Every morning, it was always the same for me. I woke up late even though I set the alarm yesterday. The alarm had already gone off about ten times, warning me that I should wake up to go to class. I was tired of the same routine. I delayed the alarm for another five minutes and later I went back to bed, covering myself with the blanket. As usual, time passed quickly than I would have liked.
My mother kept repeating my name every time she passed by my room, but I just wanted to sleep. I was very tired because I stayed up too late, playing on the PlayStation. But I knew it was worth it, so I didn't regret it. I only was dealing with the consequences.
“Pedro, get up! You're going to be late for school.” My mom said, when she passed my bedroom door. When I looked at my watch, I noticed the time, it was about to be 6:30 am. It was really a drag. Why did classes in Mexico have to start at 7:30 am? Why classes couldn't start at 8:00 am like in other countries? That was at least another hour of bed rest.
“Pedro, your breakfast is ready, it's going to get cold!” Said my mother, knocking on the door insistently. Reminding me that it was getting later and later.
“I'm coming down! I am almost done” Then I got up before it occurred to her to come into my room and see that I wasn't even dressed yet.
I quickly bathed and dressed, in the horrible uniform we had to wear to school. When I finished getting ready, I went down to the dining room and took my place at the table. There were a couple of muffins with fried eggs and orange juice, waiting for me. Although, as my mother said before, they had already gotten cold. I didn't mind that, I grabbed the green sauce that was in the center of the table and bathed the eggs. When I finished eating breakfast, I was about to hurry, but my mom intercepted me.
“Where are you going without washing your dishes? Take them to the sink and wash them, we don't have a maid”
“No, but why do we want one if we have you?” I said in a playful tone.
“You rude boy, I'll show you now.”
“No, wait. I was joking! I'm late for school”
I had to apologize when I saw her about to take her flip-flop off her foot and she started to point it at me.
“Don't run, it'll get worse”
After taking several hits with her sandal and finishing washing the dishes. I packed my backpack and keys to leave the house.
“I'm going now, Ma.”
“Okay, take care of yourself, son.”
Later, at the bus stop I met a classmate Juana. I greeted her with a fist bump. We were taking the same route to school, although it was strange that she was late, but when I saw her carrying a cardboard, something in my memory started to activate.
“How strange to meet at the bus stop at this hour, you always arrive first.”
“The previous bus didn't want to stop because it was very full. And you know how they are. If you miss the route, you have to wait for a good one, as it happens almost every hour.”
“Ah, you're right! What's with that cardboard? When did you order a cardboard?”
“The history teacher ordered it for today's project. Did you forget to bring the cardboard?”
“No, I was just testing you. The thing is that I'm just going to buy it at the stationery store a block from the school, I just didn't want to carry it around in the truck, since it's always full and then it gets all wrinkled.”
“Right, look, here it comes the bus”. She made the stop, extending her arm like the other people waiting. And even though this truck was also full, it wasn't bursting at the seams, so we made our way to the back door among the other passengers. The drivers must have really believed they were sardine.
After a busy trip like every morning, when we were about to arrive at the school, I had to get off a block early so I could buy the cardboard I had forgotten.
“I'll see you later” I said goodbye to her and rang the bell to be allowed to get off.
Unfortunately, the stationery store was bursting at the seams. I wasn't the only student, who needed something at the last minute. Luckily, it was always open at this hour, allowing students like me to shop on time. Once I asked the manager for the cardboard, I paid him. Now I would only have to run to the entrance of the school.
They still didn't close the entrance door. It was already around 7:35 am, but I counted on them to always give ten extra minutes before closing it. Then I walked to the central patio, and all my classmates and the other high school grades were in an L shape since it was a normal Monday and that day, we always did the honors to the flag.
In addition, the school was super decorated because it was September, the national month, and it was a tradition to see the chopped paper with the colors green, white and red, plus the Mexican flag flying everywhere.
