I cannot offer any of you much tonight in the way of revelation (do I ever?) but then again I don't believe in revelation – at least insofar as what is presented as being True.
I have been on a hiatus from blogging that was entirely coincidental and so I apologize to my 2 (3?) readers.
I want to tell you what I believe in, for some reason I feel like it's a necessity though it isn't. Opinions are like you-know-whats and like you-know-whats – everyone has a you-know-what.
I would like to tell you a story.
Larry (not his real name) returns from a long-term suspension last week. He returns on his birthday and is almost immediately pulled from my first period class due to an altercation he'd had that morning with his bus driver.
Upon returning to my class later that period, Larry is surrounded by a gaggle of starry-eyed young men, most of whom are only a year his junior. Starry-eyed because he is tall, taller than me (though most of my students are). Starry-eyed because his most recent suspension was due to “cussing out” a teacher during standardized testing in my classroom.
I'd hardly had a moment with Larry before he'd been whisked away from my classroom earlier that period.
Larry has a large, looming, Robert Parish-like forehead that is the color of caramel. His eyes, unlike those of Robert Parish, are large and wide and often stained red. His gait is uncertain and meandering, his hand is probably the size of my head. We have never exchanged “words” or confronted one another – we have only spoken, bickered, back-and-forthed until the entire class assumed we were the only two people left in the classroom.
Larry consumes the writing of Elijah Muhammad as though it were about to be scattered by some blinding flash all across the county.
Larry tells me that it hurts his feelings, shocks him when people yell at him and that caused him to lose control and “cuss” my co-teacher out.
“Mr. J, you don't yell at us – he did. This kind of shit is why I don't even care about my birthdays.”
I do not know if Larry will graduate high school or not. I want to tell him that he might prefer to earn his GED – but I can't say that, I can't encourage him to leave. He wants to learn about what he cares about and, in a way, all of my students do and my schizophrenic lessons are proof that I try to cater to that.
Larry sways in front of me and I smell, yes I smell the smell of college dorms.
I tell him that he just needs to focus on graduating and that I was never sure about my own chances of graduating from high school (I was certain I would die before that day came). I feel like I'm forcing him to stare down the barrel of a gun pulled from 1,000 after-school specials or, worse, any film where a teacher stands on a desk and declares his messianic nature.
I don't want to be that guy. No one listens to that guy. I am no one's “Captain, My Captain.” I have my own inadequacies and uncertainties that will never dissipate both about my ability to perform as a human being and also as a teacher.
I breathe Bertrand Russell and sleep José Saramago. I lose sleep over harsh words I hear between couples at the supermarket and violence, any violence, any goddamned violence. Everyone has a heart that bleeds but I've never believed in duality. My ties, several of them at least, are shredded from knotting – unknotting. I spit and swear to everything that is and slough my form at least 6 times per day through the gelatin ocean of humanity that is teenagehood.
I can only say, “I want you to graduate – you won't fail here.”
The bell rings and, thank who/what/ever, planning period.
My blinds stay shut.
My lights stay off.
At least until someone else walks in.