For once Karine was grateful for alphabetical seating. She didn’t want to sit with her friends. She was next to Jonah Cupryk and was glad for his quiet composure. The graduates were seated to the right of the stage, and all the spectators were squeezed into folding chairs in the center of the gym. It was unbearably hot with all these bodies stuffed in there like sardines. Karine kept lifting her feet out of her shoes to let them
the and each time she stuck them back in, the blisters on her toes burned. brea
Karine tried to pay attention to Principle Lewis’ speech but it was boring and her mind kept wandering. She could hear other graduates snickering behind her. Were they laughing at her? Was that the asshole’s voice? Was he saying something about her? Did anyone know… anything?
Everyone clapped and Karine joined in. Lewis introduced their valedictorian and Sarah took the stage. Karine listened closely, determined not to think about anything but her speech.
“Parents, teachers, fellow graduates, as I look out at this sea of faces before me, I’m reminded of what a cliché it is to use the expression ‘sea of faces’ in this context. As I was writing this speech I had a hard time avoiding clichés. Clichés like Carpe Diem and end of an era. The world is our oyster and we’re embarking on a new journey with limitless possibility and endless opportunity. But I think all of us sitting here know that isn’t true. We don’t have access to limitless possibility or opportunity. There was a time when any given generation was statistically likely to be more successful than the previous generation. But that’s not the case anymore. We’re in a recession and we’ve reached an impasse. According to Statistics Canada, we’ll be lucky if we can maintain the standard of living we’re currently accustomed to. And surpassing it? Don’t hold your breath. The world is overpopulated and there just aren’t enough jobs to go around, let alone good jobs, fun jobs, intellectually stimulating careers we might enjoy. The mentality used to be, go to University and you’ll get a good job! But now that isn’t enough. There’s too much competition out there. A Bacholor’s degree is nothing more than an ornament to hang on your wall.
“And the only thing these high school diplomas have earned us is the right to many more years of work and study. But you know what? It’s the first step. We can be proud to have our high school diplomas. Because they represent something else. They’re proof that we got through the first step. All of us, sitting here in our ritualistic caps and gowns have achieved something today. We made it this far. And that really is saying a lot. It means we’ve survived. And we don’t have to continue looking at these walls that for so many of us are akin to a prison. We’ve earned the right to step out of this institution and step into another one that hopefully will be just a little bit better. God knows it can’t be any worse. So maybe we won’t achieve as much as our parents have but maybe in this current social and economic climate achieving anything, no matter how small is still something to be proud of. They say time is the fire in which we burn but I rather believe that time is as companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. So let’s cherish this first step and cherish whatever comes next. Congratulations to all of you, to all of us. We are Generation Z! There are no more letters after that, we are it! It’s up to us now. So let’s do this thing!”
Sarah stamped her fist on the podium,
icating that her speech was done. What a depressing fucking speech. Good for Sarah for having the guts to say it. ind
The parents and teachers all looked utterly confused or perhaps shocked but the graduates erupted into cheers and thundering applause. Loud hoots were coming from behind Karine and she turned around to see that Cherry’s nerd friends were stamping their feet and giving Sarah a standing ovation. The rest of the graduates followed suit and Karine stuffed her feet back into her shoes so she could join them.
The graduates were ushered out of their seats and wrangled to the left side of the stage where they were expected to stand around and wait their turn for their diplomas. When they got their diplomas they could go back to their seats at the right of the stage but it sucked for anyone with a name late in the alphabet. They were given strict instructions to stay respectfully silent throughout the whole ordeal but Cerise knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“Vaninath Ameeriar,” announced Vice-Principle Horwith. “Honours in Enriched English, Enriched Mathematics, MRE and Physics.”
Vani walked across the stage and accepted his diploma. Cerise and the boys all clapped loudly for him and shouted out his name. Some kids started yelling Hangman and Vani gave the crowd finger guns, which elicited a round of appreciative laughter. Rosenbaum tried to get them all to shush as she herded them back in line but it was clear that she’d lost control.
