For my second term of grade ten, I took Canadian history, drama, math and Spanish.
By this point, Terrance and I had phased out our routine high-fives. But then I saw him sitting in history class and he instantly reached out for yet another slap, and I of course returned it. From then on, we sat together pretty much every day; we were joined by a couple of his own buds, Barack and Leon. They all seemed cool enough, having more of a laid-back sense of humour that I appreciated. It felt nice finally getting to really know the stranger I had conspicuously been greeting with enthusiasm for months on end. Terrance himself was one of those really agreeable guys who just kind of went with the flow, and if he didn’t approve of something, he preferred to express it with a little bit of his own humour. There was something relaxing about that.
Our history teacher, Mr. Dawson, was also our Spanish teacher. He was a young guy in his early 30s who had been a Christian missionary in Peru, and was a gifted guitarist. Being a millennial, he was also more in-tune with hot-button issues of our time, like climate activism, transgender rights, and the gradual unbecoming of colonialist attitudes towards indigenous people in Canada. And did he ever make a point of emphasising his own views on them.
At the beginning of our history course, he showed us a docuseries on the early modern history of Canada, from when it was first colonised by the British to the beginning of World War I. He made sure to emphasis parts of the series that talked about the persecution of indigenous people, and recited to us at least a dozen times how Canada was fundamentally founded on colonialism and the oppression of aboriginals.
And he didn’t stop there in history class. While learning the Spanish language was interesting enough, Mr. Dawson brought his wokeism into that class too. The first thing I saw in his Spanish room was a picture of Fidel Castro hung up over his desk. My first thought was that it was just for show, but it didn’t take long for me to start believing it was anything but; Dawson showed us pseudo-documentaries – including a debunked Adam Ruins Everything clip – about how Christopher Columbus and the Spanish colonialists as a whole mercilessly persecuted the natives of the Americas, and how we should be mindful of this when studying South American culture today.
I personally was not screwing with any of this, but I knew better than to do anything other than keep my mouth shut. The new world order of wokeism and cancel culture had already destroyed my longest and most savoured friendship, so I figured that challenging the institutions around me wouldn’t go much better. But the more I had to sit through stuff like this, the more I just became disillusioned with society around me. I had watched conservative YouTubers who said that schools were indoctrinating students with leftism, and at the time I thought they were exaggerating. I did not think that anymore by the time I was in my second term of grade ten.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
My drama teacher, Mr. Benson, was on a whole other level of wokeness. I guess I should have expected that considering the course itself, but I had no idea what I would be in for. While Mr. Benson certainly cared about the significance of drama, he was equally concerned about using it to force – or should I say, express – all the intense passion he had for social justice issues. He had us do a number of stageplay performances that had to do with climate change and climate activism, and he raved to us about how wonderful of a role model Greta Thunberg is to kids our age. He also dedicated an entire class to teaching us about the genderbread person, and gave us an oral history lesson on the evolution of feminism and gender identity.
The only real reprieve I had from politics in the classroom was math class. And even though I hated math and was never good at it, I savoured the peacefulness of doing mind-fucking geometry problems just for the lack of leftist agendas that were attached to it.
But it didn’t seem to end. That same February, we had an assembly for Black History Month, where we all watched a movie on some racially-segregated prom in South Carolina. That was pretty hilarious to me, because National Indigenous Month was in November and we did nothing to celebrate that.
Accompanying this new tsunami of woke culture I had unwittingly gotten submerged in, I also found myself surrounded by a new demographic of almost unanimously wokified classmates. There was one student in particular, though, that I remember quite well.
Her name was Vicki, and she was an exchange student from Louisiana; why when coming to Canada her family chose trashy little Romanborough of all places was beyond me at the time. I figured she came from New Orleans or somewhere close, because she certainly embodied the woke white city girl to a T: she identified as bisexual, dyed her hair green and pink, wore big headphones 24/7 instead of earbuds, and always sported jeans and brightly-coloured shirts. She spoke with that stereotypical ‘sassy millennial’ dialect (maybe that was just her American accent) and freely voiced disapproval anyone who said something she disagreed with politically, regardless of the situation. And whenever she could get away with it, she would sit in a crouching position on her chair or put her feet up against the desk. Even the name ‘Vicki’ felt way too fitting to be a coincidence.
