The three of us walked towards the school gate.
The teacher on duty and the guard were standing there.
From a distance, the teacher asked,
“Awak tinggal kat mane?”
My friend and I answered at the same time.
And I said,
My voice drowned my friend’s voice.
The guard laughed out loud (literally).
The teacher’s face changed.
We stood in front of him.
He looked straight into my eyes.
“Cikgu tanye betol-betol ni, tapi masih bleh jawab macam ni. Tak bleh jawab baik-baik skit eh?”
“Masih bleh ketawa?!”
I did not realise that I was still smiling. For whatever reason.
Quickly put off my smile.
“Jangan ingat dah tingkatan enam dah jadi pandai eh.”
“Pukul brape datang sekolah?”
“Esok saye tak nak tengok kamu semua lambat lagi.”
Off we went.
Felt really terrible, not only because I realised that I said something in utter disrespect right after saying it, but also for involving my friends.
Apologised to them before reaching the prefects.
Names were jotted down.
And of all days, that day they caught all the late comers.
Encik Halim and Encik Sofian were hanging around the stage.
Late comers were gathered there.
We walked towards them.
I felt ashamed. Encik Halim is Dad’s ex-colleague.
Looked at watch, it was 7.30 am.
I thought to myself, I’m not that late.
But I had to admit that I was still late anyway.
Waited a little, then principal gave us a lecture.
At 7.50 am, Encik Sofian gave us five minutes to pick up ten pieces of rubbish around the canteen.
Put bags down.
No one reached ten. The most was five.
Went back to stage to get my bag.
Encik Sofian was standing there, and he asked jokingly,
“Ye cikgu. *fake sobs* Insaf.”
“Insaf? Insaf?! You insaf? Hah! Saye pun mau ketawa ah!”
Smiled at him, headed to class.
In actual fact, I really was insaf.
But I guess no one in school would expect me to feel that way.
Entered class, it was MUET period.
After telling why we were late, Miss Chang asked where X was.
“He went to the Disipline Room.”
“Because of his hair.”
“Because of his size.”
And the class roared with laughter.
Miss Chang tried to hold back her laughter.
She was smiling all the way through and asked,
“Tien Hui, what’s wrong with his size?”
I said it out because the thought of him being caught for his size was funny.
But I knew I said something terrible, again.
Sigh. Just when I told myself not long ago to shut up.
Miss Chang asked us to draw something on a blank sheet of paper.
Something that represent us.
I drew a nail.
Nails are usually used for joining things together.
Like when you build a house, you’ll need nails to build it.
And that house that you build, can be used for two reasons,
either for something good or for something bad.
Nails remind myself that I have a choice to choose,
whether to do/say something good or bad.
Sometimes each nail you hammer, and hammer and hammer, hurts people deeply.
Sometimes when you accidentally hammer your finger, it causes you yourself to hurt at the same time.
If you pick up a nail of insult, its impact can be deep.
If you pick up a nail of encouragement, its impact can be deep.
However, I failed.
To choose the latter.