Karine got honours in Enriched English, Enriched French, Drama and MRE. Terry clapped loudly for her and hollered out her name. She smiled and paused as she shook Horwith’s hand but Sarah was the only person to take a picture, which she wasn’t even able to take at a proper angle.
Cerise was pleased to see the guys give Jojo a loud round of applause. It was good of them, considering how mean they’d been to him all year. Karl even shouted out his name, his real name, not his nickname. Jonah smiled broadly at the compliment and Sarah squeezed Karl’s shoulder in approval.
It was however, pretty painful when Shauna accepted her diploma. Cerise clapped but hardly anyone else did besides the clueless parents in the audience. The Glue Sniffers barked like dogs and Andrew Lester made a toilet flushing sound. Shauna kept her head down, her hair hiding her face and rushed off the stage as fast as she could. For some ungodly reason she was wearing heels and she stumbled as she went down the stairs but thankfully caught herself before doing a faceplant. Everyone still laughed though.
It wasn’t much better for
a Fitzpatrick. She got the standard polite applause but a few guys coughed slut into their hands as she made her way across the stage. Cerise hoped to hell she hadn’t heard. Marl
Stephanie got honours in MRE. Good for her. Sarah and Mel cheered for her and Cerise joined in perhaps a second too late.
Jay also got honours in MRE. Cerise had expected him to do better than that considering all the enriched classes he was in. All the guys cheered for him anyway and Cerise clapped enthusiastically but wasn’t too obvious about it. She didn’t want Terry to see and think she was going overboard with it. Sure, he’d been a jerk at prom but maybe he sort of did have a legitimate reason to be jealous of Jay. Maybe, sort of.
Cerise was on her game when Melanie got her diploma and she joined Steph and Sarah as they hooted for her.
When Cerise took the stage she was surprised by how nervous she felt. She paused for her picture and her mother caused a scene by standing up and taking about a zillion snapshots. Simone and Julie had to drag her ass back down to her seat. Cerise got high honours in Art, Drama, Enriched English, Enriched French, Mathematics and MRE. The boys all hollored for her and surprisingly so did Terry. Some of the kids started chanting Cherry but Terry’s voice drowned them out. He called out her real name so loudly and enthusiastically that a lot of people laughed. Cerise blushed as she descended the stage.
Interestingly, Andrew got less of a reaction than expected. He made faces and donkey noises and he got a laugh but it wasn’t as enthusiastic as the laugh Vani had gotten. Cerise noticed that Karine wasn’t even clapping at all.
Erica also got a surprisingly muted reaction, though she still walked across the stage like she’d just won
Canadian Idol or something.
Christina’s reception was much more enthusiastic. She really was a very nice girl, even though she’d
er been particularly warm towards Cerise. She couldn’t be blamed really; she’d clearly never gotten over Terry and it was sort of understandable. nev
Steven got honours if Physical Education. Cerise hadn’t even known that was possible.
Terry got honours in Phys Ed too. He also got honours in MRE and Cerise was glad that Taffy had seen fit to give him the credit he deserved. Everyone clapped loudly for him and Cerise hoped he’d notice that she was among the most enthusiastic. She shouted out his name but doubted he’d heard over the rest of the noise. He locked eyes with her as he descended the stage but in an instant he was gone, making his way to his seat.
Willy tried to be funny when he accepted his diploma but it was just sort of pathetic how he mimicked Vani’s finger guns. The boys laughed
ulgently and Cerise rolled her eyes. ind
“Karl Weber. High Honours in Enriched Chemistry, Enriched Economics, Enriched English, Enriched French, Enriched Mathematics, MRE, and Enriched Physics.”
The applause was respectful. Even though Karl was
er popular, his list of honours was pretty impressive. Even so, Sarah had him beat. nev
“Sarah Wong. High Honours in Enriched Chemistry, Enriched Economics, Enriched English, Enriched French, Enriched Mathematics, Drama, MRE, North American Literature, Physical Education, Enriched Physics and World History.”
