Why Am I Here?

It was back to school after summer. Sage walked with his head hung low. His unkempt hair swayed in the gentle morning breeze. Why am I here again? That same thought pounded him like a tsunami making its destructive rounds. 

Dragging himself to the classroom, he put his hand on the doorknob. Locked! He huffed in annoyance and looked at his watch. Why isn’t this watch a time machine? Why can’t I travel to Ancient Rome? Why this nonsense called school?

Snapping out of his stray thoughts, Sage looked at the time: 7:50 AM. He had thirty minutes to kill before the teachers showed up. He sat outside the locked classroom, glaring at the battered vinyl corridor floor. Why do we pay a fortune for this stinky school? I’ve barely learned anything here! Rolling his captivating eyes in disgust, he picked up his backpack and opened it.

A massive book occupied most of the top compartment. It was a guide to survival skills, an art that Sage had passionately acquired over the years. If left alone in the wilderness, I can build a basic shelter. Maybe a few weapons to combat with those jungle beasts. Perhaps, a small farm as well. He shook himself out of his daydream and zipped the top compartment back up.

From another pouch, he pulled out a bright red spiral notebook and flipped through the pages. Grabbing a pencil, he started scribbling about his first love – The History of Ancient Civilizations. For the past five years, he had meticulously jotted down his observations. It was all due to Livia’s goading. 

She had taunted Sage that ‘his geeky research would come to nothing’. Sage vividly remembered that day:

He was gobbling up a thick volume on Ancient Roman history. Livia walked up to him and asked, “What’s that?” 

 “The History of Rome, Book One by Titus Livius,” he said excitedly.

Livia laughed and replied, “That junk isn’t going to do you any favors. You lazy bookworm, start running around a bit!”

Sage grew red in anger and dropped his book. “You’re not the one to talk. I don’t see any bulging muscles on you! Zip zero nada.”

Livia poked Sage’s shoulder. “Well, you won’t be strong or smart. Your geeky research will come to nothing. Zip zero nada,” Livia said, mimicking him.

Sage was fuming. “Fine then!”

To prove Livia wrong, he had enrolled himself in a martial arts class. He had even started working out regularly. Now, he sported a cool lean, muscular, and athletic look. He was probably the toughest kid in his grade.

Sage had also doubled his study of ancient civilizations. The entries from those had filled up five huge spiral notebooks. He dreamed of becoming an archeologist and digging out some royal treasure. Then he could say, Hey Livia, look at me! I’ve got a billion dollars, and you’ve got nothing! Get out of my —

“Still stuck with that history junk? It’s never gonna happen. You know that yourself!”

Speak of the devil, Sage sighed and zipped up his backpack. I’ve to work on these notes later. Right now, I have this halfwit named Livia to tackle.

“Hi, Livia. How’re you? I didn’t miss you much,” Sage chided. 

“Still working on that worthless research? I thought you’d grow sensible at least this year. Heaven knows what you find in those silly history books,” Livia fired back.

“What does a moron like you know?” he said, staring intensely at her.

“Me? I know a garbage idea when I see it. I don’t bother with it.”

“Garbage idea? So, you don’t bother with yourself?”

Livia flushed. “Well, at least—,” 

Before she could finish, someone interrupted them, “Yo, bro! What’s up, Sage?” 

Sage grinned, pretending to ignore Livia.

“Hi, Felix!” Sage said, giving him a hi-five. Felix Maximus was Sage’s best friend from preschool, who had a chubby round face with a sweet countenance.

“How was your summer?” Felix enquired.

“Pretty good! I read…,” Sage launched into a never-ending summary of his summer reads and the places he traveled.

“That’s cool, man! I watched a bunch of movies and took long naps. Of course, I cooked and spent a lot of time gardening. Oh yeah, and I lost one of my textbooks,” Felix said, scratching his head casually.

“Which one is it this time?” Sage asked, face-palming. 

“The math one… You know… it had problems about eating 100 watermelons.”

“Felix, can’t you think of anything besides food?” Sage teased.

“Great friends! A history nut and a food junkie,” Livia said, with a wicked smile on her face.

“Felix, why’d you have that math book at home? We were supposed to turn it in last year,” Sage continued, ignoring Livia’s comment.

“Whoops,” Felix muttered.

“It’s okay. Don’t mention it, and you should be fine.”

“Thanks, buddy!” Felix grinned. 

*****

Note: This fiction is a collaborative effort with Rishi Sridhar.

*****

You can read the next part in this series here: Part 2

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