Thursday, December 18, 2014

La Shine

I surveyed the leg wear of one of my favorite students.  Though it is clearly winter,  Bashmal continues to wear shorts, with a strange patch work of socks that he pulls up to his knees, while adding a second, tube-like layer to cover the actual knee, that he pulls as far up his thigh as he can.  Together, this intricate mesh covers his entire leg, while still allowing him to NOT wear pants.  "What's up with this, Bashmal?" I asked.
"I don't like them.  I just don't like pants." he answered.
"You know, I kind of feel you.  I'm not much of a pants-wearer either."
"I've noticed.  You're a skirt-wearer."
"True.  They are more comfortable.  With tights."

Mo, my cart-carrying twerker, has managed to add yet another name to his list of aliases.  He does this crazy Spanglish thing where he entirely fucks up the vocabulary we are supposed to be using.   When learning the word for donkey, he began saying "el donkey" instead of "burro".  When learning the word for mouse, he randomly started saying "el mouse".  For weeks the students would call him by these names, obviously to his liking.  His latest is "la shine".  I think it has a ring to it.

I tore down the road with bags full of Hanukkah treats and a Christmas tree on the roof of Alec's car.  I wanted to beat him home and hit up Hanukkah by sundown and was also GODDAMN sick of traffic and sneezing and hacking with my three-day old elementary school cold.

I am the one that initiated all of these festivities.  Alec and I are both agnostics at best and probably atheists, to be honest.  I am the one who embraced his ethnic celebrations because I think it is fun to buy him eight little presents, each to be unveiled one by one, every evening for over a week.  I buy a tree because I am a fan of string lights and the way the tree smells.  Well, and the novelty.  How often do you have a relatively live tree sitting in your living room, covered in lights, instead of just the normal crap in there?  Only a couple of weeks a year...

"PANTS!  I'm wearing PANTS!" Oliver shrieked in the hallway, pulling his pants giddily to the left and the right in display while sailing down the stairs with his sideways tilted smile on his face.
"YES!"  I called, "Yes you are!"

"Where is Tyrone?"  I asked the class.  "He is absent again?  Is he sick, everyone is sick."
"Tyrone doesn't go to school here anymore." several students announced.
"He wasn't in-district."
"NO.  No..."
"He will be back.  His parents will find an apartment and he will be back...." Kimmie stated, rising from her chair. 

As I practically jogged through the hall to my next class, I caught sight of Bashmal.  He looked like a totally normal kid.  He was wearing a long sleeved yellow t-shirt and ...... pants.
"Bashmal.  WHAT are you wearing?" I asked, horrified.
"Pants.  I am wearing pants.  I just gave in.  It was getting too cold, the socks too thin.  I am just going to do it."
I felt my heart plummet as he walked away. 

I slammed on my breaks and nearly hit the car in front of me.  I saw the trunk of the Christmas tree shoot out and nearly sail off of the top of the car toward the car I was trying not to hit.  Fuck.  I kept driving, slowly.  It slid back a little.  I slowly drove home, fearing the thing was going to fly off.  When I got home, the garbage collection thing was in the middle of the driveway.  The tree mother fucker had tied me into the car and I couldn't get out to move it.  I drove forward, pushing the big Herbie in with the car and clawing my way through the strings so that I could exit the automobile.  The tree was basically hanging on the passenger side of the car, suspended by strings.   I went in inside.

Alec loved his first night of Hanukkah gift.  I let him enjoy it and waited, then mentioned casually,

"By the way, can you help me get Christmas tree off of the top of your car....?.".

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Day at the Salon

"I'm givin' you a SCALP MASSAGE!" Alicia sang in a throaty voice, tinged with vibrato.  
How did this happen?
It began with Holly, randomly sidling up during the fly swatter game.
"Would you like a massage?" she asked, grinning.
"Why of course." I responded, thinking it might be funny.
Funny it was.
The little girl karate-chopped my back and squished my shoulders, all while I tried to judge the fly swatter game. 
Alicia rose up soon after, asking primly if I would like a "scalp massage".
"Oh okay, wow, I feel like I am at the spa."
Soon it turned into Holly giving me a 'massage', which was actually making me melt into the chair and Alicia singing her tune loudly while pulling my hair up into a tall snarl.  And kids hitting the whiteboard with fly swatters while I yelled out things in Spanish.
I looked behind me and four girls stood in a row, each 'massaging' each others shoulders.
'Please don't let me get observed, please don't let me get observed' I thought, as I giggled at the freak scene around me. 
And, it was only my first class of the day.

"How do you, you know, make friends with people?" Tyrone asked me, after pulling me out into the hall during class.  His head twitched a little to the right.
I wondered what he meant, did he mean when he sidled up to Kimmie and asked her if she wanted to
'be his friend' or just like, making friends in general?
"Well, you just sort of hang out with them, play Four Square or something and see who appeals to you."
"But how do you ask them to be friends?" he responded, eyebrows furrowed and again, a strange pull on his lower lip, sucking it into his mouth.
"Well, you don't have to make it official, people just know."
"What does official mean?"
"Well like, you don't have to ask.  You just hang around with the people you like hanging out with and that enjoy being around you too."
He looked confused.

He had been separating himself in the cafeteria.  At first he said it was because of Kimmie and would sit with tears in his eyes alone at a table.  Now he said that he didn't know how to approach any of the kids.

"So....," Fulton informed me, leaning in, eyes glowing, "we went to Toledo.  There was a lot of snow."
"Why did you go to Toledo?"
"Well, my Grandma broke her neck." he responded, emotionless.  

"The facial ticks, the inability to read, I don't know how to tell his parents that he needs to see a doctor without getting sued.  He is not getting ANY services." his teacher informed me, exasperated.
"NONE?  He's not getting reading support, special ed anything?  He is GENERAL ED?"  I asked, feeling my own eyes about to get wet.
"Correct." she answered.  

"Where's Oliver?" I heard his parapro ask the secretary.  It was after the bell.
"I think I see him right now."
I heard the door open.  Numerous voices greeted him.  Everyone loves Oliver, believe me.  I am not the only fan.

"They finally got him to a doctor.  He has a neurological disorder and is on a first grade reading level.  There is no way this disorder popped up over night.  Why wasn't it diagnosed before?  Was it there before or did he have a head injury?!"  The teacher's eyes were bulging.
"Please tell me the wheels are rolling now.  He may not be special ed.  His injury or syndrome might be impairing his ability to learn.  He needs a 504, we need accommodations....."  I was prattling on now too, anxious. 

"Good morning, Oliver." I heard our principal greet.
"Answer him, Oliver." his parapro, Marsha, instructed.
"Running late this morning?" our principal continued.
"YES." Oliver responded in his characteristic flat, yet emphatic way.
"Why don't you go eat some breakfast before going to class."
"Okay, why don't you just take a second then to wash your face and hands before heading up."

"I'm givin' you a SCALP MASSAGE!" ran through my head like a jingle of a commercial.  My co-worker Michelle

and I combed over the IB website, after the kids had been dismissed. 
"I have one last announcement."
Oh no, there are never announcements after school.
"Looks like we are having a little plumbing work done and the water is going to be shut off for a few hours.  I would like to advise you to......."
Go to the bathroom, fast?

Monday, December 1, 2014


"I'm not sure what I am going to do with all of this vacation time...."
"Maybe Steve will let you meet Son of Sam."
"Right!  There is no way Steve would share him with us."
Our friend Steve had struck up a friendship with Son of Sam.  He was being held close to Steve's job in downtown Atlanta and the two had taken to eating lunch together several times a week.
In my mind's eye, I seemed to remember seeing Steve and Son of Sam lunching at an outdoor eatery.  Steve was speaking intently about something and Son of Sam looked exactly as he had upon capture, crazy eyes and all, while listening to Steve at the outdoor table.

I watched Oliver walk across the lunch room.  He saw me watching him and carefully pressed his curly hair closer to his head, then entered the lunch line.

"Teachers!  I want you to pick one student from your class that really knows how to shake it," the performer of the assembly announced, "and really knows how to follow directions."
My eyes gazed on Mo, the boy who had been caught twerking in class and had taken my giant cart full of dictionaries on a tour of the school, including an elevator ride and a trip down the stairs, when simply asked to carry a box of dictionaries from the cart to the classroom.  The class started screaming when I picked him.
"You picked the opposite!" a girl howled.
"I know" I said, feeling wicked.  Mo did look hilarious when he danced around and I was dying to see what would happen with him on the stage. 

