Once you reach a certain age, your parents will inevitably ask you to start taking responsibility for your actions.
At first you'll wonder what on earth they're talking about and then absentmindedly go outside to play with the ball your parents bought you a week ago while completely forgetting all they've told you.
That is, until your ball breaks a window.
While constantly moaning about how much the window cost them, they'll also lecture you about how responsibility is about being accountable for your actions, but when you tell them that you don't know what accountable means, they'll throw a dictionary at you while droning on about how you're old enough to look up words you don't know the meaning of.
There's only one problem with that.
At such an age, I doubt you know how to spell accountable.
So if a parent happens to be deciphering this stack of nearly illegible papers, please take responsibility of your child's learning and at least supply them with the correct spelling so they can look the word up in the dictionary. Especially if you're the parents of the Class Monitor, she still doesn't know how to spell the word 'accountable.'
Albeit obvious I want to believe that in itself is also a type of responsibility.
Which is why out of all the links that make up the chain which has pulled me out of my carefree life and into this empty classroom bathed with the sunset of an expiring world, I consider this link the one that redeems me, no matter how slightly. It may be conceited to say so, but this is the link I am the proudest of.
But because it is this link I am the proudest of, it also must be one of the biggest qualms which still throb through this, surprisingly, still intact head.
Why didn't this happen two months earlier than it did?
Why did the world show me the solution after what had been cemented was already set?
Even so, I have to accept that something which is unacceptable.
There's no way I can deny it.
To deny it means to deny everything that happened afterwards, and there would be no point in my being here if that were the case.
After all, I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: this is not a story. This is not a cheap novel which unfolds in chronological order; where the sword obtained in chapter seven turns out to be the one which kills the demon lord in chapter twenty-eight.
Instead, in reality, it is more likely that one sacrifices all his companions in chapter seven to slay the demon lord only to find the demon slaying sword in chapter twenty-one when compelled to repel the army of monsters heading to one's village seeking to avenge the demon lord who was only trying to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions.
In that case it is not ironic that what happened nine months ago happened when it did.
Eleven months ago, I committed a sin.
Eleven months ago, I accepted that I would forever stride down this path even if I understood that there was nothing brilliant at the end to make up for what I had and would continue to carelessly throw away.
-the conclusion of the event that happened that March was the first of many realizations of that, at the time, two month old curse.
But now, quietly letting my pen absently scratch paper to fill the momentary gap of time until this world succumbs, I realize that event during an early spring was only a prequel. A prequel to a conversation I had with a person who had nothing to do with what happened that March only a few months ago.
Funny how finally sitting alone, being able to reflect on my actions permits such memories to finally flood back like a final raised tide - the antecedent to the desert which from now until the end of this world will dominate that deserted beach.
Sorry, it took a long time but I am finally starting to see the infinitely interweaving threads of a disregarded web surreptitiously spread through this city only once upon a dream, and because I can finally see their sardonic intersections I assume it would also be my responsibility, even if my current wretched regrets desperately scrawled on these pages won't even mention her, to share the conversation I had with the Class Monitor in the very same empty classroom I am currently occupying, hunched over piles of crabbed soliloquies,
In fact, that's why I'm going to put this conversation, this epilogue, in the beginning because I'm not sure if I can fit this conversation elsewhere. It's not like this is a novel or even adheres to the structure of a novel, so either way its fine if I place an epilogue in the introduction.
There was no need for me to desperately drag my consciousness through the tides of time for I had already refused to forget that mundane same sun-washed classroom scene on the last day to hand in permission slips, exactly two week, three days, thirteen hours, and thirty-seven minutes before our school left for its annual excursion.
I'm not sure if we were counting the number of permission slips students had handed that day mindlessly or absentmindedly, but I'm starting to think that no longer matters because what the Class Monitor told me that afternoon was, to quote someone, perfectly characteristic of her, and what had happened that lethargic March.
"-Hmmmmm, have you ever taken the time to read one of these permission slips?"
"Why would I do something like that? It's not like I'm eighteen yet, so these have nothing to do with me. I get home, I just hand them over to my parents and forget about them."
"-Hmmmm, that really sounds like something you'd do."
"What does that mean?"
"Take it however you wish –Hmm- but did you know if you're injured or killed during a school sponsored event, the school's not at fault?"
"Wait… That can't be right, what if a teacher turns out to be a psychopath and murders all of us in our sleep? Surely that would count for something."
"-Hmmm. Well that scenario belongs in a horror movie, so there's no way something like that would occur to people like us, no matter where we go, but even if it did, the school wouldn't be responsible for the deaths. See, read this paragraph here; It's basically a contract."
"So if I fall into a pit while on this school excursion, or if I'm attacked by a dangerous animal I won't be able to do anything to the school?"
"-Hmmm, well you're a peculiar case, now aren't you? Most people wouldn't even be able to do consider an option like that after they've plummeted to their deaths or after being mauled by a hungry, carnivorous beast. But it makes sense, doesn't it? The school doesn't want to be blamed."
"No, of course not, no one wants to be blamed."
"-Hmmm, but you see, that in itself is pretty interesting. Why would the school establish a clause like this in the first place? It's like they know that someone will blame them for what will happened."
"Of course someone will blame them; someone's kid got hurt, or even worse, killed.
Someone has to be accountable."
"-Hmmmm, really? Our parents might have grinded it into our skulls, but does someone absolutely need to be held accountable? What if no one blamed the school?"
"Then they wouldn't need the clause, right? But that's idealistic, there will always be someone blaming another person. That's just the reality of the situation."
