"Okay, Hilary, you are gonna teach Spanish two again next year. I want to single prep you since you'll be teaching at the elementary in the mornings and driving here in the afternoons".
"I learned nothing in this class" the feminine handwriting stated on my evaluation from my students.
"Advise to future students: switch teachers".
"I taught myself Spanish".
"The drawback of this class: the teacher".
"She's fun and has crazy stories, but she's a 'hypocrit'".
I think you might need to get on your English teacher, too.
"Get yourself earplugs and a pillow, she never shuts up".
"She didn't teach me to read a book in Spanish".
Was I supposed to? I recognized the handwriting on that one. You have to have a brain to read, Forrest, Forrest Gump.
It's funny how a couple of shitty teenage evaluations can really burn.
"Okay, Orelia, you'll be doing AP and standard level International Baccalaureate. Jorge, you have higher level I.B. and Spanish four. The new guy, he'll be doing Spanish two at and three, but man, I would love to get a guy like him into AP Literature....".
I knew before the announcement that I would be teaching Spanish two again and appreciated the single prep. But, all of my Spanish degrees are in literature. It is my strong point. I had been feeling good about next year, yet felt my heart sinking. Why doesn't anyone want to get a girl like me into Literature? I left at the end of the chat and I heard the door close. Loud talking went on in the classroom for another half an hour. Things that I don't need to know about. Stuff I don't need to concern myself with.
"Ms. Wagner is a hands on chica. I love Ms. Wagner".
"I really liked all of the choices she gave us. It kept it interesting".
"If you pay attention, you don't even need to study. She makes it easy".
"Spanish was better than the previous years."
"Ms. Wagner doesn't give 110%. She meets you halfway and expects you to work".
"I learned how horses are impregnated".
Okay, I guess we really don't need to go in on that.
"Okay, so I'm moving across the hall" Jorge stated.
Into the classroom where my desk is.
"But he has to come with me" he indicated, pointing at Gabriel, the teacher that he had been sharing a room with for two years.
"Thanks, Jorge" I said with a dry laugh.
"No, Hilary, it's not personal! We've always been together, he and I!"
"I know, el caribe, I was just kidding".
"Okay, I brought the book" the feminine looking boy fourteen year old stated, as he walked in to take his final exam.
I slowly pulled out the hardcover book, wrapped in plastic Kroger bags.
'Sexuality, a History from B.C. to HIV'.
"So, your dad really just left this laying in your room, randomly? Oh wow, nice. Ends with AIDS. He pretty much made sure that you will have no interest in sex, for like, ever. Holy shit! These pictures are going to burn my eyes out. Okay, whoever gets done with the final exam first gets first crack at this little nugget!".
"I miss you and Lola. The vet recently had to put my dog Orvell down so I've been pretty sad lately." The text was from Elena, my fifth grade friend.
My response to her was followed by a picture of a finger pointing at me.
"Who is the most awesome person today?" the caption read.
You are, Elena. You are.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
I laughed and bent my arms at an angle, while simultaneously jumping up with both knees almost touching my elbows.
"Oh my God, " I responded, "while I worked at Miller Grove a story went around about a kid that acted like shit and his mom came to school with him. He kept acting up in front of his friends and his mom punched him in the chest in front of everybody".
"I gonna do that to you if you fail me!" Conroy screamed.
"Alright, chamacos, I have to write some crap on the board now, if you don't mind watching my back so I don't get shanked" I responded, and continued my lesson.
The final exam schedule was super pinche fucked up. I am part-time, so I don't go there for eight hours a day. I knew on Monday that I didn't have to go in until eleven to deliver my final exam. I got up around eight and drank coffee in the yard while Lola ran around. Suddenly, a massive flatbed truck pulled up, carrying a giant sized pool liner on the back. It roared in front of my driveway, blocked it and parked. A couple of dudes jumped out and walked over to the McMansion next to my place, without a care in the world.
What the fuck, I thought. But I knew I didn't have to go to work for a few hours and ignored it.
"And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I'm keeping here with me, me..."
"¡Quiero pelear!" Devone yelled.
"Looking good, silly, nice vocabulary use. ¿Con quién quieres pelear?"
"Really, Devone? You want to fight Ms. Warren?"
"Nah, not her".
"Nah, I like him".
"Ms. McMan? The principal?".
"Nah. I want LaVerne".
Everyone started laughing. He used the first name of an administrator. A big, older, white administrator.
"LaVerne, you want her?" I howled.
"Yeah, I'm goin' for her," he said, laughing.
"Ms. Wagner, you got a pen?"
I gave him one and he did his work.
"What a curious life we have found here tonight
There is music that sounds from the street
There are lights in the clouds
Anna's ghost all around
Hear her voice as it's rolling and ringing through me
Soft and sweet!!!!!" I sang to Lola, hugging her close.
Okay, it was ten thirty. The pinche flatbed with a pool on the back had been there for hours. Now, I had to go to work. I climbed through the mud pit the trucks had made between my yard and theirs, in my work clothes.
"Oh my God," the stay at home mom breathed, in her weird cotton ball voice.
"I have been meaning to talk to you...".