I woke up.
"Alec," I said, giggling.  Though it was the middle of the night I knew he was awake.
"I had a dream that Steve was friends with David Berkowitz.  I don't know why but we never used his name in the dream, just called him Son of Sam.  I remember when I was waking up wondering how Son of Sam was able to just check in and out of jail to go out to lunch with Steve.  It was never established how the met either....."
I heard Alec laughing into his pillow.  Lola rolled over and huffed. 

Mo was easily the funniest kid up there, insane facial expressions and hilarious dance moves.  When asked to imitate his teacher playing soccer, I became nervous.

Mo smoothed his short hair down as if it was the length of mine, gave a few head flips and dramatically kicked an imaginary soccer ball, all while shaking around like a model on a runway.

It was a great way to start a Monday. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mother of Disposable Sons

I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, at my home, like a grown up.

I slowly drove up to the Farmer's Market.  Yes, the DeKalb County Farmer's Market, on the day before Thanksgiving.  I knew it was a mistake and resigned myself to my punishment. 

I read over the morning news and then felt awkward when I read Facebook.
A black friend posted:  "Jury of nine whites and three blacks, it only took nine to dismiss."  I don't usually call her a 'black friend'.  I normally call her Renee.  But I knew right now I was only a white person to her.  
I crawled under my chair when a 'white friend' posted a Chris Rock video that mocked how "not to get your ass kicked".  It entailed not breaking the law and not acting like a thug, as if that is the reason why black men are incarcerated or killed.  Chris Rock can say whatever he wants, but I was appalled to see a 'white friend' that I normally call Bridget, share the video a day after, you know, what happened.
A 'black friend' posted a story about a 'white' neighbor that chased down a 'black' person for stealing something off of his porch.  "We must educate our children!" the 'black' friend preached, a day after, you know, what happened.  Because, yeah really, 'education' is the problem. 
A 'white friend' that I normally call Brenda posted a meme of a looter with a caption that read:  "Steal a belt".  What a take away.  That really sums it all up.   And, a day after it happened. 
A 'black friend' that I normally call Dina put up a one line statement:  "I am the mother of disposable sons".

A man walked threw the Market with a pile of pizzas in his arms.  He definitely had the right idea.  

I watched the immigrants that staff the Farmer's Market move and shake and socialize with each other.  A variety of languages shot out of their mouths, Arabic, Amharic, etc.  I could only imagine what their thin bodies and narrow limbs thought of our gluttonous holiday.

"Ask yourself, people, ask yourself!  Where is the eggnog?" a women chanted by the dairy section of Kroger.   

I walked out, heaving my cart onto the grass and leaving it there, only to see a pizza ad under my windshield wiper.

"Next year," I thought, "next year."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Isle of Misfit Toys

As I entered the fourth grade classroom, I noticed a series of bags of yellow fluid, labeled with names, attached to the windows of the room.
"Why is your pee hanging from the windows?" I asked the class.
"IT'S NOT PEE!" they screamed.
"Um, Mr. Robin, color choice?"
"I know, my bad, you all close your mouths and get ready for Spanish" he announced and exited.

"It is a chicken, stuffed with a duck, shoved inside a turkey".
What the fuck.  This duckfurky what the fuck ever thing was about to make me vomit.  How many ass like orifices could be filled with meat?
"And it's sewed together...."
Okay, I really am throwing up right now.
"We are going to have it my aunt's house because Grandma won't be there...."
Bailey looked at me sideways.
"What happened to Grandma?" he whispered.
"She is probably about to be stuffed with meat" I answered, while we both stared straight ahead.

Jonas was practically laying on top of me while I sat in the chair, reading my email, while on duty.

My duty consists of watching kids go up the stairs in the morning and then go down them again in the afternoon.  It takes about forty minutes a day to perform this act.  I actually don't mind it, I kind of wake up or wind down and I get to hear the beginning and ending of hundreds of kids' day.  Weird kids that don't even know me share odd details.  It's cool. 

Jonas, the large headed boy with proximity issues prattled on.  Kids were staring at us.  I was pinned to the corner, his face pressed to my cheek, while we discussed our upcoming vacation.
"You know, Jonas, I am exhausted!  What about you, big plans for the break?"
"Well, nothing special.  Eating, relaxing.  Why, I should have attended that cabinet meeting!"
"Oh, Jonas.  Nothing escapes you.  That email is refering to teacher representatives that meet with our principal to discuss big events happening at school.  You know, like the President's cabinet".
"Okay.  But I am still quite concerned that the lunch option is Manager's choice today" he responded.
"Actually, it is funny that you mentioned that.  What is Manager's choice?  It could be amazing, it could be disgusting.  We have no idea....."
"And, no salad bar option.  If we pick it, we eat it.  No fall back"
"Same for us.  Teachers have to pick by eight in the morning...sight unseen....and right now it is like, 7:20 AM.....I am thinking hummus plate".
"THAT is very smart" he announced, removing his face from my face and staggering up the stairs, all while engaging an unsuspecting random child in new conversation.

I have thought about abandoning Spanish instruction to work with the weirdo kids that I adore.  The  Olivers and the Jonas' and the Emilys.  Most of these kids require a straight face and heavy behavior modification in order to show them social norms, like not shoving your face onto another person's face while talking, like looking a person in the eye, not discussing that you don't like pants out loud, randomly. 

I can't do it.  It would be wrong for them, because I think all of their idiosyncrasies are too amazing and fun to be suppressed.  And they have to be.

I just can't be the one to do it. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hello Lamppost

I fumbled for the alarm clock.  Lola laid on my leg as part of her aggressive cuddle program.  I was pinned to the bed.  Why was I so fucking tired?

"Okay!" the chipper parent announced.
"We've made some big changes to this year's Poetry Slam!"
My it was early.
"You know your students!  Pick a dramatic one, well spoken, likes to be on the stage!  You know your good ones!"
"In the past we have had representatives from each grade present a piece in Spanish to represent our language program...." my co-worker began.
"Cute!  Maybe I can get you a spot!  Wouldn't French be better?!"
"Look you elitist bitch, do you have any idea what goes on at this school or do you just busy yourself with shoving your head up your ass?"  I inquired, or wished I did.

"Gotta go to the bathroom" Oliver stated as he walked toward the door, tugging at the crotch of his pants.
He was back in seconds.  He was shifting a lot, agitated.  He stood up and tried to take his pullover sweatshirt off.   His shirt came halfway off too, leaving him semi-naked in the middle of the classroom.  His fly was down.  I thought I saw skin instead of underwear.  All of the kids were staring and some were starting to laugh. 
I started to laugh too and pulled Oliver's shirt back down.
"Come on, silly, you're half naked!"
He laughed and slumped back down, leaning back and practically laying on the girl in the seat behind him.  Then he picked his nose.  And ate it.
"Move up silly, you are in someone else's space".
He rose back up.
"Gotta go to bathroom".
He was back again in seconds and remained standing by his table while beginning to draw the activity.
"Can you sit down, Oliver?'
"More comfortable standing up".
"Okay"  I was mentally begging him not to say 'PENIS'.
"I DON'T LIKE PANTS" he announced suddenly and strode across the room. 
A few of the meaner spirited boys were laughing now and mimicking him. 

I leaned into the face of one of them.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"  I asked lowly, my eyes inches from his. 
"Shutting up" he responded.
I snapped out of my child abuse fantasy as Oliver again left the room.  I was actually relieved that he wasn't crying, that he seemed relatively happy even while agitated.  I don't know why nothing will stop me from adoring this kid, even when he picks his nose. 
The sun wasn't up yet.  

The presenter coached a participant through the acting portion of the foreign language teaching method we were learning.
"Muter! Muter!" he howled in German, sticking his teeth out and fake crying, all while encouraging the participant to mimic him. 
I instantly thought of Buffalo Bill in "Silence of the Lambs", mocking his victim in the well by shrieking like a "woman", all while pulling his shirt into points to pretend he had boobs.

I decided that I could digest the rest of the information aurally. 