I had vaguely known Vicki since the beginning of the year, since she was in my science class. Now that she was in both my history and drama classes, I got to experience her presence way more than I could have ever bargained for. She frequently spoke up in agreement of the things Mr. Dawson and Benson said and usually added to their points, especially when it came to LGBT stuff; I often got grouped with her in drama for stage play assignments and she would always be the leader of them, and the rest of us usually acquiesced for the sake of not having to put in our own effort; sometimes it would simply boil down to her being the one to answer a question when the rest of the class was silent. Me and some of the lesser woke kids in the class often joked about her being an ‘entitled little American’ bringing her mentality to our land, though none of us had anywhere near the patriotism to actually care about something like that.
Speaking of lesser woke kids, there was an old friend I ended up meeting unexpectedly, and that was Toven. We had been friends for a few years at our old school, Bishton Elementary, though we pretty much dropped off when I (temporarily) moved away. But when he saw me in drama class on the second day, he immediately came over, his lean, 6’2” build towering over me in my chair.
“Hey,” he said in his signature monotone voice.
“Hey...” I replied, having a hunch that it was him but not sure whether said hunch was accurate.
He asked if I was who he thought I was.
“Yeah, I am,” I said more triumphantly this time. “And you’re Toven I’m guessing?”
“That’s pretty cool, man.”
“Yeah, it is.”
We added each other on Instagram, and I got to see the assortment of posts he had made calling out the perceived ‘militant, far-left cancel culture’ of our time and how it ‘demonised young vulnerable men’ like him. In real life, though, he was shockingly quiet; he was never the most extroverted person in elementary school but I didn’t remember him being this much of a ghost. It was honestly difficult trying to have a conversation with him when we were in class, because he often purposefully ignored me just to tease me.
Accompanying his virtual anti-sociability was a thick, black sweatshirt he always wore with the hoodie overhead, along with an equally dark-coloured beanie that went right down to the ledges of his eye sockets. He would be told repeatedly to take the hoodie off, but he always put it back on when Mr. Benson wasn’t paying attention. The contrast between his dark clothing and ghostly pale skin was impossible to observe only passingly.
The most flabbergasting part to me was that Toven actually had a girlfriend. Her name was Emma, and I remember nothing about her other than she also wore a beanie and had a mellow personality, much like her boyfriend. I never asked about their relationship, but from what I could spectate in class they seemed to be doing well enough together. Emma seemed to be the only person who could actually get Toven to talk to her, so maybe that was what qualified her for the position she held.
The last real notable classmate at this point was Taylor, the first transgender person I ever ‘befriended’ in my life. She was a trans girl, but from the looks of it she wasn’t even on puberty blockers or anything, because she still had a very male voice and showed faint hairlines along her cheeks. She was in both history and drama, though history was her favourite. She had a real passion for military history and artillery, and she often had Mr. Dawson show us short videos on YouTube about the different kinds of uniforms, tools and weapons each side used in WWI. She was also a highly gifted pianist, which I saw first-hand when she played Bloody Tears on a keyboard piano for the Christmas talent show. She couldn’t read music, though, according to herself, so she had learned entirely to just play by ear.
What was also nice about Taylor was that she wasn’t some provocative leftist wokie like some of the kids and teachers I had already met. She was a progressive for sure, but she was very moderate, and the two of us even sometimes lamented to each other how insane the leftist culture around us had gotten. Some would perhaps posit that she was one of the ‘good’ transgenders. Since she could play Bloody Tears, I asked her if she liked Castlevania. And soon enough, our main mode of discussion became about how terrible the animated adaption was.
In any case, February moulded into March, with nothing much else really happening until the spring break finally came. This was important for me, because it was the time in which I began my first ever job.