BHS I Miss You!
I was a bad kid. I was always on the lookout for something new, something strange, something different, and most importantly, something exciting. I kept busting out of the jail cell that was my home and wreaking havoc at night in my hometown in Bahrain, so one day my parents decided to send me to a larger, more sophisticated jail cell: Brummana High School as a boarding student. So they shipped me off in a cargo container with a lunchbox containing a can of nuts and a bottle of water. (Well, at least it felt that way.)
I was fifteen years old with nothing to lose and a glint in my eye. I didn’t care much about what the teachers said, and I wanted to get to know every kid in school. More importantly, I wanted everyone to know who I was. The future stretched ahead of me like an infinite highway, and I had the keys to a brand new corvette. Unfortunately the headmistress also had plans. And my freedom wasn’t included in them.
Her first order of business was to put barbed wire all around the school. She then ensured we had only five minutes to get to school from the dorms (it’s a long walk up the mountain), and then we had extra punishment (after school homework time). She also made sure that they counted us before bedtime to make sure nobody escaped. Regardless, we were an unruly bunch of kids, and nobody could stop us. We snuck out of the dorms but got caught. We smoked but got caught. We fought with each other but got caught. Alas, the more we rebelled, the more detentions we got and the more time we spent in the headmistress's room. I got into countless fights, and endless conflicts with teachers (even though I loved them), but I was always top of my class. That was something I could never compromise: My grades.
My friends and I decided to get our revenge on the headmistress for all those punishments, so we made a late night visit to her car and demolished it. After escaping the guards and jumping down the mountain, we managed to escape! Unfortunately the next day under the headmistress's pressure and threats, one of our crew ratted on us, and we all got caught and punished (and part of our punishment was spending a fun hour at the local police station): It was a valiant attempt at revenge that ended up rather badly for us, but we were kids and laughed it off afterwards.
Looking back, I remember that the best moments were having a cheese manoushee, sitting in the sun on that small wall near the school entrance, feeling the cool mountain breeze on my cheeks as I laughed, and joking with my friends and classmates. I remember those freezing mornings and the comfort of those warm heaters that we would sit on top of in the classrooms to defrost our frozen bones. I remember how sad we, dormies, would feel when school ended and the day students left us all alone in school. We would comfort each other by laughing, but we all secretly wished we could also go home. That made us so much closer to each other. I remember how free I would feel at weekends as soon as I crossed the school gate onto the main road and waited for a service to pick me up and drop me at Dora.
Those small details are all that really matters, and nothing remains but our friendships. I’m still in touch with many of my classmates and occasionally visit Lebanon to live in their homes. The smell of pollution and garbage in Beirut takes me back to my childhood when I thought I was invincible and would never grow up. Life becomes more complicated after college, and I smile to myself when I remember how much I yearned to get out of high school, and then to finish university. There is no freedom like the one you feel at high school, even though we thought at the time that we were in a cage. I would give anything to be sitting again on that small wall with a manoushee in my hand, with the sun above my head, and with the wind blowing on my cheek. I miss you BHS.
Haamed Fakhro ’95