"I have the fourth grade nominee for the Poetry Slam" I announced.
"Who?" my co-worker asked, relieved.  She had made me select the kid that would represent the Spanish program, against my numerous protests.  I don't blame her; I consistently shove stuff like that off on her and needed to take my turn.
"Fulton Roberts".
"WHAT?" she asked, alarmed. 
I knew why.  The cognitive problems.  The attacks.  The glass eyes.  The social problems.

"He pretty much informed me he was going to do it.  And I was relieved.  It took me a minute to digest the idea, but when I did, well, I think it's going to be really cool.  I think it reflects what we're much we teach, how diverse our student population is....that we celebrate everyone, not just the... not just the....."

"Shiny objects.  You're right, Hilary.  It is cool".

Friday, November 14, 2014

My friends

"You were right" my older faced child said randomly as he skipped down the stairs.  My friend who's eyes get wet sometimes.  My friend that was embarrassed when he farted in class.  My friend who often wears the same clothes to school day after day.  My sweet boy from the projects that I just want to protect and help and guide. 
"About what?"
"About that thing you said before, about Kimmie" Tyrone responded with a head nod and sideways tilt. He had a swagger to him.
"Oh my God!  You like her!  I knew it!"
Tyrone winked and nodded and ran down the stairs.
Fourth grade romance.  I am normally disgusted by such things, by Tyrone has exquisite taste.  Beautiful, smart Vietnamese girl with purple streaks in her hair that is nice to everyone.  A girl that is not from his neighborhood, culture, race or style-aesthetic, that he is charmed by and sees no reason why he shouldn't be.  

I like it.

I drove to school in the daylight. Since the time change, I can see the neighbors.  I watch for the woman in the hot pink bathrobe that stands outside of our district next to the busy road, making sure her kids get on the bus that goes to a place that is not as nice as mine.

The doorway and stairwell smelled like a big fart.  That was the last thing I was going to mention to my principal on a Monday morning.
"It smells like someone pooped in an air vent" Bailey said in passing.  
Oliver turned his head sideways and looked up at me, giggly smile on his face, which was about two inches from mine.
"Me gusta pollo" the first line of his Haiku read.
"Me gusta bistec" the third line of his Haiku read.
Oh but the middle line, the tricky one, the one with seven syllables.
"Oliver, tell me one type of food that makes you really happy".
"Ice cream.  Strawberry ice cream".
I counted the syllables.  Helado.  Helado me hace feliz.  Fuck.  Too many syllables.
"Okay, maybe a different food".
"Blood" he said flatly.
"Oliver, gross!"  his para-pro and I called out in unison.
He looked confused.
"Oliver, you are going to keep us up at night.  Eating blood!" I said, laughing.  His face turned upward a little more, with the giggle smile intact.
"Steak.  Steak makes me happy".
"Juicy.  It juicy.  Red."
"Oliver!  You like your steak red in the middle".
"Yes.  Wet.  It taste good".
"I'm sorry Oliver.  I didn't understand.  You like your steak with a little blood in the middle".
"It tastes good".
"I like mine that way too".

Tyrone was crying.
"So, I sat next to her in lunch, and I asked her if she wanted to be my friend.  She said no".
He shoved his face down, eyes flickering.

"She said no".

Saturday, November 1, 2014

La Gran Calabaza

Halloween.  Halloween!  Halloween on a Friday while working in an elementary school....
I entered my first class and made them describe their Halloween costumes in Spanish, then plugged in the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and switched the language to Spanish.  The kids laughed hearing Charlie Brown speak Spanish and sat mesmerized by the old cartoon.

I was really just killing some time until I took the kids to the author talk.  As we watched, I saw Oliver rise from the floor, his face starting to crumple.
"Oliver, what is wrong?"
He shook his head and sat back down, eyes fixed on the screen.
"Fourth grade, please come to the auditorium" the intercom called.
We lined up.
Oliver's face crumpled again as we passed the bathrooms.
"I peed myself, I peed myself," he said doggedly, shaking his head back and forth.
"I gotta go to bathroom".
He entered the auditorium a few minutes later, walking behind the author, his head still shaking. 
"I peed myself, I peed myself" he continued to repeat, sitting in front of me Indian style on the floor, crying slightly but more in a state of embarrassed frenzy.
"It's okay, Oliver, it's okay" I whispered, wanting to grab him and hug him but resisting, knowing that an action like that would only scare him more.
A male staff member walked with Oliver behind the author again and out of the room.
A few minutes later, Oliver returned, again walking behind the author with new pants on.
He was shaking his head, eyes wild and fixed on the ground, embarrassed and agitated.
"I  peed myself, I PEED MYSELF" he said again, eyes wide and eyebrows raised, hand extended with palm up while returning to sit on the floor. 
Even though he was cleaned up, he couldn't get past it.  He just could not deal with it. 
"Penis" he said gutturally, in a genuine frenzy.  The male staff member walked Oliver back behind the author and out of the room.
He did not return.

Hundreds of kids sat happily on the floor, watching and laughing and raising their hands when the author agreed to answer questions.  It was a wonderful visit, but my mind was on Oliver, wishing he could enjoy the things other kids liked.  A day devoid of the normal routine, filled with cartoons and author talks and descriptions of costumes helped keep most of the kids in-line on a difficult school day.  It had the opposite effect on Oliver, sending him into a confused panic. 

About a half an hour into the talk, I watched  several kids with impairments similar to Oliver's inch their way out of the cramped crowd of children on the floor and over to the area where the teachers sat uncluttered, each with several feet of uncrowded space around us. 

"I need more space" each child announced flatly, yet with piercing frenzied eyes, re-settling themselves in a clearing on the floor and staring back at the author, without laughing. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Life on Mars

"Select your insurance carefully!  The State Health Plan has changed and there could be catastrophic difficulties with your finances if you make mistakes with your coverage!"

I heard someone loudly whistling the Kill Bill music while walking through one of the outdoor corridors on my way to class.  I spun around and saw no one. 

"I have to go to the bathroom!" the child who had once faked taking a shit in my class announced, squeezing his legs together in a fake gesture of desperation.
"No, wait until your next break".
"I caaaaan't!" he moaned dramatically.

"Gentlemen, please leave the meeting.  Women, stay".
"About once a year, the head custodian Miss Jane speaks to me about the faculty bathrooms.  Ladies, don't throw a used sanitary napkin in the trash.  Miss Jane has ended up touching one with her bare hands before.  Wrap up used tampons before throwing them in the bin.......".
Oh my.

"I peed myself!" my friend howled artificially.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him lick his hand, rub it over his crotch, and lick it again.
"He's pretending to pee in the trash can!" another kid howled.

"Think about your retirement!  The Teacher's Retirement System and Social Security are not enough!  You won't be able to live like you do now!"

I walked to my hooptie car, the one with one half flat tire and a door that sounds like it will fall off whenever I open it.
"That was the most depressing meeting I have every attended" I announced to a co-worker.
"I know!  Fuck up your insurance, you're screwed.  Guess what!  Your amazing quality of living is going to go down even more if you try to retire!  And, who ever is screaming at their class right now probably just trashed the bathroom!".

I sat on my sister's front porch, my third Friday beer in hand.  The crazy proud Muslim dude that she had befriended on the sidewalk was sitting beside me, telling us about how ISIS is a made up conspiracy and how Obama killed Qaddafi.
Well, maybe not Qaddafi, but 'my man Momar', to be precise.
"You know," he continued, "I am not into white women.  Your daughter though is very pretty, green hair and all.  But this one," he stated, gestering to me,
"She is black man hot, butt...all...."
"Thanks man, nice to meet you" I said in exit, shaking his hand.

I knew I looked hot.  Fatter than I have ever been in my whole life.  Wearing a T-shirt advertising the elementary school where I work and a pair of pants from Target that have one leg longer than the other because the hem fell out.  Hair pulled back in ugly ponytail and clipped to the sides of my head with hair pins.  Glasses and smeared make-up assembled in the car at seven a.m. My niece's Creepers on my feet with grey socks that are supposed to be white. 

You win some, you lose some.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainy Monday

I walked through the backyard barefoot, with Lola.  I saw my new neighbors in their backyard and in an attempt to be nice after all of the tensions, walked toward the fence to say hello.  I stumbled awkwardly on the stone stairs and felt one of my toes tangling and twisting.  I halfway wondered how it had managed to not be completely ripped off. 
"Shit that hurts, shit that hurts, shit that hurts...." I mumbled over and over again, hopping away on my other foot, knowing full and well I had broken another bone.
No good deed goes unpunished.

