The Letter Under the Bed


Regarding freedom and constraints, Goethe once said: individuals are born with a natural freedom, yet they must adapt and learn the various customs of the stale world that restrict personal freedom. Obstacles to happiness, hindrances to activities, unfulfilled desires, these are not defects of a particular era, but defects of every individual.

Rousseau also said: Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains. Those who claim to be masters of all things actually resemble slaves more than anything else.

This statement by Rousseau left a deep impression on me, as my high school desk mate often mentioned it. At that time, I didn't truly understand the meaning of this statement, nor did I understand why he kept mentioning it repeatedly.

Taking advantage of the upcoming college entrance exam, let's chat about the interesting things from those years.

In our senior year, despite facing the pressure of the college entrance exam, life did not seem overly tense. Every time we changed seats, we always chose to sit in the back row because it was more convenient for us to do our own things.

He practiced calligraphy, creating a unique font that was flat and stylish, combining the freedom of cursive with the dignity of regular script. Believe it or not, many girls asked him to write for them, whether they were impressed by his handwriting, his personality, or his clever brain that could help them with problems.

I didn't have his high artistic pursuits, I wrote letters, to my first love in the neighboring city.

During self-study classes, we often read magazines and shared interesting content with each other. However, he had more self-control and guilt than I did. Sometimes when I found an interesting novel and handed it to him (I remember it was "The Book of Crimes"), he would get engrossed in it, then suddenly realize near the end of class, knock his head, mutter to himself: "I can't do this anymore." Then he would toss the book to me. He often used head-knocking to punish himself, and he hadn't knocked himself silly yet, which was truly unacceptable.

I often wondered, what did he mean by chains? In everyone's eyes, he was the kid next door, outgoing, academically successful, with good relationships among classmates, and excelling in grades. What chains could there be? The only things I could think of were the high expectations teachers had for him, giving him immense pressure. And maybe he was slightly less handsome than me.

As time went on, I felt he became more and more melancholic. We often ran on the playground together in the evening, he always ran fast and many laps, as if he wanted to finish all the steps of his life.

After the college entrance exam, as we packed up the dorm, he left halfway to play cards next door. I slept in the bed next to his, and helped him roll up the mat. Unexpectedly, as soon as we rolled it up, I saw an opened letter hidden underneath, curiosity drove me to pull out the letter. It was a rejection letter, written before the college entrance exam, from the girl who sat in front of us.

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