The door shut; Joel was gone. The last time he would walk out of his dorm, down the cold, echoey corridor and through the gates of Ackley College.
Ackley was the kind of school that was on the front of a thousand glossy education magazine, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Joel was sure he had never seen a horse anywhere near the place. That was the story of his life; false pretences. Is not as though he didn’t like the school, it’s just the grass was always greener when it came to Joel.
So he decided to leave, he didn’t have any plans. Maybe roam around New York for a while, travel around Africa the usual crap a college preppy comes out with. But like all kids going to his school he had the small matter of the fee payers to inform, better know as Mummy and Daddy. Joel wasn’t quite sure how to approach this yet; he had one of two options. The aggressive ‘I’m-not-your-little-boy-anymore’ or the slightly less dignified ‘please-please-please’.
Joel was a good student but he liked to think as himself as a bit of a rebellious communist, Joel had once said to a friend ‘What happens when everything is built, all the house, all the factories, all the recycling plants, all the robots what then, people expect some kind of utopia, but it will just be pure anarchy’. After that day he realised he had reached new heights in speaking complete garbage. He liked to make the excuse he was drunk, but he knew how stupid his idealism sounded. So on pretty much those grounds he decided to leave Ackley College.
He walked down the concrete steps and out into the courtyard, Joel was the kind of person who planned contemplation, so well before he sat down on the memorial bench he had decided it would be a good time to think. But like all things planned it went wrong, his mobile rang embarrassingly loud and he got a few looks of disgust from students trying to study. ‘Mommy Mob’ flashed on the display screen, he answered.
“What is it?” Joel asked impatiently
“Me and your father need to speak to you about…well you’ll see” There was a touch of melancholy on her voice.
“O.K, when, I kinda need to speak to you too”
“Well you’ve got fencing tonight, so…let’s make it Tuesday” The irony was unbearable, fencing!
“Yeah sure, see you then, bye”
Damn. He was annoyed. But a sense of unease crept in. What if they already knew? What if they were watching him right now? He decided to contemplate again, not there though, he needed somewhere quite, somewhere tranquil he headed for the bus stop for the next Central Park bus.
It’s not as though Joel’s grounds for leaving Ackley were trivial, he tried to convince himself as he pressed his forehead against the bus window. Ackley was the kind of college where you were supposed to give a damn about the football score or the basketball match, and you were supposed to commit suicide if old Ackley didn’t win. Joel was the kind of person who couldn’t see the unlimitless delights of throwing a ball about, he wasn’t a jock. Good job too, he couldn’t, no wait, he didn’t want to stereotypicalise himself into a category, it would just degrade his sense of, already battered, dignity. He wasn’t a geek, he wasn’t in the science club and he sure to hell wasn’t a homeboy.
Tuesday rolled around at spectacular pace, and Joel was prepared. He had prepared his explanation, he had prepared to listen to the lecture and he had prepared to shout back and storm out. Joel had planned his arrival at his parents house ten minutes after fencing finished, he had decided against telling his parents he left two days ago and had been bumming ever since, but instead the he had decided today to no longer continue his higher education at good old Ackley. A nice touch, Joel thought.
As he walked up the concrete steps, toward the looming front door his heartbeat doubled with each step, he touched the doorbell and he began to sweat, this was the beginning of his descent.
His mother answered the door; he could hear his pulse thumping in his head,
“Hi Joel.” His mother looked down, inspecting her feet.
“Mum” He gave an acknowledging nod and stepped in.
Joel walked into the living room, his dad with his pipe, planted in his chair. The furniture arrangement identical to that when he left two years ago.
Joel decided to get to the point via a rather untactful detour.
“Dad, did you ever get fed up?” Joel said. “I mean did you ever get scared that things were going to go wrong unless you did something? I mean did you like school and all that stuff?”
“It was a terrific bore”
“I mean did you hate it? I know it’s a terrific bore, but did you hate, is what I mean”
“I didn’t exactly hate it, but I got-”
“Well I hate it, boy do I hate it”
“What do you mean?” His dad was confused now.
“I hate everything”
“Humour me with specifics”
“It’s everything, taxi and New York buses, with the drivers always shouting, and lifts going up and down and all you want to do is go outside, and guy’s, never girls always fitting your trousers, and traffic lights always-”
“Is this going anywhere son?” His mother asked. “Because me and your father need to tell you something, important”
Joel and ran out of the proverbial steam, so indeed had his prepared speech. He needed a break. His pulse was racing now, trying desperately to keep up with his thoughts.
“No, sorry, I’m babbling. Go ahead.” And he slumped back into his chair, disappointed by his display.
“Son” his father took the conversational baton from his mother and began. “You know me and your mother have been having some ….financial….” he trailed off. “Problems, we sold the boat and the summer house, but it ain’t looking good son, it ain’t looking good at all”.
Joel was worried, but intrigued he knew his dads business was in bad shape, so what had changed?
“Well the thing is we need to save some extra cash and our next biggest expenditure is your college fees. Son we’re gonna have to pull you outta’ college”
A wave of relief swept over Joel. His pulse receded and he exhaled and as the air left his lungs as did his problems of prepared explanation, and planned contemplation.
He could now leave college with a clear conscience and play the sympathy card with his parents about how they ripped him from the school he loved, good old Ackley.