Blame it all on the Queen of Spades

It was a winter day. I was sitting in the empty classroom and looking down at my answer sheet marked with a red pen all over the place. The numbers and equations were getting blurry, and suddenly I heard a silent drop on the sheet surface. The ink started bleeding on the paper. The second drop, then the third. I could feel my hands getting shaky, and I hoped my teacher would not get to see it.

“B-” was still at the bottom of the answer sheet, and there was no way I could change it now. I just failed my finals. I forgot the A-student reputation I was proud of for a long time. My entire life fell apart just a few days before I turned 13.

That was the day when I first told my mom that I wanted to change schools. A few hours after I said it, I took my decision back. But if I had a chance to change one day in my life, I would go back to that winter day and make myself do what I wanted to.

Let’s stop here, rewind it a little bit and start from the beginning.

On that day, the Queen of Spades appeared from the deck of cards

It was probably the middle of June – half a year before I “failed” my finals. On that day, the Queen of Spades appeared from the deck of cards. I knew it was not a good sign. My grandaunt confirmed this suspicion. She said that soon there would be someone in my life – presumably a woman – who would bring me nothing but tears. According to what my dad had told me earlier, his aunt’s predictions happened to come true most of the time. So, I had no other choice but to believe it. Ironically, that was the only thing that stuck in my mind after the whole fortunetelling thing. Fifteen years after, I would not remember even ten percent of what my grandaunt had told me that summer. Just this.

The Queen of Spades did come into my life right after the summer ended

Whether it was my vivid imagination or the power of self-persuasion, the Queen of Spades did come to my life right after the summer ended. It was our new math teacher. I did not realize she was that person until I witnessed her grabbing my classmate by the back of his neck and fiercely pushing him toward the chalkboard. Right in front of the whole class. My classmate misbehaved, and that was the punishment that she considered to be appropriate for him.

The silence grew thick in the classroom. No one was talking anymore. At that moment I knew it was her.

My fears were confirmed again later, during one of her classes. That day, I asked the teacher to repeat the solution to the problem she had given us because I did not get it the first time. Ignoring my classmates, who were telling me to keep my mouth shut, I raised my hand to ask the question. The next thing I remember was twenty pairs of eyes staring at me in awe. A few seconds later, chalk scratching the board pierced my ears. I had never seen anyone before who would press a tiny piece of chalk that hard. I could swear I saw white particles reaching the classroom floor as the teacher was writing the formula. By the time the Queen of Spades was done scribing, the tiny piece of chalk was destroyed. The whole time she did not say a word. When she turned around and looked at me, my heart sank. “Is that clear now?” she asked, boring a whole right through me with her eyes.

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I nodded.

A few months later, on that very winter day, I found myself sitting in the classroom and crying over my finals. I found myself paralyzed with fear and self-hatred. I was about to turn thirteen, and the universe gave me an important lesson to learn: I had to understand how to draw the line and start following my gut.

I would never know if transferring to a different school would be a good choice. I might have found myself in a more holistic environment where my questions would be heard, and my enthusiasm for learning would not make me a white crow in the class. Or, I might have found myself in the same position as I was before where I had no choice but to keep my mouth shut. But now I would never know it because I never did it.

My mom knew precisely why I wanted to change schools. She did not mind it. She was the one who suggested bringing up our math teacher’s behavior at the meeting with the school board. Scared of making too much noise, I panicked and told her not to do it. I prefer staying in the comfort zone I hated with all my heart instead of taking the risk for something that might have made me happier.

So, yes, if I had a chance to live one day differently, it would be that day. The day I would leave my exercise sheet on that desk to start my error correction work in a new place.