And of course, the country's important characters such as Miguel Hidalgo, Morelos and the child heroes could not be missing, adorning the walls of the building with their images.
I stood in my place, and greeted my friends with my face, since both the teachers and the director were there. And of course, you didn't want to attract the director's attention. She was a very loud and rather moody woman that even parents tried to avoid. I saw the escort, led by a third-year student, stand in the middle of the courtyard.
“Now we will recite the Pledge of Allegiance" said the principal, and we all had to recite it from memory.
When it was over, the national anthem began to play loudly and I sang it as usual. Of all the hymns in the world, ours had to be the bravest. The truth is that I did like our hymn, but sometimes the teachers made me hate Mondays with so much protocol and scolding. Finally, we all ended up saying the student promise together and only then could we enter our classrooms and consider the day's classes started.
Of all the subjects I had, the one that bored me the most was history, so I pretended to take notes while the teacher was teaching.
“Very well students, today we are going to continue with what we saw in the last class about the Battle of Chapultepec Castle. We agreed that in 1847 the U.S. army invaded our country under the pretext of territorial violations in the area of Texas, when it still belonged to Mexico." Explained the teacher.
I was tired of hearing the same story as always so I did not pay much attention to the history class.
“All the francs had been taken and only the San Blas battalion commanded by Nicolas Bravo stood in the way of the hill of the chapulin. He fought bravely, losing 800 soldiers in his defense.”
“I heard that the child heroes who participated in that battle were a myth and that they did not really exist.” Said Cristina after raising her hand.
“Good contribution, Cristina. It is a very curious and controversial fact, but what we can say is that the cadets of the military school who were participating in that battle, instead of retiring, offered their lives for the defense of the castle.”
I was still distracted with my notebook, I had already started to draw some pictures with my pen, even when the teacher finished with the subject.
“Very well, now make teams of five, did you all bring the cardboard? With it you are going to make a chronological line between all the members with the events and I want it well decorated or I will take away the points.”
We all got to work, after going through the tedious task of having to choose members, fortunately I stayed with my friends and since we had a space left over. Juana ended up joining us. Which was good, because we needed someone responsible and who could make the decorations that the teacher Lourdes wanted. We used the remaining 20 minutes, and made our timeline which she graded and the whole class ended up taping the work to the walls of the room. However, before the bell rang to announce the change of class, the teacher began to dictate the homework.
“By Wednesday, you are going to give me a six-page essay. Where they will substantiate and explain in their own words everything they know about the battle of September 13. Including their own vision of the Child Heroes”. Said the teacher.
“Teacher, can't we do better in teams?” Jorge asked.
“No. I'll see you all until the next class on Wednesday.” The teacher left. The other subjects gave us their assignments, too.
I always wondered, if the teachers ever considered that the subject they taught, was not the only one we were taking, since they were always overloading us with homework.
We had a break that was no more than 20 minutes to eat or buy lunch. But I was grateful when classes ended and then I was able to go home taking the same route. Once at home, the food was prepared, waiting for me. I threw away the backpack that weighed about 10 kilos. The smell of chicken in mole sauce was flooding the house. My mom was finishing cooking and I had the food ready.
“Go change your uniform and wash your hands. And don't leave my backpack lying around.”
I took my backpack, which I threw away in my room, took off my prisoner's uniform, and then I went to wash my hands. Then I went back downstairs, to eat with my mom. She had to go to work, because at 1:30pm she was starting her shift at the supermarket.
“Well, my little boy be good and do your homework, I don't want to see you playing games.”
When my mom left, I jumped into bed and thought about sleeping for a while, but then I remembered that I had to do the essay that Professor Lourdes had ordered, without mentioning the other tasks. So, I had to get up and go sit at the desk. I would start by doing what I was most bored with and would take the most time. That way I could play in the afternoon.
I took the history book, but just reading a few paragraphs got me bored. So, I started to check on wikies on the computer, the bad thing is that I couldn't copy and paste. The teacher always wanted us to write everything by hand, as if we lived in the century before the internet and computers.
