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"Jackson, do you think you could join us?" The raspy voice interrupted my delightful daydream.
I let out a sigh and answered, "Yes."
The man with the smoker's voice continued with a sarcastic grin, "Good. If you would be so kind, Jackson, it's your turn."
"My turn? My turn for what?" I asked Mr. Smuly, who looked like he should be at a bar with a cigar dangling between his lips, playing cards, rather than teaching a drug education class.
"Maybe we could pay a little more attention and then we could follow, OK, Jackson?" Mr. Smuly leaned closely over my desk, suffocating me in stale tobacco breath.
"OK, Mr. Smuly," I politely answered the overweight gym teacher.
"Jackson, it's your turn to give someone an affirmation. Now please give an affirmation to Tiffany Taylor," he asked as he motioned with a chubby index finger to Tiffany.
This was the second week of my Drug Education class and already I loathed attending these sessions that devoured my precious study hall time. It was difficult for me to appreciate a class taught by a cranky, chain-smoking gym teacher who insisted on calling everyone by their last names. I also failed to see the importance in learning how to accept and give affirmations to my fellow classmates. This part was meant to build confidence, but I don't understand how a group of high school students (many of whom drink and smoke) complimenting each other could put an end to high school drug use.
"Jackson, we're waiting," Mr. Smuly snapped.
The room was suddenly silent, as if the 30 students who filled it were no longer there. Everyone was staring at me and Tiffany was on the verge of tears. Suddenly, I realized that the person who silenced the room was me. My hesitation to supply Tiffany with an easily-created affirmation left everyone speechless. I guess no one could comprehend that I actually paused before complimenting the most beautiful and most popular girl in the sophomore class.
"Jackson!" Mr. Smuly shrieked, "Now!"
At this point, tears swelled in Tiffany's mascara-blackened eyes and the entire class, with mouths agape, was dumbfounded by the whole situation. Time was at a standstill. The only audible noise was the coarse snore-like sound of Mr. Smuly's inhalations.
I knew that I had to give in soon and compliment Tiffany, but I cherished every last moment of delight.
"OK, I've got!" I crossed my arms in front of me, the search was over. "Tiffany is rich." I slyly answered.
Tiffany shut her eyes and let out a sigh of relief. She smiled at me in thanks for saving her from drowning in the waters of high school embarrassment.
Mr. Smuly's face exploded red, riveting with anger. "Jackson!" he roared through clenched teeth, "You know that is not an affirmation! Compliment her on a quality of her personality before I throw you out of here!" Mr. Smuly glared at me with eyes of burning fire, his cheeks quaking with rage. I couldn't help but giggle at the wonderment I had created. Detention loomed and spending my afternoon peeling gum off chairs with "Mr. Dragon Breath" gave me a burst of creativity.
"Tiffany can be nice when she wants to be," I quickly reported, before Mr. Smuly had the chance to explode.
Exhausted, Mr. Smuly scowled at me and whispered, "I guess that is as much as we're going to get out of you, Mr. Smart Aleck."
Tiffany actually seemed pleased with her affirmation and her friends patted her on the back, congratulating her as if she had just been crowned Miss America. She gleamed proudly and wiped the running mascara from her naive eyes.
Tiffany strutted to the front of the class, followed by a caravan of friends. She stopped in front of me.
"Alex, don't you ever scare me like that again," Tiffany warned with a flirtatious whisper as she handed me a piece of paper. Puzzled, I watched her flutter happily out of the room. My attempt to bruise her ego had backfired, Tiffany was more conceited than ever.
"You are invited to Tiffany Taylor's 16th Birthday Party. It will be held at Tiffany's house this Tuesday from 10 to 12 at 210 Tall Tree Drive. Please tell Tiffany if you can attend by tonight."
My mind was incredulous at such stupidity. This girl, who I had just publicly humiliated, invited me to a party. I laughed and shook my head.
I called Tiffany to tell her that I could attend and to obtain more directions. Despite her colossal ego, she was kind of nice.
When Tuesday arrived, I asked my brother to drive me. After we located Tall Tree Drive, I came to the conclusion that Tiffany either lived in an abandoned seafood restaurant or she had given me the wrong directions. I noticed a conspicuous paper in the window of the restaurant. I opened what turned out to be a note addressed to me and slowly read:
"There is no party, how do you feel?
Don't worry if you're mad, it will heal.
I cannot lie, revenge is sweet.
But do you know what caused your defeat?
You think you're smart, you think you're keen,
But what you are is just plain mean."
My face grinned with admiration. Although my ego was slightly injured by this coldly plotted act of revenge, I had to admire Tiffany's cleverness and assertiveness. She enjoyed putting me in my place just as I had enjoyed antagonizing her during class.
"Well what?" my brother asked.
"That's the last time I give anyone a compliment!" I said with a smirk.
As we drove off, I began to think about how Tiffany and I were not that different. She needed affirmations to keep her ego strong and I needed to feel clever to maintain my image. What I did learn was that flattery is a contagious way of insulting others. When we have Drug Ed, I'll compliment Tiffany by saying her nose isn't that big. Hopefully, Mr. Smuly won't have me suspended. Who knows, maybe Tiffany will invite me to the prom. n