That didn’t even make sense. Sarah was taking four electives? You were only supposed to be allowed two. No wait,
North American Lit and World History were both half-semester classes but that still meant she had two other electives with Drama and Physics. What the hell? She really did do everything.
The insanity just kept on going when all the awards were handed out. Sarah got the award for most outstanding student in Enriched French but the most outstanding student in Enriched English was Karl. The most outstanding student in whatever class kept going back and forth between Sarah and Karl and it got pretty ridiculous after a while. At first they kept coming up to the stage to accept the awards and then went back to their seats but finally they were told to just stay on stage while Horwith got through them all.
Only a few awards went to other students, including the Drama award. Cerise could see Karine sitting up straight in her chair, anticipating winning but low and behold, it was awarded to Cerise! She accepted it happily and smiled broadly as once again Terry shouted out her name. Wow, Karine looked pissed.
Then it was back to Sarah and Karl. Karl got the special merit from the Chemical Institute of
but Sarah got the Physical Science ribbon. The medal of excellence from the Quebec Société de Science et Technologie went to Sarah, as did Le Certificat d’excellence dans la langue Française but the national Mathematics Medal went to Karl. After a while, it was clear that Sarah was the overall winner because of all her electives and social committees and stuff. She got first place for a national essay contest on Canadian History and got a commendation for her environmental work and even an acknowledgement of school spirit! Canada
When they were finally done with all the awards they did the classic thing of throwing their caps into the air. Then there was the awkwardness of trying to retrieve their specific caps and they filed out of the gym while the cycle 1 band played them off. As they went, Vani spontaneously announced he’d have a post convocation party. The word spread quickly and suddenly the entire graduating class was chanting Hangman and following Vani through the school. It was pretty cool.
Everyone was gathering in the parking lot and on the school lawn, mingling with their familes. Cerise was hugging her mother and then posing for about a billion pictures. Terry thought about going over to say hello but his own mother attacked him with a camera of her own. He had to pose with his brothers and step-siblings and then it was his dad’s turn as Vicky took pics. Terry held
in his arms and his brothers stood around looking bored as she took a few snapshots. Brittany
He tried to keep an eye on Cerise throughout all of this but when he finally ditched his family he was unable to find her. Her mom was still there though and she caught his eye and waved him over. He felt weird about it, not sure what Cerise might have told her fam, but he went over to say hi anyway. Her sisters smiled and congratulated him and her mom handed him a folder of pictures of him and Cerise at prom.
“I tried to explain that she could just email them but mom was born in the land before time,” shrugged Simone.
“Hey, it’s cool,” laughed Terry.
They said their goodbyes and Terry got in his car. He looked through the photos for a while, remembering how good Cerise looked that night. How happy she’d been before he’d fucked everything up. God, he was so retarded. How the hell was he going to fix things this time?
“Why don’t you go off and join your friends?” suggested Shauna’s mother as she took Shauna’s gown.
Shauna agreed and walked towards a random group of kids while her parents left. She planned to veer off in the opposite direction but the Glue Sniffers caught her.
“Hey, Sheila,” smirked Ben.
“What’s up?” asked Mike.
“You goin’ to the party at Hangman’s?” wondered Wendy.
“You can catch a ride with us,” offered Ben.
“Yeah, come on,” smiled Mike.
Before she could get away Mike and Ben linked their arms with hers and skipped through the parking lot, literally dragging her along with them.
Terry jumped in his seat, roused by a knock on the hood of his car. He looked out the open window and saw Karine staring down at him with a nervous smile.
“Hey, babe,” he smiled.
“Hey, you going to Hangman’s party?”
“I guess,” he shrugged.
“Yeah, I don’t wanna go either. You wanna hang?” She walked around to the passenger side and climbed in beside him.
He looked around the parking lot, dazed. “Where is everyone?”
