An open letter from an absentee

A short story of courage, dedication, and devotion to everything but your academic record


Written by Aaron Barry, SFU Student

Dear Classmates,

You’ve seen me. I’m in your ENGL 206 class, your HIST 102W, your CMPT 307. I’m the one that used to sit in the back and make bad origami boats. Yeah — that guy. 

I know what you’re probably thinking . . . What happened to you? You stopped showing up after Week 3. While you’re not the first — and, surely, not the last — to wonder this, I assure you I’ve been keeping busy. In fact, I feel it might be worthwhile to apprise you of what exactly I’ve been up to. 

You see, last Monday (this would be Week 7), I wanted to attend class, but I had an unexpected visitor stop by my dorm before I could leave. This visitor had eight legs, beady eyes, and a conspicuous disregard for my school schedule. And like the worst kind of house guest, he quickly made a nuisance of himself, hiding under the desk, then the bed, the dresser, the nightstand . . . When he finally got tired of our little game of hide-and-seek, I thanked him for stopping by and politely escorted him out of the room on a page ripped out of my Norton Reader (we won’t be reading all of “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” anyway, will we?) 

The thing is, as I’m sure you know, hosting guests in your dorm really takes it out of you. So I decided to take the advice of all of those mental health notifications our concerned administrators send us and relax a little before leaving. I put on some ASMR (instant noodle unboxing), made some tea, and took a load off. Regrettably, and I’m sure this happens to you, too, I relaxed a little too hard, and by the time I woke up, Monday was Tuesday.  

Now, we all know missing a lecture isn’t the end of the world, but you’re likely wondering where I was for this week’s midterm — again, I must confess I had more urgent matters to attend to. What if I were to tell you that I was given a direct order from MI6 to secure a highly valuable, highly specialized payload? You probably wouldn’t believe me. Those sorts of things only happen in the movies — right? 

I was minding my business that morning, reviewing the Sparknotes entry on Jane Eyre for the test when, out of nowhere, I received a call on my cell. I picked it up without checking the caller ID. 

“Truant,” the crackling voice on the other end said, “I need you to do something for me.”

“Who is this?” I answered.

“It’s me.”

I was spooked.

The voice continued: “I need you to go to Superstore and buy me some cumin. Not the seeds — the ground kind. And make sure it’s organic.”

“But I have a tes—”

“But my foot hurts. I think my plantar fasciitis is acting up again. You’re gonna have to go buy it for me. You’re the only one who can do this.”

There was real urgency in the cryptic voice.

“How am I supposed to get there? It’s 30 minutes away by bus.”

“I’ll lend you the Mazda. Gas is on me. The curry’s going to be terrible without cumin. Please hurry.” 


I had to brave the endless throngs of extreme couponers that afternoon. There was danger (those parking lots are nuts); there was intrigue (at first, I couldn’t find the right aisle) — and though it was hard work, and I do regret not making it to class for the test, the head of Mom Industries 6 tells me I can rest easy this weekend because the curry came out great. 

It should be evident by now that I live a rather unpredictable lifestyle. There is no end to these incidents. Tomorrow, I may be whisked away to watch a Little League game, or wind up in the thralls of a YouTube video binge session, or find myself fully engrossed for no fewer than two hours in untangling my headphones. I do appreciate the fine work you guys are doing in class, and while I would very much like to be there in person to see it, given the wild nature of my life, I simply can’t make any promises. 

Yours truly, 


P.S. If you would be so kind, please send me your notes from lecture.