I pushed my cart full of Spanish-English dictionaries through the school, regretting that I had designed such an elaborate, cart-requiring activity on a day when I could hardly walk.  My toe had doubled in size and turned a variety of reds, blues and purples both on top of the toe, under the toe and over the top of my foot.  I was wincing and my lower back was starting to hurt.  A weird sheen of sweat was covering my face and neck.  I worried that I was beginning to smell.

"Jay wrote this," the cranky, anti-social child said, rising up in front of me in the middle of a lesson.  A tiny, folded triangular piece of paper was in his hand.
"Did he give it to you?"
"No.  I asked him if I could read it".
I opened the note.
"Eat my shit" was written clearly and boldly in the middle.

"Here they are," my niece announced, handing me her pair of Creepers.  I had borrowed them the last time I broke my foot and they are actually some of the best shoes around for stabilizing fucked up bones.
"Just wipe that fake blood of the white part" she continued, plopping the shoes into my hands.  

Our school has grown wildly in a short period of time, requiring the construction of an additional building that is attached to the main building by stairways and covered walkways.  Unfortunately, accessing the additional building with a cart requires rolling said cart out of the front door and down the sidewalk in front of the school, re-entering the campus and pushing the beast up a ramp.

A torrential rain storm was occurring.

There was no way I was rolling a cart filled with materials through a lightening storm and instead parked it at the bottom of a covered stairwell.  I entered my class and a couple of boys volunteered to walk down the stairs and each retrieve a box of dictionaries.  I began my class.

As I proceeded, I began to wonder where the boys were.  Ten minutes had passed for a trip that takes maybe two minutes.  I sent a girl to check on them.
"They're not there" she informed me, returning to the classroom.
I sent her to check again and saw her walking with a teacher toward a room that was a flight up from where the boys had gone to get the dictionaries.

Suddenly, the boys came into view, pushing the cart up a ramp through the outdoor walkway, wet papers flying everywhere.
I was speechless.
"How, wha....." I sputtered.
"Why is this here?"
"We thought you wanted it!"
"What....wait, how did you get it here?  Where has the cart been?"
"Well first, we pushed it back into the building.  Then, we rolled past the front desk to the other side of the school and took the elevator upstairs.  Then, we rolled around the second floor....."
"But, how did you get the cart back down to the gym area?"  This cart is no small cart.  The damn thing is like five feet tall and was loaded down with like forty pounds of teaching shit.
"We carried it!"
"Down a flight of stairs?"
"Yeah, and then we pushed it outside, around the building, up the ramp...."
"Why would you think I would ask that of you?"
They stared back at me blankly.
"I, I, I don't know what to say.  You have no idea how to follow directions, but I applaud your problem solving abilities.  Um, thank you for your diligance and determination to get that cart in here".

I looked out through the pouring rain.

How the hell was I going to get it back to the main building?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Alone on a Hill

As I drove behind the high school to pick my niece up, I saw a school bus stop, so I of course stopped.  It was a bus from the school where I work and my students poured out of the bus in front of the Housing Authority. 
"It's weird, Emma.  How can people say that racial disparity doesn't exist anymore?  Every one of the kids that got out at the Housing Authority were of color.  Not a single white kid over there".
"It's bullshit" she responded, as a few of them waved and called my name. I waved fondly to them, happy to be recognized. 

It was dark and I was racing to school, like always.  I roared down Memorial and slowed for the red light.  A car was awkwardly placed at the intersection, halfway through it and partially in the crosswalk.  I saw a dark figure shoot out of the car. 
I lowered my window. 
"Oh my God, oh no, oh my God!" an older African American woman screamed frantically.
I watched speechless as she and another woman dragged a child out of traffic that was screaming and grasping her leg in pain. 
My head was hanging through the window and not a sound came from my mouth.  People started to honk.  I should get out, I thought, they don't understand, there are very few street lights, no reflective things in the road, no crossing guard with reflective vests to cross these kids to the school.  Something bad has happened, they don't know.  The woman continued to wail, over and over again in the early morning darkness, horrified by what she had done. 
It was a guttural sound, "Oh my God, oh my Jesus, no!" true terror, true horror, over and over again.  
I was afraid I would get hit by oncoming traffic if I got out of my car.
 I did nothing.  

The light turned green.  I slowly guided my car around the ill fated car that had attempted to take a left on a green light in the darkness.  I pulled my phone out.

"911 can I help you?"
"A child has been hit by a car..." I said slowly, my voice starting to falter, realizing as I said it what had happened. 
"at the corner of.... of East Lake and Memorial...," my voice was seizing in my throat.  I was crying. 
"East Lake Terrace or East Lake Drive?"
"I'm not the new Drew Charter".
"Hold on a minute".
"By the Y?"
"Yes, by the Y".
"City of Atlanta?"
"Yes, City of Atlanta".
"Okay, we have your location.  Others are calling in about it".

"Thank you".

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Greatest

"Oliver.  You were not in class yesterday.  Where were you?" Jack asked Oliver, flatly.
"Oliver, Jack just asked you a question" a teacher interjected.
"Earl.  You were not in class yesterday. Where were you?" Jack repeated, verbatim.
"I peed myself" Oliver responded, flatly.
"Oh Jack, Oliver just gave you some personal information.  I know that Oliver's grandfather has been very ill and.."
"No," Oliver interjected, "I peed myself".
Jack looked at Oliver, expressionless as the three continued on their way.  

"All of you, raise two fingers" I hollered at the class.
"Repeat after me:  I understand the rules of hot potato.  I understand that if I ignore those rules, Maestra Hilary will be mean, yell at me and take all of the games away and make me do something boring.  She will make it her hobby".
The students repeated and the norteño music began again.
El tío borracharles, siempre anda de fiesta es más que bohemio.  Le encanta la peda siempre anda en la bola, no distingue marcas ni le hace la cruda
They were starting to mimic the words to the song, which would have been impressive if they weren't singing about an alcoholic uncle that would drink any type of liquor in front of him, without ever getting a hangover.

"Okay class, remember, today is pay day.  If I hear Maestra Hilary say 'stop talking' during Spanish, pay day is off".
A little boy sitting behind the teacher's desk looked at me earnestly while I plugged my flashdrive into the desktop.
"Don't say 'stop talking'" he whispered.
"You are the best teacher.  The best Spanish teacher ever.  You're better that Mrs. Warner.  Why, you're better than Mrs. Newman..." he continued, voice low and eyes lowered.

I am the best ever.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Two Six Packs Away

I hurried to my car in the early morning darkness, determined to arrive at school on time.  I spotted the spider web right before I walked through it, feeling web on my face and tangled in my hair.  A large bodied brown spider hung over my head.

Five kids wandered aimlessly around the classroom, right in the middle of my "lesson".
"Have a seat, Nina, have a seat Javon...look you are not spending another whole class playing with the pencil sharpener.....hey...Aiden....."
"Give it to me!"  Abe shrieked, "Give me my pencil!"
"It doesn't belong over here!" Yusuf yelled back, crossing the room to stand in front of Abe.  A physical tussle over a fucking pencil was beginning.  Nina and Javon continued wandering around as another kid got up.
"What a douche!"  one of the fourth graders exclaimed.  
I looked up to see the principal standing in the doorway, a concerned look on his face.  My class was completely out of control.
An incredibly loud gigantic fart ripped out of one of the students.  All of the kids started howling and pulling their shirts over their faces. 

This was exactly the image I wanted in my boss's mind of my teaching style and classroom atmosphere.  

I roamed through the school, entering and exiting various classrooms to teach my class, inadvertently itching myself all over whenever the big brown spider entered my mind.  I saw the tough little boy from the crazy class standing in the hallway, his face as adult and serious as always, but something was different in the eyes.  I've noticed he wears the same clothes everyday.
"Hey Tyrone, are you okay?" I asked.
"Yeah, no yeah, yeah, yeah...." he responded.
"Um, okay....but really, what's wrong?"
"I'm embarrassed....about class...." he responded, his eyes getting a little wetter.
"Oh God, about what happened?  Really, I have fifth graders that do it on purpose and are proud of it!  These kids will forget about it in an hour, really...".

