthusiastically" during a drama lesson about applying adverbs to performance.) I found this a handy way to carry them around, being able to produce a pen instantaneously and not having to have to bend down and ferret around in my bag for a second and a half, thus allowing me to conserve that precious time for the purpose of detesting existence for just a bit longer.

This practice continued until the black biro I was toting around managed to burst, coating the inside of my pocket, the other pens, my keys and the little figurine of Kenny attached to them, and a little bit of paper with my school network password on it entirely in black ink - timed nicely to coincide with the very beginning of a maths test. I sped to the bathroom, scrubbed my blazer as well as I could, washed the ink off keys and Kenny (and my hands), then returned to Maths and did the entire test in the remaining time using the very pen that had burst, which still had enough ink in it to work. And got an A.

Of course I did.

I didn't really bother with a pencil case until I did my A-Levels, both because I wanted to use my blazer pocket for something useful and because I hated pencil cases.

I'll explain.

Pencil cases, for those first few years at school, looked to me to be more like bulletin boards than anything else. They were covered with layers of graffiti declaring who was going to win World Cup '98, venerating the multitude of bands who were popular at the moment (until I pointed out to War Man that P.O.D. were a Christian band and he Tipp-ex'd them off his case) and etching witty remarks like "I woz ere" and "I ?". It was like going to school with Oscar Wilde.

And then, halfway through year 8, there was a sudden shift. Gone were the theoretical musings on who woz there and whether or not Cafu was a capable football player... in were declarations of love.

They were everywhere and impossible to notice. Girls (I never saw any boys doing this) would cover their pencil cases with the name of the object of their affection, often over and over and over again, whether or not they noticed (I even spotted my own name on a pencil case once; I never really followed that up) - in most cases this was Leonardo DiCaprio, so he was pretty much guaranteed not to notice - but, for the girls that had boyfriends, their pencil cases would LET YOU KNOW ABOUT IT.

One of my friends, who I sat next to in geography and eventually went to church with, was in a very physical relationship with my mortal enemy for a rather lengthy amount of time and I have no idea what colour her pencil case was originally. This guy - let's call him "Stu" - was all over the thing. "Stu is FIT," the case said. "Stu is FINE. "Stu is 100% A BABE.  I love STU. STU IS MINE. Stu4EVA! STU!!!" I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd written "FUCK YEAH STU!" there somewhere, only she claimed to be above such language (Stu himself used it as punctuation).

This amused me. Much as I didn't like Stu, I liked my friend and her dedication to her sporadic boyfriend was charming, in a rather peculiar, slightly creepy way. The awkward conversations we had after our geography teacher left before the last five minutes of lesson time mostly focused around what etchings she'd managed to add to her pencil case, apart from that one time when Stu led the boys at the back of the classroom in a rousing chorus of a song he'd written about the size of the girls' tits (and some of the boys').

Eventually, as I'm sure you'll be shocked to find out, they broke up. On Valentine's, if I remember correctly, for reasons unspecified - possibly because he was bored with her or possibly because rumours had started to circulate about them having sex in the bushes outside the school gates; I didn't care to enquire and wasn't really interested - and she was pretty devastated about it at the time, but over the weeks became more stoic, at which point I deemed it prudent to ask if she would be getting a new pencil case at some point.

"Oh, I don't need to," she smiled. "You know there's this new boy I like, called Joe?"
"Yeah," I lied smoothly.
"Look!" she beamed, flipping her pencil case completely inside out, revealing to me - and the world - a completely blank canvas, upon which the very first "Joe is FIT" had already been inscribed, presumably in a black biro that hadn't burst yet.

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