church with golden ball on top in Wycombe

Memoirs of a High School Fugitive

Image by Ian Mulder.
Image by Ian Mulder.

Most teenagers loathe high school, but I was more pro-active in expressing my disdain. One day, I simply walked out the door.

Well, it was more complicated than that. The place I walked out of wasn’t the school itself but a halfway-house “school room” at a hospital. And I didn’t walk away from a lesson, merely the threat of one, since like a sick animal they wanted to reintroduce me slowly. But you couldn’t have lured me back with a million pounds.

I did well at school and enjoyed learning, so my teachers were left scratching their heads at my sudden rebellion, especially as I’d been their pet for so many years. The problem rested with other bods at school and my own lack of coping skills, but I refused to be coaxed back in, even with my G.C.S.E.s on the horizon. And so, that day at the school room, about an hour before battle, I asked if I could get a cup of tea from the kitchen area. I neglected to mention the four and a half mile detour I was planning to take.

The shuddering, citrusy blast of adrenaline as I walked out of the automatic doors into fresh air isn’t something I’ve forgotten. Inwardly congratulating myself on my discretion, I pretended to be running for a bus to clear the grounds as quickly as possible without suspicion. I’d also left my school jumper behind so my clothes were nondescript. I had no idea where to go, but being the tender age of fifteen I still semi-believed the lessons and sensationalism of Hollywood – all that matters is fleeing the enemy’s clutches.

My escape was no less spectacular and dangerous in my mind. I cut through parkland to avoid the roads – and any patrolling hospital henchmen – and slowed to an outwardly casual walk past a playground.

The Rye, High Wycombe
Image by Peter Jemmett.

One thing I hadn’t counted on was the helicopter overhead, which was both remarkably quick on the scene and stripped of all police markings to throw me off the scent. I’d seen enough police chase programmes to know it had infrared cameras, but there wasn’t much I could do short of rolling in the mud Predator-style. Even my hyped up imagination whispered how ridiculous that would have been, so I simply kept to the gentle woodland at the edge of the park, revelling in my genius when it failed to explode into squads of policemen.

I lurched uphill towards a leafy suburb veined by quiet lanes and low beech trees. Being mid-morning there was no one about except for various elderly people gardening, which made it easier to spot any spies on my trail. Once at the top I realised where I wanted to go – a hilltop church, famous for the golden ball on its spire and a favourite family picnic spot.

church with golden ball on top in Wycombe
West Wycombe hill, image by Simon Q.

Scouring the road for any cars and passengers who seemed too vigilant, I set off for the nostalgic landmark. After a good hour or so I checked my watch and noticed that I should have been in the aforementioned lesson for 20 minutes by now. My smirk was interrupted by searing feet and grinding ankle pain; I was wearing the most uncomfortable shoes in the world and my destination was another three miles away. Also, I had absconded before lunch, had no money, and nowhere to stay.

After being missing for a total of three hours I thought I’d made my point. I strolled back to the school room where, to my surprise, I was greeted like I’d been away for a long weekend.

There were one or two consequences of course. Being away from school over a long period of time gouged my marks, but on the plus side I was allowed to drop Textiles. So, every cloud.

While running away did naff all to solve my problems, it did give me a glimpse of the real world and how things aren’t always as simple or exciting as movies make them seem. There would be no happy ending for me unless I accepted the help that I needed and weaned myself back into school, because in reality, there were no gun-toting bad guys, just a group of inconsequential idiots going through a phase and frustrated adults trying to help me build a future. My little diversion was far too disappointing to risk my prospects, so in the end I gritted my teeth and fought the good fight. It wasn’t the lesson I was expecting to learn, but I’m sat here now with a Master’s, a job I enjoy and a loving husband, so something must have gone right.

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