"Give yourself a check." I commanded the boy that was spanking his own ass in the middle of my lesson.  He had simulated taking an actual shit in my last class.  I have to admit that I am curious about what else he might do with his butt next time.
I continued wandering the school, scratching even my ankles now. 
"It smells horrible in here!" I heard a teacher yell at her class.
"Line up for a bathroom break, it smells like somebody needs it!".

I headed down to my stairwell to monitor dismissal, my daily work duty.  I was relieved to be able to scratch at will.  The large headed boy skipped down the stairs, came within an inch of my face to tell me goodbye and continued on his way.  Bailey gave me a boyish goodbye after explaining the war game he intended to play at his afternoon camp.  The river of kids continued for about twenty minutes.
"Adios Tyrone" I called as he slid down the stairs.
He paused.

"You have a good weekend" he instructed with a little head nod and brief eye contact.  I think I saw the corners of his mouth move upward, just slightly. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014


"Hey, motherfucker" I greeted my co-worker, sailing through our office on my way to my first class.

"Okay, I need to have the fart conversation with you," I announced after several proudly laid, smelly noisy farts by some of the boys in the class.  One of them was hunching over his chair, imitating taking an actual shit.
"At some point, probably soon, you are going to start thinking the girls around you that you have known your whole life are kind of cute...."
"That's already happening" a little ginger boy growled lowly.
"This is a small community.   You are going to be around these same girls probably until twelfth grade.  When the time comes that you want to ask one of them to walk around the square, go to Chick Fil-A, whatever, the last thing you want to flash through their mind is an image of you, hunched over a chair pretending it is a toilet or remembering the noisy farts you let out in fifth grade.  Ladies, am I right?"
The girls nodded emphatically.
"Okay.  Chicos, what has been seen cannot be unseen and females have long memories.  Please think about that before you proudly let out a noisy fart that burns our noses off or replicate a fart by putting your hand in your arm pit, which is gross and unsanitary".

It was dusk.  I sat at my kitchen table with my distressed neighbor.  The man that she had just had an altercation with was standing outside of our fence peering through it, about four feet from the window.  Fucking creeper, and the second time in a matter of weeks.  I grabbed another beer.

The small, quiet fourth grader raised her hand.
"The skin is peeling off of my scalp....I think that is why I feel weak"
"Whaaa, what's happening?"
She repeated herself.  I could feel a little bit of throw up climbing my throat.  What is wrong with ordinary scrapes and bruises?

The bell rang to end the school day, the last before our first week long vacation.  Kids were tearing out of the building as if they were on fire.  Disneyland, beaches and Europe awaited them.  I smiled.  I couldn't wait to hear the tales the little motherfuckers would bring back with them. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mother F****r

"I am the meanest teacher in the world" I mentioned offhand to my friend Robert as I trudged up the stairs to my next class. 

"Not as mean as me" he responded, trudging down the stairs with a serious look on his face.  A crying girl followed him. 

I like my job.  I like where I work.  But these new state mandated pre-tests are turning me into a fucking raging bitch.  I'm like Jekyll and Hyde.  The kids are looking at me, wondering where this new mean Spanish teacher came from.

"When piranhas bite your private parts!"  I looked up from my grading toward the hall.  I had never heard anything rhyme with that before.  

I walked outside to my next class.
"It's a pre-test!  It doesn't mean anything!" I overheard another teacher barking at small group of kids.

"I saw a bad word written on a piece of paper today" announced a kid that has befriended me, eyes widening. 
"Really?" I answered, imaging this word was 'poop' or 'butt hole' or something equally offensive. 
He looked around suspiciously, then leaned closer to me.
Jesus. That is a word.

I received a note from a 'secret admirer' stating that I am the 'best Spanish teacher in the business'.  I got another little note today, applauding me for being 'caring' and making Spanish fun.  I suspect it is the child with the big head writing these clandestine messages, or some other strange creature.  I don't care.  I carry them around in my wallet and pull them out to re-read several times a day.  

I piled my stuff into my school bag to head out.
"Oh man, I have to go to the variance meeting tonight about some construction plans my neighbors have...." I mentioned off hand to a co-worker, grimacing.

"Oh!  I know what you should say to them!  'I hate you, you hate me, you're a big fat bitch, hate your bitch family, MOTHER FUCKER!'" she sang triumphantly.
"I learned that from a piece of paper I found at school today!"  she added, smiling merrily.  

Kids these days. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

All the Madmen

Abe locked eyes with me and wiggled his finger at me clandestinely to come over.  He sat with his legs in a strange tangled position, eating a small pile of grapes in the school cafeteria.  I like this kid and was glad to walk over.
"Why are you just standing there?" he asked.
"I have lunch duty" I responded.  He looked at me blankly.
"They make me do it.  I used to just stand here on Thursdays while everyone ate, but the schedule changed so now I will just stand here on Mondays".
"Oh, okay...." he responded, nodding, as if that was a logical explanation. 

I watched another child drive his finger into a long bread stick and stuff the hole he had created with mashed potatoes before eating it. 

I checked my phone, which was filled with texts and voice mails from a new neighbor that did not like our decision to not allow encroachment on our property.  I did not have time for this. 

As I walked from the classroom after finishing my lesson, Hassan sidled up next to me during their locker break.
"Do you think I am skinny?" he asked randomly.  I was surprised that he was engaging me in conversation.  I have been riding his ass for four weeks because he talks to much.  Because of this, I just assumed that he would not like me and avoid speaking to me if he didn't have to. 
"Yeah, you're on the skinny side".
"The doctor told my dad that my brother and I are both underweight and have to eat more, but I don't really like a lot of foods".
"Where is your family from again?  I can't remember".
"Pakistan.  EVERYONE is skinny there".

Suddenly, Oliver's face crumpled and he put his face in his hands and started to cry.  I was horrified.  He is one of my cognitively disabled students and I like him very much.  I can tell when I talk to him that we are not fully connecting, or better said, not connecting at all and it frustrates me.  I didn't know what had made him cry and without thinking, stopped what I was doing to try to help him.  His hand brushed at something and I saw a wet spot on the front of his shorts.  He was crying and humiliated and I didn't know how to get him out of the classroom without the other ten and eleven year olds noticing that he had peed his pants. The class was silent and staring as another teacher ushered him out of the room, head in hands. 

"To what degree does Bailey identify as male?" I asked the teacher of one of my students. 
The child is biologically female but in every other way is clearly a case of gender misalignment.  I have read about this, but never have seen such a clear cut case, especially at such a young age.
"None of her classmates know that she is a girl.  And that's how she wants it".
"Okay, I wanted to be sure.  I want to support Bailey and be sure to use the male pronouns and shit, with Spanish, be sure to make the adjectives male".
"Fuck, that's right!" the teacher responded.
"That's a can of worms!  I just don't know what she is going to do in middle school....I mean, what is he going to do?"
"The middle school will accommodate him, they have to" I answered, feeling frustrated that that could even be a source of speculation. 

I sat in the back of the house at the kitchen table, decompressing with Alec.  Through the window, our new neighbor came into sight, mere feet from out home yet thankfully, on her own land.  My phone began exploding with texts requesting that we come outside. 

I pulled the curtain shut and looked at Alec, wondering how many different ways "no" could be interpreted. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I'm not sure if I have mentioned this but my dog, otherwise known as the love of my life, is a bit of a handful.  Instead of it making me love her less, I think it makes me love her more.  Lola is a large dog, a ninety pound Pit Bull.  Ninety pounds of gorgeous.  She, unfortunately, is not very fond of other dogs.  The sight of one basically turns her into a barking, jumping, lurching terror that frightens everyone on the street.  Various dog trainers have said that she actually is not aggressive toward other dogs, but afraid and putting up a big show.  Others have said that my poor Lola basically has no social skills.  With people, she's a charmer.  But with other dogs, she doesn't get it that barking and snarling is not a way to get other dogs to play with you, even if your tail is wagging and hackles are down.

Alec says that my relationship with Lola is evidence that if we ever had had kids, I would be the mom blaming everyone else's child for my kid's misbehavior.  I have noticed that though I pursue positive dog training for my princess girl, Alec always seems to light up at the mention of "prong collar", "electric shock collar for barking", "muzzle", "choke hold" and "drugs". 