“Hello! Hangman’s! Everyone’s gone to his place. We’re like the only ones left,” Karine swept her hand in front of her,
icating the nearly empty parking lot. “Us and that creepy lady in the stalker sunglasses.” ind
Terry laughed as he saw the woman in question, crouched down in her car with a zoom lens camera, trying to be subtle as she took pics of whatever the hell.
“I don’t even know where Hangman lives,” said Terry.
“Who cares? Let’s just do our own thing,” she suggested.
“But I have to talk to Cerise. I have to apologize.”
Karine deflated and let out a slow
th. “ brea Apologize for what?”
“I was an ass to her at prom. I think we’re broken up again. I need to fix it. I need to get back with her.”
“Ok well, then drop me off at my place first, ok?”
“You’re not gonna come?” he asked in shock.
“I don’t feel like it,” she shrugged, staring straight ahead.
“Why, what’s wrong?”
She was obviously seriously upset about something. “Karine. For real.” He turned to face her and put his hand on her shoulder.
“For real, nothing!” she attempted to laugh but then looked down at her legs and aswkardly adjusted her skirt.
He was about to ask her if she was upset because her mother hadn’t shown up to see her graduate but then thought better of it. That probably was the reason for her sadness and she didn’t need him to rub it in. Instead he suggested they go to her place and watch TV and order pizza.
“What about finding Cerise to fix things?” she asked, seemingly touched by his suggestion.
“She can wait I guess,” he smiled.
Karine smiled back and nodded her agreement. They drove around to the side of the school only to find themselves caught behind a series of cars. They were filled with graduates yelling out for Hangman. Karine looked over to Terry.
“You wanna go to the party, don’t you?”
“Maybe just for a second. Just to talk to Cerise…” Terry shrugged hopefully.
“Ok, let’s go,” she said, forcing a smile.
Terry followed the caravan through
to Hangman’s place. It was only a two-storey house but because it sat on a hill it seemed very tall, as half of the basement was above ground. The driveway sloped downwards and an incredibly long stairway led up to the front door. Beaconsfield
Terry parked on the curb a few houses down. The whole block was packed with cars. He and Karine dumped their gowns into the backseat and strolled over to the house. She seemed strangely apprehensive about it. They’d only stay a little while, he decided. Just long enough to get Cerise to take him back.
“Vani, you’re such a king! This is wicked! Everybody’s here!” Willy spurted in excitement.
It was true. Vani had done well. Everybody was there. Everybody. Even Andrew Lester and Erica Mackey. They were at Vani’s house, hanging out in nerd territory and being cool about it. And so far everyone seemed to be having a good time. Jay felt slightly jealous of Vani’s new nickname and of how cool his parents were. They’d agreed to take his little sisters out for dinner and a movie while Vani got his party going.
“I know!” laughed Vani. “This is so awesome! Check it! I think those guys are on some sort of sports team. And they’re at my house!”
“Crazitude,” said Willy, shaking his head. “Jocks at our party.”
“It’s my party. You’re just a hanger-onner.”
“Crazy to be at a party where we can’t get kicked out,” grinned Jay.
“I know!” squeeled Willy.
“Don’t speak too soon, Willy,” cautioned Karl and Sarah giggled.
Sarah and her Greens were congregated in the kitchen with the boys as Vani searched for refreshments. All he came up with was orange fanta.
“This party needs to become actual!” he declared. “We need beer! These people are gonna want beer! Someone go buy beer.”
“Relax, it can be b.y.o.b,” said Karl.
“Yeah, so what about our o.b?” whined Vani.
“You realize o.b. is a brand of tampon,” said Willy, giggling like a girl.
“You realize you spend time thinking about tampons. Eww, you just made me say tampon,” Vani scrunched up his nose in disgust.
“Are you guys talking about tampons again?” asked Cerise as she walked into the kitchen.
“Cerise!” Vani latched onto her. “We need beer! Make Terry go get beer! He has a car and he can totally pass for eighteen. You know, I think he shaves.”
“I shave,” said Willy.
