About to start teaching class, I see one of my students chewing gum. I’ve been cracking down on this, have handed out detentions to previous offenders, so I stop and stare at him. ‘You chewing gum?’ A look of shock and amazement crosses his face. ‘Me? No!’ I hold his gaze for a moment longer, move on. A minute passes, I see him chewing like he’s a cow at pasture, working on cud. ‘Step outside the class,’ I tell him. Same look of amazement, shock, offense. But then he sees my face, drags himself out. A moment later I join him. ‘So. When I asked you the first time, you had no gum.’ Not a question. Stating the facts, such as they were. ‘What? No! I didn’t’ ‘So where did the gum you’re chewing on now come from?’ A moment as he freezes. Panic. ‘I…’ ‘Yes?’ ‘I put it in… after you told me to spit it out?’ I just stared at him. He had enough presence of mind to lower his gaze and stare at the floor.
Five minute break between classes. I elbow my way through the boy’s bathroom door, go down to the end stall, push it open gingerly with the tip of my shoe. Stop. Realize I need Dexter. There’s blood. A crimson constellation is flecked across the tiled walls, spattered on the floor. It dots the porcelain rim of the toilet, tinctures the water within the bowl. Enough to give me pause. Enough to set my imagination running. Moment of consideration, and then I step into the next stall. I’ll call the custodians when I’m done.
We’re reading an Orson Welles radio play. The main role is voiced by a Brazilian kid, smart but with a funky accent, and a hilarious unfamiliarity with which words should be emphasized when reading out loud in English. At one point, the character whose words he’s reading chases a girl who flees his car, entreating her desperately to stop, to stay with him, to come back. He’s in fear of losing his mind, his life, and can’t be left alone.
“Come back here, please, come back,” he says. But the way he reads it. The strange intonation, almost vamping, the bubbling laugh beneath his words. Makes him sound like the creepiest stalker, a sexual predator, a deranged molester. The entire class erupts into laughter, and I can only shake my head as he looks up, confused and pleased both with the reaction he’s unwittingly elicited with his reading.