"-Hmmm, indeed, humans do love to blame others. But can't you see? The act of blaming is merely pushing responsibility onto someone who is not you. By blaming the school, the parents of the child that was injured say it was because of the school's negligence that such an accident happened, and like that the parents evade the burden of the blame. The school's response to that is to make the parents sign a contract that states, no, it is not the school's fault your child was hurt, it's someone else's fault, or your fault for being short-sighted enough to sign this a contract in the first place."
"So, the action of protecting oneself from blame is the same as forcing that responsibility onto someone else? In that sense, aren't we just playing a game of hot potato? Isn't that unfair for us as well? We can't go on the excursion without handing in these forms, now can we?"
"And that's the most tragic part of this tiny, insignificant slip of paper. -Hmmmm, to use your analogy of hot potato, it determines the loser, the one whose hands are roasted by the potato. In fact, one could say it goes beyond placing; the responsibility is now forced onto someone, but wouldn't you say it's strange we teach a game like hot potato to children? That we are taught through play to consciously not be the one to take in the blame even if our parents tell us to take responsibility of our actions?"
"Everyone wants to blame someone else. Yet it's common sense that no one wants to be blamed.
Thereby one person will ultimately be forced to act as the sacrificial lamb for the group. In the case of these permission slips, it turns out to be the parents of the child; after all, the loss of their child always should affect the parents the most, flesh, blood and all that riot. Why do something stupid like spreading the cost of losing that child by having public institutions like schools, and the government paying damages which would ultimately hurt the aggregate, hurt society, hurt the well-being of the rest of the children who were unhurt? That's why if all the blame can be forced onto one person, it should be. If all the responsibility can be thrust onto one person alone, that person can be secluded, then left to drown in blame, and in that manner the rest of us can retain our carefree lives –mhmmm, that would be the ideal situation"
"But if you're talking about ideal situations, why don't we just not to go on the excursion?"
"-Hmmm, but haven't you been listening to the announcements? This is a mandatory excursion. It's a supposedly enlightening school event which will further enrich your learning experience. As the Class Monitor, I would be obligated to chase you down if you ended up being a person who didn't want to go."
"Urgh, that would be the worst possible punishment. I don't think even I would even survive."
"-Hmmm, too right you are, for once. You wouldn't stand a chance."
"So then, what should I do? I don't want to be blamed, but I know that if I blame someone else, surely that blame will be pushed away onto another person. Even something that is forced onto someone won't stick; there are still ways to get out of such a situation."
"-Hmmmm, like calling in a debt. While it's in a different realm from permission slips, I guess it could be considered the same thing. Accepting that responsibility by throwing the accountability onto someone else. -Hmmm, what a convenient world that we live in these days; no wonder we need an admirable girl like me to clean it up."
"But I'm sure calling in a debt isn't that easy. I mean it's not a get out of jail free card, now is it? And even if what you're talking about was a game of hot potato, unlike the game, the music won't stop. Since no one wants to take responsibility, the blame will forever be passed around, and eventually more and more blame will be added until everyone collapses under the weight of that collective blame."
"-Hmmm, you're not as smart as I thought you were. Jeez, you get better grades than I do and you can't even figure that out?"
"Well, I'm not known as the Class Monitor; I'm just a normal student."
"-Hmmmm, well then Mr. Normal Student, if that were the case humanity would have collapsed a long time ago. Can't you see how much responsibility we've been forcing on them? The Muslims have a special word for it, don't they? It's a word you told me about a couple of months ago. Jihad, wasn't that it? Did you know that this word literally means 'struggle?' Well I don't doubt it still is legitimately used as such, but no one can deny it has been convoluted. Furthermore, what of the Crusades? Who was truly responsible for a war to conquer the Holy Land and who was the one who took responsibility? So you see, Mr. Normal Student, humanity's been at it for a long time, so long that we've become experts at it. Forcing the responsibility on others? That's so fifty thousand years ago. If you need someone to force responsibility onto, why not force it on something as accommodating as a god?"
She was like that.
She was a person who would constantly talk about simple things like, 'what the permission slip says,' but she would then somehow, uncannily move to the larger scheme of things, as if she was some sort of higher being even if she and I both knew she wasn't and could never be that higher being.
No wonder the homeless priest was so scared of her. There mustn't have been any doubt in his mind, or mine for that matter, that if she wanted to, she could easily become the protagonist and end up dragging us into a ridiculous story.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again - that was the type of person the Class Monitor was, an existence much like that of an inbred princess.
And even if we had thousands of almost identical conversations, I still remember this one because in the end it was all a big joke.
The punch line?
Because of the perimeter we didn't even leave the city; we just visited the temples.
To be fair, that year, one particular temple was included in an exclusive list commonly known as the seven wonders of the city which included the haunted bell-tower, the reappearing coffee shop, and even the alley of serial killers.
But thinking about it now while drowning in my own reflection for the first time in a year, I'm sure it's because I couldn't take responsibility of my actions eleven months ago that I ended up sitting in a booth at Pseudo-Bucks the second last week of March, so perhaps now, rather than remembering it as a joke, I remember this conversation as an explanation of the rules for that spring game of hot potato which ended up breaking all the windows in our decaying city.
Even if at the time I had no idea who started the game it was obvious that it was a game only designed for four players.
-until a fifth person ran away with the ball of yarn.
Being able to laugh about it now, safe in the final tiny corner of the world with my forever comforting, unlimited supply of paper, I will surely have to write something that chastises both the naive, fuming boy and the reasoning of the girl who managed to even make the homeless priest cringe.
That is to say:
Please read carefully as my nearly-illegible handwriting now describes how I became a lamb.
Please bear with me as these contorted pages now explain how I ended up carrying the responsibility for an entire city.