“Don’t gross me out,” sneered Vani.
“I’m not gonna make Terry get beer,” said Cerise, annoyed. “I don’t even know if he’s here.”
“He’s right there!” Vani squeeled, pointing towards the kitchen door.
They all turned to see Terry Treboffensivelytallsky standing in the doorway. Karine was with him. Holy shit she looked hot. Her skirt was maybe a little longer than was necessary for optimal hotness but still, smoking.
“I don’t mind going for beer,” said Terry Trebicocky with his smarmy smirk of total smirkitude.
“Excellent!” smiled Vani. “You won’t get carded, right?”
Terry Pretentioustwatsky cocked his eyebrow like he was Zoolander or something. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” he smarmed.
“Excellent.” Vani twiddled his fingers like Mr. Burns.
“So you got money?” asked Terry Cheapskatesky.
“Yeah, yeah, everybody give Terry your money,” ordered Vani.
Everyone started fishing through their wallets, except for Cerise and Karl.
“I’m not giving my money so you guys can get drunk and embarrass yourselves,” sneered Karl. “Wait, that might actually be worth something…”
“So what brand you want?” asked Terry Twentyquestionsky as he counted the cash.
“Uh, whatever’s good,” shrugged Vani. “You decide.”
Terry Totallythinkshe’skingofbeersky chuckled and asked if anyone wanted to come along for the ride. He stared at Cerise as he said this but Vani practically jumped out of his skin offering to accompany him. They walked off and Karine went with them.
Karl got to the important business of telling Willy to put on more deodorant while Sarah and her clones huddled up with Cerise. Jay eavesdropped while he pretended to search for food.
“So what’s the status with you two these days?” asked Sarah.
“I guess there is no status,” said Cerise sadly. “We haven’t spoken since prom.”
“Cerise! You have to get back together with him!” insisted Mel and Steph emphatically agreed.
“You can’t like, not be going out with him,” Mel went on.
“What’s the point of having gone out with Terry Trebichavsky if you’re just gonna like, stop?” asked Steph.
Um, maybe ‘cause she’s like, not totally insane anymore and wants to move on with her life instead of staying stuck in hell with some asshole like Terry Fuckingbeer-gettingasshatthinkshe’ssocoolsky! Jay found a box of crackers and looked for the expiration date. Vani’s parents had been known to hang on to food for years after it had gone bad.
“It’s not that simple,” said Cerise. “We had a really big fight.”
“So? Make up!”
“You have to!”
“And if not, can you set him up with me?” asked Steph with a smile.
“Steph! What about me?!” whine Mel.
Cerise laughed but you could tell she was annoyed. The Greens started squabbling with each other about who would get to hook up with Mr. Dreamboat first while Sarah and Cerise lowered their voices even further. Jay really had to strain his ears to hear what they were saying.
“Seriously though, do you wanna get back together with him?” asked Sarah.
“I really don’t know,” Cerise shrugged. “I mean, it was so weird at prom. He was really out of it. I don’t just mean drunk, I mean freaky. Like scary.”
Yeah, how so?
“I dunno, he was just really mad. And weirdly jealous. He didn’t want me to dance with Willy, which I was grateful for…”
“But he also got all jealous when I was hanging with Jay…”
“But the thing is I wasn’t so great myself. I broke up with him for no reason, I don’t blame him for being pissed and maybe you know, a bit insecure. I don’t wanna be one of those girls who’re all, I deserve to be treated like shit, but the thing is I kinda did deserve it.”
Oh vomit. She probably would end up getting back together with that stupid butthead. He was obviously suffering from ‘roid rage and she was blaming herself? Ugh, she could do so much better! She didn’t deserve to be with that wife-beater, mouth-breather. Girls were so stupid.
Suddenly the crackers in Jay’s hands exploded into the air and cascaded around him. Apparently he’d been holding the box so tightly that he’d popped it open. Everyone laughed at him obviously but he recovered by casually eating a cracker that had landed on his shoulder. Yep, expired.