Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

My Nickname in Fifth Grade

by | Mar 10, 2024 | Life | 0 comments

Or the hazards of avoiding homework to daydream (35/40)

“The Riddle” was my nickname in fifth grade. I didn’t particularly like riddles, limericks, or enigmas. I didn’t dress in green nor had red hair. Batman was popular, but I wasn’t into it or its nemesis, Enigma.

My math teacher, a tall, scrawny dude with short, curly black hair and a whispy mustache, would draw giant question marks on the pages where the solutions to my math homework should’ve been.

Slowly, my classmates caught on to the fact that my notebooks were full of question marks instead of solutions, and they named me after the villain whose costume was also full of question marks.

What was I doing if I wasn’t paying attention to the lessons or doing my homework?

Well, I spent 5th grade looking out the window of my classroom. Life at home wasn’t great. But it hadn’t been for a few years, and it wasn’t for a few years after that, so I can’t say that’s what it was. It was the only grade I did that on. But that was the year I spent with my head craned, checking out the traffic going by instead of paying attention to the chalkboard.

One thing that annoys me about that time is that I don’t have any good poetry, lyrics, or music to show for all my time cloud-gazing. I wasn’t creating worlds for dystopian novels or dreaming of fascinating characters with witty banters. I was just looking out the window.

I passed fifth grade. I don’t know if they should’ve, but they did. Maybe my teacher thought, “Let that be the sixth-grade teacher problem.”

It didn’t matter because my mom had other plans. She wanted me to go to a bilingual school. Most schools in Colombia have a robust English language curriculum, but only a handful of them teach all subjects in English.

One minor logistical inconvenience: bilingual schools follow the American Academic calendar, which means they start classes in September and end in July, as opposed to the Colombian Academic year, which follows the calendar year like normal human beings should.

So, at 12, she kept me at home for nine months, waiting for the beginning of bilingual school. She enrolled me in an English class, so I was ready to take on the challenge of taking all my courses in different languages.

Three times a week, I would go to a weird office thirty minutes away from my house by myself and listen to cassettes of people exchanging pleasantries, talking about their favorite colors and what they liked to do with their friends — no, not like that, take your mind out of the gutter, I’m referring to hobbies.

Bilingual schools started, but I didn’t start with them. I’m not sure of the logistics or what the hell was going on with my schooling, but I was in a scholastic limbo. My grandfather had enough of seeing me loaf around the house, got involved, and told my mom to get it together. Then, he took me back to my regular school, El Liceo de Cervantes.

The teachers informed my grandfather I barely passed fifth grade and that placing me in sixth grade would be a mistake. So I was held back.

That was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.

Being held back gave me some serious street cred. That, coupled with the fact that I had mysteriously disappeared for six months, added to the narrative that I was a “bad” kid.

Of course, I wasn’t. I just had my head in the clouds. But my new street cred meant that I would be left alone to daydream.

I did not get a window seat this time, and that might been the main reason I was able to shed the nickname “The Riddle.”


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