He thinks one day he'll get his way, but he won't.  Lola and I simply won't have it and there are two of us and one of him. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

I looked at Lola, fast asleep and rolled up in blankets like a burrito on my bed, wishing I could curl up and go back to sleep with her.

"I just have the worst writers block...." the nine year old wined, grasping his large head in his hands.
"You can't have writer's block when you are copying something off of the board" the tiny, Indian child with giant black rimmed glasses responded, writing casually with a Ticonderoga pencil that seemed too large for his small hand.
"But I have just had it for months!" the other continued, eyes to the ceiling and hands outstretched.
The little Indian boy sighed, shaking his head slightly from left to right, his hand continuing the required copying.

"Well, as for future goals, I plan to be a rocket scientist by the time I'm twenty-four".  I gagged on my coffee.  The scholarship applicant was pushing twenty years old and had a 1.3 grade point average.  Nice.
"But since my grades in science aren't so great, I might try switching majors.  If that doesn't work, I'll just stick it out and be a rocket scientist".
Nice B plan, I thought, wanting to send him a personal bill for taking ten minutes out of my Sunday before giving him the lowest possible rating for the scholarship. 

"So, you really have to let me try that tocino.  I simply can't stop thinking about it!" the large headed boy stated on his way out, waving his hands in the air.
"Lola's dog treat?" I asked, incredulous.
"Yes!  It just looks great.  Promise me you will make it for me".
"Uh, okay, I promise.  Do you have any allergies?"
"None what soever" he answered, giving me a direct look in the eye and a quick nod, as if we had just closed an important deal.
 "By the way, I got my behavior clip moved back up from yellow to green after you left".
"That's great.  I am glad you got back on your game".
"Of course" he stated, turning on the stairs and walking down, his backpack hanging unzipped and wide open.

I rushed home and got on the virtual conference to caucus about the scholarship applications.  Buzz whir and we were all connected to DC and staring at the same spreadsheet that reflected our common applicants, organized by who we had ranked the highest to lowest, as well as a comparison of our individual scores for each applicant.
"I just didn't see a lot of leadership there and her grade point average wasn't that great..." one of the co-judges commented, his voice ringing through the speakers of my computer into my kitchen.  I crept across the room and quietly opened a beer, hoping it couldn't be heard through the speakers. I clandestinely sat back down, took a deep breath and moved closer to my computer.
"She is undocumented.  Her whole family is undocumented.  She is working multiple jobs at sub-par wages to contribute to her household.  She has completed two years of college, paying out of state tuition and has a 3.3 grade point average, without the ability to get federal loans, though there is no reason for her to think an education will ever pay off for her in any way.  If she finishes, she still won't have papers.  For me...., for me, that is a tremendous burden for a young person to carry and I stand by my top rating".
"I would like to raise my score..." the third judge announced.
"I could go higher as well" the other acquiesced.
I sipped my beer quietly.
"Are we ready to move on?" the moderator asked.
"Yes, we are" we answered in unison.

The Italian triplets skipped down the stairs waving goodbye, their skin so transparent it was almost blue, but their eyes were large and excited, accompanied by little shy smiles on their faces.

"Ciao...." I called and raced home myself, to rip Lola's cage open and let her run free into the backyard, butt wiggling and legs galloping. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Well Hello There

“¿Qué hiciste el fin de semana pasado?”  I asked the fourth grade class.  I am back with the little ones again, all day, no more high school.
“Hice plans for our vacation,” a small boy with a largish head answered, lowering his voice an octave. 
“And I am so flipping EXCITED!”  he shrilled, his voice pitched in an Esther Merman vibrato as his eyes widened and glowed.

“Theo says to tell you he loves you and wants to know why you aren’t teaching him Spanish this year.” Emma announced, tossing her bag into the car as I picked her up from the high school, my former job, after my day at the elementary.

“Okay, next step.  After you have your hombrecito, your little man, cut him out, then you can decorate him for a minute before you attach him to your carpeta de español”.
I wandered the room as they finished up the project.  I have a few kids in this class with some pretty severe cognitive problems.  I like them.  They remind me of Emily.  One of them grabbed a peach colored crayon and began coloring in the face of his hombrecito.
“I like…this…skin….” he whispered definitively, his breath heavy, while dragging the crayon precisely across the hombrecito, though the color was a complete opposite of his own skin. 

The fire alarm went off. 
“Line up”. I instructed, forcefully.  Fire drills are normally a joke, but for some reason, with the little ones, I feel a greater sense of urgency.  The sound of the alarm is shrill, blaring.  I plug my ears while I walk with the students; it makes my teeth clatter and oddly makes me nauseas.  The worst part is the corridor right before we get to the exit.  The alarm changes to an air raid-like siren while an automated voice repeats over and over again:  “There is a fire in the building”.  I always feel a panic in that room.  I don’t know why.  I look out at the sky so that the students won’t see it in my eyes.

It is the same kind of feeling I had a couple of months ago, late in a summer night.  I was awoken by the low wail of an ambulance.  Alec was out of town.  It was a lonely sound.  I could tell the ambulance was driving slowly.  Someone was already dead in there and the horrible wagon rolled through the streets, it’s shrill yet low sound echoing through the night.   The smell of blood filled my nostrils and I felt bottomless, down in the sea like the time I floated over a coral cliff and couldn’t see what might come up at me.   Drifting, looking into an abyss. 

“Are you doing okay here?  Are you happy?” the administrator asked me.
“Yes, I really am.  It’s awesome,” I answered.
“Good.  GOOD!  Because we are so happy to have you”.
I swiveled around backward in my chair to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else. 

I was on my way out.  Certain mornings, Alec is NOT awake and at work before me and I actually leave the house before he does.  This morning, I was on my way out.  Alec sat at his computer with his coffee, Lola halfway in his lap.   I bent down while he kissed me on the cheek goodbye, and Lola simultaneously reached up and licked my chin.

Then, the sun came out and the clouds parted as the day greeted me and whispered, “Hello, gorgeous, YOU are amazing”. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Welcome Back

“So, you said there was a park up here, one that you liked…”
“Yeah but, I was ten when we moved.  It might be horrible now.  Hoyt Park”.
I typed it into my phone for directions.
I remember it being beautiful.  Covered in snow, with toboggans and an ice skating rink, covered in skaters.  The old waters works was by there, covered in oxidized green. 

Baseball fields and an old cemetery covered it now. 
“I don’t remember it this way”.
“It’s alright, let’s take Lola out”.

We ended up trailing a mother and her two children on a path around the ball fields.  The smaller child was wailing.  The more the child cried, the more the mother screamed and dragged her.  Finally, she walked off, pretending to leave the child behind.  This brought the kid to near hysterically screaming.  The older one wanted to pet Lola.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to tell the lady that Alec could take Lola to the car and could help her take the kids home.   Or I could wait with Lola, and Alec could drive them home.  I knew none of it would be acceptable, that I would be some yuppie bitch judging her. 

Alec and I walked toward the car with Lola, the wailing in my ears echoing as I watched them climb over some weird back hill next to the cemetery.

We drove through a terrible part of my former hometown to our hotel.

“Go get beer,” I instructed,  “a lot of it”. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Lovin'

Oh summer, how I love you.  Not for your weather, but for your absence of work.  If only you were about ten months longer. 

"I can't remember the last time I took a shower.  Probably won't take one today either.  I just take my clothes off at night, lay them at the foot of the bed, then put them right back on again the next morning". 

"And then I laid there and farted, creating a wind symphony with the other people in the room".

"On the day of the presentation of your research for your Specialist's degree, you must also make a cardboard triboard of your achievements!  No, electronic presentations are not acceptable. Paper, glue and scissors is what you will need to complete THIS professional program!".

"I know.  My boob has been sticking out all day.  There is nothing I can do about it.  This shirt is see-through".

"Hi, I'm Hilary.  I was Aidan's Spanish teacher this year!".
"You the one that was callin' all the time?" the mother asked coldly, turning her back and walking away.  A hush fell over the party for at least thirty seconds.

"Emma is at Grady".  


"God, we were wild.  three-ways, strippers, we did it all". 

"Where does all the beer go that you buy?".

"That thing you asked me to sign electronically; I just typed my name on the line.  Will that work?". 

"Okay, here's the doggie Xanax...". 

"It's a U.P. thing". 