"Awesome, but I have to go to work. I'm blocked in by my yer, um, pool".
"Well, but I really wanted to talk to you....about all this mess I mean...I didn't know it would be so messy!"
"Okay, yeah, thanks. I don't care about that. I just really have to go to work. Please move the pool".
I tore off to work. A CSX train had crashed into a mass transit bus that stalled on the tracks on the corner next to the school. The school schedule was all fucked again. News trucks sat in our parking lot while I tried to pull my hooptie in to work.
I asked them if they wanted my autograph, but they weren't interested.
I roared home. Another flatbed was blocking my driveway. I slowed down. Pool men waived me around the block, impatiently.
"I'm not trying to get through," I said.
"That is my house".
A couple of dudes got in the truck blocking my driveway, only after one of them gave me a dismissive, fuck you gesture.
My bad. Really. My bad.
I tore down the road next to the tracks again on the last day of school. I had finished my grades, went home and had some beers and then returned for the graduation of the class of 2013. I grabbed the bag with my Masters robe and Middlebury scarf thing from the back of my car and trucked it over to the place where faculty had to get dressed.
My Middlebury hood was missing. I dropped it somewhere in the parking lot. I put on the winged black robe and strolled out with the rest of the faculty, Middlebury scarf thing-less.
And I clapped and smiled and laughed.
School's out for summer.
Friday, May 10, 2013
And then, I think of three fantasy-like weeks in the south of France. Of the one year anniversary of the day I met Lola. Of long summer days with Lola lying in the shade of my first tomato crop.
"Oh my God, can I pet your puppy?" I asked the little boy walking a perfect blue Pit.
I didn't wait for an answer. I had the dog in my arms and kissed its face.
"She is six weeks old, isn't she?"
"Yes, her name is Diamond" he breathed.
It was like holding baby Lola again. Same colors, same markings. Same little chunk of a body, same little licky face.
"She is just like my dog was a year ago".
"How long she take to get big?" he asked, smiling and childlike.
"Um, I guess about ten minutes. She's eighty pounds now".
"Well, the bone is healed!" Spider Pig announced.
"Do you think anything will ever change with how crooked my finger is?" I asked carefully.
"Probably not. You'll get used to it".
"The physical therapist said he can't get any more mobility out of it."
"Yeah he's right, but it's pretty good. It'll take months for the swelling to go down too".
I looked at my hook like finger that is sore every morning and sways unnaturally to the right. It doesn't bend or straighten all of the way. My knuckle has gone from a seven ring size to a 10.5. The entire hand literally has half of the strength of my right hand.
Yeah, it's pretty good.
"Okay so Ms. Wagner, when I was little, I had this gerbil that died....."
It takes nothing to ignite a couple of my classes into rampant, 'when I was little' conversations. Their stories are hilarious but I have to remember to stop them and do the right thing and teach some, uh, Spanish.
"Oh God," I responded, "when I was little my hamster killed and ate my sister's hamster. It was horrible".
I was surprised when the only Senior in my freshman Spanish class raised his hand. He never contributed to these little chats, just put his head down and headphones on. The freshman are afraid of him. He's black, older and has tattoos.
"Okay so when I was little, I had this AC unit in my room. One day, I went to school and forgot to turn it off. When I came home, my hamster was frozen stiff. I put it in this little bag and built a little coffin out of a tissue box. My dad said we'd bury it, but he forgot until the next day. When we went to bury it the day after, the little ziplock was torn and the hamster was gone. Something had got to it. He still wanted to try to bury something but I just said Dad, things are goin' from bad to worse...".
Fire trucks were going by, lots of them. It was loud. Lola slowly rose from her slumber, stretching her body up into a sitting position. I watched her in the dark as I laid in our bed. She looked like Snoopy when he rises up in the Great Pumpkin patch and fools Linus into thinking that he IS the Great Pumpkin. Her throat stretched out and her nose rose straight up in the air, like a western silhouette drawing of a coyote. A low, long, evenly paced howl emitted from her throat and through her upraised snout. She echoed it with a second long coo. And then, she looked at me with an almost clandestine look on her face that seemed to say, yes, this is something I do that you didn't teach me. I just knew how to do this, I have instincts. She seemed to smile wisely.
Then, she curled up against me and went back to sleep, her nose pressed to my cheek.
Monday, May 6, 2013
"He black? Your partner, he black?"."No".
"He Mexican then".
"Nope, just garden variety white".
He's Jewish, I thought, but decided not to add that.
"Why you call him your 'partner', you're not gay?".
"I forty-one years old and we've been together for almost seventeen years. It seems kind of corny to call him my boyfriend" I responded.
"He hasn't popped the question yet?"
"It's not like that. He's waiting for me to pop the question".
"Ms. Wagner, we don't get you".
I know, children. I have been too modern for the kids before you and probably the kids that will follow you. It's okay. I don't mind answering your questions.
"Ms. Wagner, you got a donk" Darrius called out while I tried to write some shit on the board.
"I know, that's not the first time I've heard that".
And then I pulled my shirt down a little to cover my giant ass and wrote some more stuff on the board.