"Does anyone have their book?" my music teacher asked for the umpteenth time. I'd gotten mine out when she first asked, as had one of the girls in the class who I never really talked to. Everyone else was pretending not to notice, apart from the guy sitting next to me who was busy writing "NO HOMEWORK" on every page of his homework diary.
I never really enjoyed Music lessons at school. I love music; it's a very important part of my life. I sing (poorly), I dance (badly), and I play a few instruments (barely), but I got very little out of the lessons at school. I got more out of being in the jazz band and my weekend violin lessons (and, occasionally, the local youth symphony orchestra). My class, however, were less enthusiastic, and had by this point successfully seen off four music teachers - none of them had intended to stay for long - responding well to none of them.
The rogues and scallywags on the other side of the classroom were particularly not paying attention insofar as having started an ABC game on the topic of sex. Having started with "aaaaaah!", although I'm sure I could have coming up with something better - "Abstinence", "Asexuality", "Arousal", "Artificial suppression of oestrogen receptors in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus" - they had moved swiftly on through the alphabet.
My music teacher had given up by this point and was attempting - quite bravely, in my opinion - to give an explanation, to those of us who were still listening, of the Dorian mode. She even asked for contributions, from those of us who would dare to volunteer. I think I came up with Drunken Sailor at some point.
"F is for FUCK," came a spoken chorus from the other side of the room, accompanied by a few titters from the quieter ones upon realisation that the F-word had just been nigh on shouted across an otherwise silent classroom built for ambience. My teacher, who I thought would respond more negatively to this, gave them a weak remonstration for making too much noise - as opposed to focusing on the swearing. Which was possibly a rookie mistake.
Seated at my keyboard, half-making notes on the Dorian mode while composing in my head, I couldn't help listening in. My attention in their ribald discourse waxed, and then waned, and then grew again. By the time they passed L (I can't remember what it was, but it wasn't "Love", to my disappointment), I was all but enthralled.
They were stuck on M. My brain, of course, had instantly thought of "making love" as a possible option, but I wasn't about to get up, walk across the room, sit down in a group of people I didn't like and offer them a way of advancing their sex game. It was, eventually, suggested by one of the bolder girls who giggled a lot, but overruled by a boy who I think won a Spice Girls competition at one point, who suggested "masturbation" - something I still didn't know how to spell at that point, thinking it was spelled "mastibate" and referred to absent-mindedly fiddling with one's penis.
It had been spread around the school that I masturbated. Unlike a lot of the other boys at that age, I didn't.
It occurred to me a few seconds beforehand what would happen when they got to S. Fearing that we would get another rich chorus in unison and observing from a safe distance how flustered our teacher was getting while arguing with one of the girls who insisted that her name was "Dorian Mode", I saw two possible options: take decisive action, which would involve causing a ruckus all on my own in order to stop everything; or do nothing, allowing this word game its freedom of sexual expression at the expense of our teacher.
While I was still trying to decide, "S IS FOR SEX!" rang out across the room so loudly that I think they could hear it in the Maths classroom downstairs. I tried to look scandalised - even though I wasn't; I just tried in case anyone was looking at me - the boy I usually worked with smirked; the guy in the corner continued to write "NO HOMEWORK"; our poor teacher, nary a minute after she'd last asked, was struck dumb. Whether at the defiance of her request or at their blasé ejaculation of the entire concept of sex in unison, she had no idea what to say.
"Uh..." she decided upon.
But there was no stopping them. They raced ahead, increasing in both volume and tempo, until eventually they were brought to a grinding standstill... although by neither teacher nor student. They just couldn't think of a Z.
"Z is for..."
Silence. Nobody, including the teacher, was making a sound.
"Mrs R," I said suddenly, raising my hand, "I've got a question."
And a light bubbling chatter broke over the rest of the room as I swiftly made up something to ask. I have, to this day, no idea if they ever settled on a sexual Z, but I'm fairly certain that, after another ten minutes of chatter, the class had sunken back into their usual torpor.