While Destry Lewis was sitting in the administrative office hallway of Robert Bellarmine High School, he stumbled upon his reflection in the door window of the counselor's office at the end of the hall. He looked small and lonely, even a bit broken which for him was highly unusual. Normally, he was generally known for his confident manner and defiant attitude. Most of the kids who knew him would probably say that he was overly confident and too defiant. He looked at the reflection and at once knew that it perfectly captured the small, old man who lived inside his head, the one he was always at pain to hide from everybody else.
He was also thinking about the imminent discussion with this father that would most likely occur about five minutes after his expulsion from the school, his third in two years.
He didn't have long to contemplate on the subtleties of the reflection as he heard the sound of footsteps approaching and turned to see their source. As he feared, it was Vice Principal Lorinda Stephens, a large formidable looking African-American lady who possessed all the stature and the gravitas of one of those old large majestic ocean-liners of the past. For a second, Destry looked beaten. Ms. Stephens rarely smiled in public, and it was perfectly plain that this was not going to be on the rare moments when she did. He looked back down the hall and saw his defeated reflection and quickly straightened his back and arched his shoulders, and when he did, some of the fiery personality that he was known for returned.
She didn't say anything as she walked past him, just extracted her keys from her coat pocket, unlocked her door, opened it, and gestured for him to enter. He didn't exactly sneer as he walked past her, but it was close enough. She beckoned him to take the seat in from the large dark oak desk sitting in the rear of the office.
He walked slowly toward the chair, back and shoulders straight, and sat down and crossed his legs. He admitted to himself watching her walk to the throne-like chair behind the desk that the lady radiated sobriety and rectitude. It was a rare thing for him to acknowledge, as, in all his other experiences with administrators, he was much more accustomed to sensing the unctuous quality of people only pretending to actually possess any real solemnity of manner. He dialed his defiance back a notch accordingly. It was the very first time.
He watched apprehensively as she picked up his file, placed her glasses on the end of her nose, and looked over its contents.
"Mr. Lewis, it says here that you stood up in class and loudly announced your desire to "shag a movie star"? Is that the case?
"To be honest, Ms. Stephens, I didn't use the word 'shag'. Mr. Peoples probably put that it that way in the interest of being slightly more decorous than I was. But, yeah, basically it was what I said."
She sat back into the chair, "So, you admit to the intent?" He nodded, and she continued, "Why on earth would you do something like that?"
Destry took a deep breath and fought off the the involuntary inclination of shrugging before speaking, "Well, it was part of the assignment."
"Mr. Lewis, I'm fairly certain that Mr. Peoples, who I have known for over fifteen years, did not have an assignment which instructed his students to openly share their hidden sexual desires."
"I didn't say he intentionally intended it be so, but he did ask us to relate, to stand up and relate that is, something that we really wanted to do but that most people didn't know about."
"And you thought it was appropriate to say what you said?"
"Like I said, maybe by his standards it wasn't appropriate, but then he shouldn't have ask such an open question. If he didn't want complete honesty on my part, he should have said so at the start."
"So, you were just being honest?"
"Absolutely. You see we are studying Cyrano de Bergerac in class. And I like that dude a lot, Cyrano, not Mr. Peoples, he sucks as teacher. Cyrano, on the other hand, values personal honesty and courage more than anything else."
"Yet, he lies to Roxanne."
"Yeah, but that's what the play is about; that's where the dramatic tension comes from. Here he is the bravest of the brave, yet he can't master the self doubt he has because of his appearance and because of love."
"And Mr. Peoples was what, asking the class about hidden desires?"
"In a very clumsy, offhanded way he was trying to get us to think about how our inner self is different from the image we present to the public."
"What compelled you to say what you said?"
"I think he signaled me out because of this reputation I have of being brash and self-confident. He was trying to say I was a phony. So, I decided to answer him honestly using the first thing I popped into my head."
"Do you honestly mean to tell me that you think that your answer was appropriate for a high school literature class?"
"That's a different question. I answered the question he asked me, and I answered it honestly. It's not my fault that Mr. People's is a hypocrite."
"So, your deepest desire is to sleep with a Hollywood movie star?"
"There you go to changing the question again. I didn't say it was my deepest desire. My deepest desire would be to be able to function in a society where I didn't have to lie or modify my truth in order deal with the inability of others to accept it as such. In response to your question, I would just say, how could it be otherwise? That's why those stars exist, to create desires where none existed before. They use our desires against us, to sell us stuff, including false realities and untruth."
Ms. Stephens started coughing at that point, and Destry got up and darted to the water dispenser and brought her back a paper cup of water. She drank and nodded her head in thanks. When she recovered from the coughing spell she asked one final question, "I'm going to give you one last chance to convince me not to expel you. I'm looking at your record here, and I have to say, it is troubling. Why should I trust you to not be continually causing these kinds of disruptions in the future?"
"I've been expelled from two other schools. But no one has ever taken the time to really examine my so-called crimes. In one school, my history teacher asked my opinion about the Cold War, and I gave it to him, but it wasn't the 'my opinion' he wanted, so he picked a fight with me. I don't back down in such situations. It would probably save me a ton of grief if I did, but I can't. There is this father issue I have. You'll meet my father, and you'll see what I'm talking about. He's a politician in every sense of the word. I don't think he's never said a honest word in his entire life. If he told me the sky was blue, I'd have reason to doubt it. At the last school, I was reprimanded several times for giving honest answers to dishonest questions. Let me ask you, what would you do if someone asked a question and you knew that they wanted the answer that they always get and not the answer that you want to give? It happens everyday in my world. We sit there like prisoners all day and listen to them blather. Then they ask us questions that have no meaning and expect us to spit out only the words they want to hear, but not the words we want to say. Then they get mad. Frankly, I'm sick of all the lies and pretense. I couldn't care less if I'm expelled. At least, I won't have to listen to Peoples butcher Cyrano."
She leaned forward and started to answer but stopped and sat back in her chair. She thought about what he had said for a long while. She then thought about all of the polite answers she had given in order to get where she was, and she also thought of all the people with the big fake smiles who had asked them. Destry stared at his hands while he waited. After a long while, she picked up a pen from its stand and wrote him a pass back to class.
"Here, take this pass and get back to class. Tell Mr. Peoples I'll talk to him later."
He stood up and took the pass from her hand, "He's going to have a sh.., I mean, he's going to be very angry, Ms. Stephens."
"You let me worry about him. You need to worry about how you are going to start answering people honestly without making them angry. It's a little thing called tact. I suggest you learn how to use it. Now, you can get out of my office, Mr. Lewis."
He started to leave, but turned back at the door, "Thank you, Ms. Stephens. That the first time I ever had the chance said those words to anyone in a school setting. Usually, it's just 'So long'."
When the door closed behind him, she allowed herself a small smile and wondered what it would've been like to tell one of her teachers what she really desired. She reflected on what it meant that none of them had ever asked. Then she wondered what it would have been like to have told her father the same.