No one expected this.
"Why don't you introduce yourself?"
The teacher peered behind her spectacles at me from her desk. "The one in the plaid shirt. You're next up."
I slowly stood up. "Rafel Yame's the name, and I, uh, I enjoy doing stuff. I don't have any… interesting qualities…"
The class lightly clapped and I took a seat back down. The person behind me stood up to introduce himself to the class.
The winter trees outside the window stood stock still, guarding the walls from the impending blizzard. It was a modest 3-story building with many small rooms and facilities. At first glance, one can easily recognize its purpose as a school, but would be thrown off by the vivid orange colors emblazoned on the school walls. From my prior experience at this school, however, I could tell that it is perfectly normal for a student to enjoy an ordinary life here.
Or maybe was is a better term.
On the day I entered 10th grade, I was starting my third year at the Prestigious School United (PSU), dedicated to producing college applicants. I was familiar with the curriculum and the people that populated the area. People regarded me as someone who was average. I didn't excel in grades, nor did I excel in sports. I didn't excel in community service and I didn't participate in club activities. Not many people hung out with me, and even more avoided me.
"Hey, hey, what did you do over the summer break?"
"Woah, that's so cool!"
"Yeah yeah! We should totally do that! Lol!"
During the rare respite period granted to us before homeroom, all the students mingled together in the classroom. Some caught up with old friends, others gossiped over new students. Everyone was happily chatting up their life stories with the other people who herded around them. Everyone except me.
I sat alone in the center of the classroom, sitting in my desk and staring off into space. In the previous years I've attended PSU, people notoriously knew me as the one who was poor with social skills. I was easily misunderstood, and my mouth just wouldn't work the way I wanted it to. They recognize me as a quiet boy who's dull, but I regard myself as a highly intellectual man who keeps all of his thoughts bottled up in his head. It doesn't help that I don't highly regard human relationships in the slightest.
The entire reason why I've stuck with this school and persisted through this hellish student body was all for the sake of entering the college of my dreams. I spent my entire childhood fooling around, and it wasn't until I entered puberty that I realized the full error of my ways. I was granted a chance to nurture my talents, and regrettably rejected it for the sake of relationships and games. I swore to myself that I would devote the rest of my life towards working hard to get into a stable job and garner a stable income. In order to do that, I had to work twice as hard as the people around me – people who didn't waste their childhood away like I had done. That's why I fully rejected interacting with others – they looked only to exploit my skills or looked for a new source of entertainment. To keep working towards my goal, this had to be avoided at all costs.
That's why when the teacher announced the transfer student coming to this school, and when I heard about how the student would be related to my life at school, everything was turned upside down.
I was to be stuck babysitting a deaf boy for the rest of the school term.
The teacher called me into the classroom. Rather, she beckoned me to come in. I timidly entered the classroom, and was met with complete silence. People soundlessly flapped their mouths open, forming incomprehensible shapes. Having spent some time living without sound, I polished up my skills in lip-reading. They might be useful on one to one conversations, but for large groups like this, it becomes useless.
It was only when all of their eyes turned towards my face that I stopped in my tracks. I didn't know what I was doing wrong. Startled, I looked to the teacher for help, but realized that she had been calling my name for some time in anger. I didn't hear her call me. I couldn't hear her call me.
The teacher quickly realized her mistake and regained her composure. She turned to the class and explained my situation. I didn't know what I had to do, so I nervously looked around the room and fidgeted my feet. When I realized that looking around made me more nervous, I quickly shifted my gaze towards the floor in front of me.
"This boy's name is James Lupert," the teacher said. "He's a transfer student from the country next to us, and he's going to be in this homeroom starting from today. Make sure all of you welcome him warmly."
The students clapped and waited for James to take a seat so that they could barrage him with questions. I reclined in my chair. James didn't have any outstanding qualities considering his short black hair and casual t-shirt. And I definitely didn't want to get involved with him. You could tell that he was the dim-witted type. It had taken the teacher a full 30 seconds to call James' name without him responding, and had driven the teacher's anger to the point that she practically bellowed his name out, startling the whole class. At that point, an introduction of his name wasn't necessary, but traditions are traditions.
Well, it's not like he's going to become my friend anyways.
"Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing," the teacher spoke up. "The truth is, James is actually hearing impaired. Without his hearing implants, he is unable to hear anything. Normally he would have them on right now, but some doctors are in the process of transferring his implants into a newer model. however, james insisted on attending his first day of school. So just for today, he is a deaf person, and will not be able to hear anything you tell him. If you want to communicate with him, you have to write it on a piece of paper or some other material."
This single speech sent the whole class up into an uproar. Some students called to James sneering, "Oi, are you really deaf?" Other students looked to each other with expressions of incredulity and confusion. Still others voiced cries of concern out of pity for James' predicament.
The teacher hushed everyone down, but James showed no reaction to this commotion. Figures, he might be deaf after all.
"I expect all of you to kindly assist James in his learning," the teacher said. "Let's make his experience at school an enjoyable one. Normally you wouldn't have to worry about his hearing, but for today, I'd like someone to personally help him out throughout the day seeing as he won't be able to hear anything. Do I have any volunteers?"
I refused to raise my hand. I expected one of the kids who tried to suck up to the teachers to volunteer for the job. I expected someone to make an effort to improve their behavioral grades. But then again, expectations aren't always synonymous with reality.
So it was by utter ill luck that my eyes happened to make contact with the teacher's.
"Okay, then how about Rafel?" the teacher asked. "Is it okay for you to take care of James just for today?"
It's difficult to refuse a request by someone, especially if that person is a teacher.
The teacher tapped my shoulder. I looked up her and she pointed her finger to a young boy in the center of the classroom. He was casually clad in a black shirt and pants, and had a clean haircut. Something about his facial expression seemed dissatisfied, but I disregarded it as my own mistake. You start to become cautious and doubt one of the five senses you carry when one of them is gone. It's like the feeling of the senses about to betray you if you make one wrong move.
The teacher motions for me to sit next to the casual boy. She makes some gestures which I completely failed to understand, but after multiple attempts, was able to get the faint idea that this casual boy would help guide me around for today.
I didn't know what to feel about this. The boy didn't seem too concerned about my condition, so I instinctively felt the urge to be wary of this person. From my past experiences, it's far safer to trust your own abilities than rely on others. The casual boy didn't seem like an exception.
Then the casual boy extended his hand out to me. I took it as a sign of friendship.
I didn't want to do anything with James, but if our relationship gets off on the wrong foot, people would start gossiping about me, thus raising my interaction levels. Forcefully, I held out my hand to James for a handshake. I wanted to convey to him that I wasn't a harmful person.
James stared at my hand for a few seconds, then timidly shook my hand with his own. He then quickly retreated back to his own territory at his desk next to mine.
I sighed. This would become a long day.