"NO era penal".  

"And then, I shit my pants". 

"Can you advocate for a refugee, Central American family that is being placed in Atlanta?".

"Michael is on his way back to the emergency room".

"Oh my God, I have to wear sunglasses in my living room that house is so bright.  I am getting a second liner on all of my curtains".  

"If you see this man, call 911.  He's wanted".  You mean the guy I just passed outside the Texaco?

"What are your personal goals for the upcoming school year?". 

Oh no.  Do you mean the one that starts in like, ten days?.....In the 'fall' as we like to call it?  Didn't we just pack up 'last year'?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Betwixt or Between

I felt like a hammer had hit me in the head.  The incredibly loud PA, the singers screaming so loud their veins were popping out of their necks, the drum beats that blistered the bottom of my feet.  All of my favorite songs.  As soon as the music started, I was in a different world.

Man, I had to pee.  I did my business and walked straight out into the night, along Glenwood and over Moreland.  It was one in the morning.  I needed air.  I wasn't used to going to shows until the middle of the night.  I didn't help that I had put down nearly a twelve pack before even going.  But, wow, what a show.  My favorite local band from a decade and a half ago.  And, they sounded incredible.  I felt shell shocked.  And weirdly melancholy.  So much change.  The recent death, that shouldn't effect me because I didn't know him personally.  Everything is different.  Gone. 

I got up the next morning and my mood deepened.  I felt nostalgic, exhilarated and sad all at the same time.  I wanted to go again, see them again, who knew when I would ever get another opportunity.  Oddly, I wasn't sure if I could handle the physical exertion. 

My dog, the love of my life, has been sick. I took her to the vet and they said she had some seasonal allergies.  I looked up some remedies on the internet while I nursed my head with coffee and came across an article about the most toxic plants for dogs.  Most were in my backyard and would only require ingestion of a leaf or two to cause paralysis.   

There was no question.  Those plants had to go.  It was unequivocal.  I was almost angry at them.  She could have died.  But as Alec hacked at the old growth azaleas and oak hydrangeas that were in the backyard when we bought the place, I felt horrible.  I always thought they were beautiful, and they were poisoning my dog.  We cut them off at the base.  As I dug up all the things I had planted in the backyard, the things that I loved, I felt my throat closing and choking. 

I slept in a feverish sleep, dreaming of Lola falling into a deep ocean off of a boat.  I stared into the water, waiting for her to surface.  She didn't.  I panicked and woke up clutching my throat.  I had another dream of holding someone's baby during a car crash.  I didn't really care about the baby, but was doing my civil duty to try to save it.  I woke up clutching Lola in our bed while she tried to scuttle away, sleepy. 

I felt odd in my EDS class Monday morning.  It was back to my normal school world, so different from the world I had been in for days.  I guess my old world.

I am not sure which, if any, is my true world. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


In the early 90s I was really into music.  Actually, before the early nineties.  In the 80s, at the Metroplex.  By the time I was in college, music in Atlanta was pretty awesome.  I remember going to Homage and seeing Smoke all lined up on the stage, sitting down, facing the audience with their instruments, looking totally impressive.  Later, when I had dropped out of college, I worked in Cabbagetown for a little while.  I was a baker, the only job I have ever fully enjoyed.  I was completely dedicated to my work, but would go next door sometimes to the musicians' practice spaces, that now host lofts and restaurants, and smoke pot, but only really fast, because I had ideas about what I wanted to do in the bakery.  The Gold Sparkle Band was awesome for stuff like that.  I would work late, instead of early, because I am not an early riser, unlike most bakers.  It would get dark and I would fiddle with pie crusts and recipes, alone in the bakery, happy with my day, happy that I could say when someone asked me, "What did you do for work today?",  that I could say that I baked four apple pies, made twelve scones and a layer cake.  But in the night, the sun would set on the stacks of the old mill and I could sometimes hear Smoke tuning up.  I didn't have to go outside, their music permeated the neighborhood.
And I would bake while they played. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Days Gone By

"I'm fucked..." she said, her head lowered.  I saw the bright burgundy side of her carefully shaved head and we hugged each other.  She was crying.

I was surprised the first time I saw her in the teacher's copy room.  We had worked together when I was sixteen years old.  In a hair shop.  I had clamored for the job, being a punk rock kid in the suburbs.  I went to the Metroplex, a wonderful club 'downtown' as we called it, in Atlanta, not in Cobb County.  I had been going there since I was fifteen and it was my livelihood, the only place I wanted to be, except Little Five Points, but that was during the day time.  And this place, this hair shop, they could dye my hair purple and pink and blue and green for free; I had to work there.  And they were awesome.  People saw them everywhere, their hair -  their incredible hair!

I got the job.  My  punk rock, Cobb County classmates were pretty impressed.  I had a car now and was frequenting the Metroplex much less than I had when the only obstacle was getting a ride.  Even though I now had one, it had gotten weirdly boring, not the golden ticket that it was when I had to get rides from older classmates.   The hair shop took me to new places.  Clubs. Gay dance clubs.  Everyone wore outrageous costumes that I adored.  I felt way more adult.  It was a new scene for me.  And I was still in high school.  I walked into school everyday, did what I had to do, and went to work at the salon, and to clubs.

Seeing her in the teacher's workroom gave me a weird sense of deja vu, kind of like looking at a live snapshot of a former life.  She gave me my first fake ID.  I totally idolized her as a teenager, her awesome vintage clothes, funny expressions and wildly cool lifestyle.  We ran into each other frequently at one of the schools I work at after our initial copy room meeting.  I was always glad to see her, hopeful that teaching would work out for her and that her first few years wouldn't be as hard as mine were.  It felt weird to be in a veteran position to her, work-wise.  It felt weird to say that I was finishing my eighth year teaching, that I teach both elementary and high school at the same time, that no, it's not really hard, I've done it before. 

Spring Break passed in strange haze.  Long sunny days lazed by, Lola and I in the yard, her running and playing, then resting on the blanket next to me for a while.  Me, drinking beer and succumbing to the hypnotic atmosphere of "The Goldfinch" for hours at a time, interrupted only by text messages that I reviewed immediately from my mom that described the unimaginable horrors faced by my stepfather in the ICU.  The combination of elements created a weird emotional mix of bliss and extreme depression.

Returning to school was difficult.  I was surprised when I walked up the steps that gray day and to see her burst into tears. 
"They're not going to let me finish my program.  They say I'm no good.  I'm fucked.  I'm fucked.  I have so much riding on this.......".
I could feel the desperation.  I have been in hard positions in life before and have been scared, but I knew her situation.  She really did have everything riding on this.

"They're wrong.....they're wrong....." I repeated over and over. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I've Always Been This Way

"Well, it is broken.  Right there..." my doctor stated, pointing at the x-ray of my arm.
"It needs to be immobilized until we can get you in to see Spider Pig".

I have been re-watching the television show, Six Feet Under on the nights that Alec works.  I have been doing it for a couple of months.  I am in the last season.  I remember coming home from a year in Spain in the fall of 2005.  It was a rough time in my life and I watched the last season in a marathon session on rented DVDs.   I would get really wasted and sit on my bed and watch and watch and watch.  And cry. 

"Her jaw is broken in two places.  She has to be muzzled and can't come out of her crate except to pee for six to eight weeks".

I laid next to the baby Pit Bull that my mom rescued from euthanasia and cried.  We had literally gotten her at the like, thirteenth hour.  Her eyes seemed to scream above her wired shut mouth.  I couldn't hold her enough.  But I couldn't really hold her.  I just laid next to her cage while she pressed her body up to the side and I petted her from the outside. 

Margaret killed herself a month and a half before I came home.  I learned that she loved the show and watched it religiously.  As I downloaded a new episode all these years later, I happened to see the original release date:  June something, 2005.  With each episode I watch, I know I am getting closer to the day she did it in late July, 2005.  It fills me with doom, but I can't stop watching it.  What shocked me is that she didn't see the last three episodes.  She didn't hold off until the end.  I can tell by the release dates.  Maybe when I watch the last three episodes she won't be with me anymore, maybe she will get out of my head.

Spider Pig's office looked as dingy as ever.  I looked over at the physical therapy area.  My old cool receptionist was gone.  I remember that she was in graduate school; she probably graduated and got the kind of job she really wanted.  The actual physical therapist was gone too, he was getting married and wanted to move back to his old hometown and buy a house near his parents and have land and kids with his high school sweetheart.  A new guy was in there.  A year has passed.

