The hurrying footsteps of your already-late dorm mates wake you up. Then, like any other day, the first thing you do is check your phone for MESSAGES. So you check your phone, find out you have NO MESSAGES. It is 6:55 am, 5 mins before the first subject will start. Now you climb off your bed and join the fun your room mates have started. Sneakers are in, bag in shoulders. Now you’re ready to go to class, late.
Eyes of different shapes, colors, and eye bag sizes welcome you with blank stares as you open and then close the door. Your teacher ignores your existence and you wonder if she would ever consider the 15-minute rule allowance or if she already marked you “absent” on her class record.
A few minutes after seated in class, you feel the unicorns and aliens calling you to go back to sleep, but you manage to fight back. So, you look for something else to focus on to keep you awake. Listening to the teacher will only make you sleepy and if the teacher catches you sleeping then you are doomed. Reach for your cell phone, bad idea. Talk to your best friend, no, that will make the teacher mad. Stare at your crush, worst idea ever. So you pretend reading your handouts, flip their pages until you arrive at the last page. You notice a vandal on the desk of your plastic arm chair.
Countless of students have already parked themselves at the same seat where you are trying to fight the calling of the other galaxies to sleep. You read the secret messages from unknown people written on your desk. Somehow, you find it more entertaining than rereading your photocopies again. Messages of different pen color, different penmanship, different languages, different form, different contents.
The visuals on the arm chair, even on the seat, go beyond what you would expect from a vandal. You see quotes, stories, and artworks that deliver a message. There are unusual sights to see, some feel like a Picasso art work, or that a secret revolution was being planned.
A message or art that someone wanted to share but kept their identity a mission to find out. Isn’t there a rule for not writing on school property?
We are taught not to write on tables and walls to maintain the cleanliness of our school. A reason we’ve all known since the start of our education. Until a chair changed it all. A chair, whose only job is to provide comfort to a-running-to-class-late-student, has changed how that student originally defined vandalism and started writing on the desk with her new black G-tech, “Thank you for this, Whoever you are.”
She kept wondering, how simple caricatures on a chair could change the way she looks at vandalism. While re-reading the vandals and staring at the visuals, she realizes that vandalism is an avenue for freedom of expression. A place where one can be their truest selves without being attributed. It is a pure form of art.
She forgot about how her day started, she forgot about the humiliation of the teacher ignoring her presence when she came in late. “Today might not start perfect, but it just started. Don’t decide to end it imperfect,” the vandal read. Who would have thought something so bad that a student would probably have to clean it up at the end of the semester, turn out to help someone stay awake for an entire class?
Yet, somehow it pains her to know, she’ll never know whose it from. ~
Rhobie A. Ruaya
Column name: The Good Listener