Youth Of Today

Entry by: percypop

19th February 2016

Sometimes Life will surprise you. Maybe my experience is unique but I doubt it. See what you think about it. This is what happened to me.
I taught in a Sixth Form College on Merseyside and spent most working days as a type of monitor or minder for unruly teenagers. They don’t have to be there – it’s not compulsory – but most of them cannot get a job, so they stick around pretending to study. I know why they do – it gives them a purpose to get up every day – to get out of the house -to meet their friends but they don’t want to study.
Half way through the term, a new boy joined my class. His name was Simon and he had been ill, so joined us late. I only noticed him because he was a late joiner and I needed to explain the course to him. By the way, I teach History.
He was very fair and his skin was a bluish white, an unhealthy pale colour; you felt if you scratched him you would leave a terrible mark upon him. Fair haired and grey eyed, he stood out from the main group of boys. As I explained the course to him, I noticed how he watched me with an intensity I found unsettling. His gaze never left my face as if he was lip reading. You can imagine how disturbing that was when you reflect, that as a teacher, very few students ever made eye contact.
“You have a very unsettled life, haven’t you?”
His question came out of the blue yet I felt no impudence in it. He seemed genuinely sympathetic and curious, not impolite.
“Why do you say that? My life is a fairly normal humdrum sort of life.”
“But you wish for something different don’t you?”
I could feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment because I had already applied to transfer to a different school and not informed the staff.
I dismissed him, sending him out to the school canteen for his mid-day break. I had no desire to carry on this conversation.
The next time I saw him was two days later at the next history class. He was sitting alone as if reluctant to join in the general bedlam of my class. He said nothing during the lesson and I asked him nothing.
I suppose I was trying to gauge if he was a serious student or simply disengaged from the usual mob. At the end of the session, instead of stampeding out into the corridor, he came up to my desk and said: “Can I help you with any problems?”
I was outraged. A boy I had hardly ever seen was intruding into my personal life without the slightest justification. I never indicated to him any problem nor indirectly invited help from this sixteen year-old boy.
“What do you mean? I advise you to get on with your work and pay less attention to things that don’t concern you.”
His face fell and his pale complexion seemed even more pallid. He turned away and I saw him bite his lip as if controlling himself against some emotional outburst.
I felt bad about it and tried to soften the sting of my remarks:
“What I mean is you can’t take on other people’s problems and” - I added rather feebly – “I have no problems, anyway.”
The bell rang at that moment and the class began to drift back into the classroom. I saw him look at me with a strange stare.
It was as if he knew something and wanted to tell me but was afraid to blurt it out. I noticed his eyes were strange – something unusual- but hard to identify. They had intensity as bright as a laser beam – they focussed on a spot between my eyes as if trying to penetrate my brain. It was a startling impression and for a moment I lost concentration on what I was supposed to do.
“Oy! Sir!” A voice broke in to break the spell – “What’s the page?”
I came back to the world in a trice. One of the class was riffling through his text book like a croupier shuffling cards.
And so, the class went on.
That evening I received a phone call from my brother. He was in York, some fifty miles away.
“You’d better come quick. There’s been an accident and Dad’s been injured. It’s pretty bad.”
My father worked as a scientist excavating the Roman ruins in York and I drove over that night. He was laid out in a hospital bed. Even before I spoke to the doctor I could see he was fading fast. The doctor explained how some wall had fallen on him during the dig. His lungs were crushed and life support was all they could do, without much hope.
His face was grey and his features seemed already faded. They were like a death mask you see in a museum; the true features but not the living soul of the man. We waited at his bedside, just the two of us, his only remaining family. Later that night he died.
I had the feeling that his death was connected, somehow to the message the strange boy Simon had been trying to give me. It was an emotional instinct, totally without logic. But I could not shake the idea that he had some foreknowledge.
After the funeral I went back to work as usual. The school trundled on at its normal pace but I decided to follow up my application to transfer. I told no one except the headmistress but when I met Simon at the next History lesson, he smiled sympathetically at me and I called him over.
“Are you settling in now?”
“Yes but I am sorry you are leaving.” He said
“Who told you that?”
“I know”
“But how do you know?”
Again, that penetrating stare and my feeling that he saw through me.
“You must have told me.”
We both knew this was untrue and it seemed to me he was leading me into a sort of secret arrangement. I decided to ignore it and turned away. His foresight, or whatever it was, frightened me and I feared him.
We expect the youth of today to be selfish and shallow but here was evidence of some power beyond nature and my experience. Three weeks later, my transfer was approved and I had just one more week of term to finish. During the interim, I noticed Simon was absent. I made enquiries through the School Office.
No one had heard of him; his name was not on any register – no address- no parent details – nothing.
I moved to York and joined a school there. Life is not the same
as before. Every day I attend morning assembly, even though it’s not necessary. I scan the ranks of young people as they stand in line – I dread the first lesson of the day –will he appear? If he does, I know he will bring bad news and this time I will find out.