Several times I was distracted by the networks and chatting with my friends. So, I didn't realize when I ended up lying in my bed with the computer on top of me.
I ended up watching a video of the battle, when I remembered what I was doing. After all, this kind of thing is more fun to learn from movies. I brought a notebook with me to take notes on the facts that I could use for my essay. Six sheets were not going to be easy to fill out. That woman was crazy. Little by little, I wrote down a sketch of what I thought were the most relevant facts.
Until fatigue overcame me and I ended up falling asleep, letting myself be carried away by how soft and comfortable my bed was. I closed my eyes, they were already tired, but if I continued to listen to the film, it was like I was paying attention, wasn't it? So, I just listened to the film, I had no intention of falling asleep, so I don't know when I got carried away.
In the end, they said that after a little rest, everyone became more productive
When I realized, I noted that I was dressed in a military uniform, I also missed seeing myself inside the famous heroic military school. The city was under bombardment. I could hear the screams and shots from where I was. That alarmed me and made me move immediately. The thunders were surprisingly loud, making me jump at every turn. What was worse, bombs were falling everywhere, destroying everything in their path.
After, I realized that we were surrounded. so, along with other cadets, we decided to go into battle, fighting with rifles and defending the fort. I headed for the open field, that's where the main action was. Everything to keep the Americans from taking the city. It was a devastating scene, there was death everywhere, soldiers from both sides slaughtered each other, even young people my age sacrificed their lives, all to protect the homeland.
Suddenly, someone started chasing me, and I started shooting, but since my aim was terrible, I couldn't hit them, so I started running.
I didn't want to give up my life, it seemed like a useless death that didn't really contribute to anything. I always heard that the process to build the country that was now Mexico had been long and full of sacrifices. The blood of many good people was spilled. But if it had been necessary, would they have chosen death?
The war was really very unfair, so many people fighting and being killed in order to get what? More land? What good would it have done them to have more territory? Just to call themselves the most powerful nation in the world? It seemed like a joke that someone would send a huge group of soldiers to kill themselves fighting another group of soldiers. They, before they were military, were still people. They had not come into the world just to cause death and destruction. Something was really wrong with this situation.
Another of the cadets saw me running towards the building and saved me by shooting the soldier, I knew because I heard him fall. Then, while I was going into the castle, I thought I saw Juan Escutia, it was only a moment when our eyes met, but it was enough. I could see the fear in him, but above all the determination in his eyes. Those young men, each and every one of them, knew that that battle was lost, that the reinforcements would not arrive in time, but that did not mean they were going to surrender to the enemy. Instead, they just kept moving forward with a steady pace and would remain on their feet until the very last moment.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers who had made his way inside shot me in the chest and I fell.
“Save the flag!” I shouted to Juan as I could not continue by his side. Then the soldier stopped to finish me off with the sword in his rifle.
And I understood why John had to do what he was meant to do. It was better to fall with her from above in her defense than to see the flag in the hands of the enemy defiled. Mocking our people and country. Protecting honor was much more important, even if he had to give his life, a life that those soldiers were also going to take.
The blood gushed from my wound, it was a frightening sensation and I felt a huge weight on my chest, everything started to get dark and when I thought I was dead. I saw Lola, my cat, lying on top of me.
The film was over and the video was paused. What a dream I had, surely influenced by the film. But for some reason it inspired me enough to finish writing my essay.
The following Wednesday, I presented it to my classmates. The teacher gave me a C+, even though she had praised the good exposition and all the historical facts that I named in such detail. All for a couple of commas and a few marks. I was a witch, although after that experience one note didn't seem to be so important. The lesson I learned was more valuable.
Many have fought to protect the future of the citizens and this land that is now Mexico and although we are now in times of peace, we enjoy these privileges thanks to all those sacrifices.
Thank you for reading!