Everyone has moved on.  Except me.  I am just broken again and living in that nasty office, watching people with catheters and reading the same old magazines. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's Beginning to Feel Alot Like Christmas

LeDario.  Born on February 2nd and one of the odder students I have taught.   Sports a kind of cool old school 80's fade but always has a strange, far away look in his eyes.  Writes compulsively, big essay length tomes instead of doing any class work.  Steals compulsively.  Steals things of no value just to annoy others, like your lunch.  And then he doesn't eat it, he just hides it somewhere where it will rot.  The remote control to the overhead projector that is mounted to the ceiling.  The springs from staplers.

Christine.  Born on February 2nd.  When I began teaching her I asked her all day elementary teacher if she had Asperger's. 
"No," he replied, "she is just fucking creepy and scares me sometimes". 
"Don't look at me!" she hissed at the other students when entering the classroom, walking stiffly yet rapidly to her chair in the corner, head erect but somehow pointed at the ground at the same time.  Seething.  Hyper intelligent, yet again large glassy eyes that don't seem all the way there.  Presented a highly articulate self written treatise in front of the entire school about how much school sucks and bowed primly at the end before leaving the stage, in front of smiling kids and parents that still actually like school.  

"Alec, I have met some of the weirder people this year that have the exact same birthday as me...."
"Wow, Bill's birthday was just like a day or two after yours!".
Alec's boss is bizarre.  Sings out loud randomly.  Talks to people like there are retarded as if he is just trying to get his ass kicked.  Will not say anything directly to anyone, just pontificates loudly into the air, slowly parsing his words out into even chunks. 
"Weirdos," we said in unison.
"Another weirdo birthday". 

The first week back from Christmas break we ended up missing two school days because of weather.  Two weeks ago Atlanta experienced a well-publicized "storm" that shut the city down and called for an early dismissal from school and an additional three days off.  I worked on Monday and am now on my second snow day and school is called off again for tomorrow.  We have a previously scheduled break for next week, no school again.  It is kind of awesome, but a little weird.  The kids see a cloud in the sky on the rare days that we have classes and pull out their phones, assuming school will be called out.  We have no momentum.  It feels like teaching in Mexico. 

There is a fifteen foot cliff about nine feet away from the side of my house.  It is filling with ice and snow.  Though the recommendation from the City was that the dig-out for the basement of the new house, that is being built next to my really old house, happen rapidly and that the retaining wall for the basement would be built within a matter of days to prevent erosion and destruction of my foundation, these smart builders decided to do the dig the day before everyone knew that a major storm was going to shut Atlanta down for days.  They won't even work if it is cloudy outside, so it was pretty obvious they weren't going to come out in this shit storm.  I feel dizzy when I look through the windows of my house into the pit.  It feels like the house is sliding....

"William S. Burroughs, February 5th!  Another weirdo birthday!".

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dead Leaves on a Dirty Ground

It is happening again.

"Lupita was stopped in traffic.  They have her at the jail.  They said she has to speak to immigration tomorrow."

They have already deported her son, Cristian.  That happened around the holidays two years ago.  She has never met her first grandson, born in Mexico because her son's girlfriend was not going to have the baby without him and returned before the birth.

"We need to call the lawyer.  Waiting does NOT help.  We have to find out where she is being held.  Is it an ICE county?  Should we gather the troops?  Get all the petitions going pleading her case?  It almost worked with Cristian.  We have to find out if they plan to move her to an immigration facility.  If she should ask for voluntary or involuntary deportation..."

All of the wheels started moving, almost involuntarily.  Weird knowledge and contacts that have been lying below the surface...dormant, waiting for it to happen again so they could prove they weren't just eating a hole in my stomach, they were willing to dig their way out.  I thought about sitting across from Cristian's lawyer two years ago, when he said it was too late.  Or three years before that standing less than a mile off the border, watching the helicopter carry a dehydrated man into the sky while Border Patrol kicked his friend's legs apart on the ground, hoping that Cristian had made it back across again.  The buses.  The nondescript buses that carried long lines of men to the no man's land between the U.S. and Mexico border in Tijuana.  The men at Casa, trying to be nice to me but suddenly ranting at me in English about all the PINCHE MOTHER FUCKING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR STUPID MIGRA HUNTING DOWN FAMILY PEOPLE INSTEAD OF CRIMINALS.  I HAVE BEEN THERE TWENTY YEARS.  MY WIFE AND KIDS ARE THERE.  MY ASS IS GOING BACK ACROSS TOMORROW.  Sitting on the other side of glass speaking to Alejandro on a telephone while children cried and rubbed on the glass that separated them from their fathers.  The sound the shackles made when all of the men in the Streamline trial stood up after entering pleas in group responses of 'sí' or 'no' or 'face a fucking felony'.  Sitting in a parking lot in the middle of the night hiding from Border Patrol while 4th of July fireworks covered the sky, waiting for the coyotes to meet my passenger.  Or passengers. 

"If they keep her, we have to get money to her commissary account.  It's cold in those detention centers, she will need money to buy overpriced clothes from the commissary to keep her warm.  And buy phone cards....she has to be able to communicate with her family...."

Her family.  An elementary aged son that is an American citizen.  A nineteen year old daughter that was so proud to receive papers through Deferred Action and immediately began enrolling in college.  Another daughter in her early twenties that still doesn't have papers, but comes with Lupita to clean houses, helping from her wheel chair, legs forever inoperable. 

"No matter what happens, if she gets released tomorrow, if they hold her three days, if they....if they deport her, we have to do the things we can do to make this more comfortable for her...."

Then I thought of the deportation bag.  I saw it when Alejandro was locked up in the detention center three years ago.  They never really tell you when someone will be deported.  Even if you're family.  They won't even tell you where they will be deported to.  Tijuana?  Reynosa? Laredo?  They can be dropped off anywhere, hundreds of miles from wherever they know anyone in Mexico, without money, and often at night, to fend for themselves and get back to a place where they know someone.  Some of them know no one, having been brought as children to the United States.  They are completely reliant on family members still in the U.S. to make random phone calls to Mexico City, Oaxaca, any part of the Republic...hey, my kid, you met him when he was three...well, he's is twenty-two now and stuck at the border....can you help?  He's big now but man, he's a child in Mexico.... I remember the buses pulling up in the middle of the night at Alejandro's deportation center...the bad buses, the ones that take them away.  It was as if they knew what they were doing was so disgusting that the sun should not see it. 

"I remember those flat trees in the desert...." Irena told me one day after school, in private.
"I still have the scars on my back from where they tried to take me under a barbed wire fence..."
We were sitting in a well respected American high school.  She was my student.
"I go back and forth..." another told me, "but my mom can't.  She doesn't have papers."
"I don't see the point of any of this crap." a third told me.
"Everyone tells me that I need to go to college, but I know I can't because I don't have papers.  What the fuck is the point of graduating from high school?  You know us Mexicans, can't even play 'Uno' because we only want the green card."

And about that bag.  It is a horrible thing.  When families finally realize that there is nothing that will stop the deportation, they bring a bag to the center and leave it there for whenever the inevitable happens so that their loved one will not be dropped, empty handed, in an unknown area in the middle of the night.  You see people sitting in cars in the parking lot, afraid to come inside because they don't have papers, but still willing to take the ride and sit outside for hours.  The officers search the bag when you bring it to the center.  No money allowed, not even Mexican pesos.  No phone cards, U.S. based or Mexican cards, or a fucking Timbuktu card if you felt like dropping that in there.  No letters, phone numbers, addresses.  No belts.  No Mexican ID cards.  Pants and t-shirts, that 's it.  No recuerdos, things to remember any one by or things that might help or comfort you.  No fucking anything. 

That's when I knew I was about to cry.  I hate that fucking bag.  If she is deported, her young American son could easily be placed in foster care.  He could visit her in Mexico when he's older, on his American passport with a Mexican visa stamped in it.  Her daughters would have to make a choice between returning permanently to Mexico or never seeing their mother again.  

"Angel, tengo que hablar con Angel....."  I remember my friend whispering into the phone in the middle of the night while Migra trucks whizzed by and fireworks lit up the sky.