Tuesday Teacher Fantasy

Fantastic thinking is in order this thundery, rainy, hail-ish, Tuesday afternoon. You know, the kind of thinking you do when you sit around building blocks with a little kid (or several) and talk about how great it would be if you could eat only cake (or ice cream, or froot loops) all the time, for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. Or that summer lasted for ten months and school only lasted for two. And, “wouldn’t it be the best thing?”

“I’d have chocolate every day.”

“No way. I’d have a different kind at every meal and I would never, in a million years, get bored.”

“Oh, I know! I will ALWAYS get the corner piece with the extra icing. Oh, yeah.”

Oh, yeah. It would be the best thing.

books...

books…

Today, I think, the best thing would be, once a week to pack my reusable grocery bag the night before with a couple of the books I’ve got going on at the moment; I’d grin in anticipation of the coming day. Load the coffee maker and fixin’s carefully in a separate bag. I get to school around 6:30, just like always, and I hang an appealing, artful sign on the door that says READING DAY! I grab a pillow from the reading corner and arrange it near my desk, a kind of cozy cubby there in the corner under my “Fan Club” sign and photos and love notes from former students. I’d set my books for the day next to the pillow to wait, while I set up and start the coffee.

By 6:45 I am settled on the floor with the coffee maker bubbling away comfortably on the other side of the room. Picking up the first book in the stack, I slide my finger behind the bookmark holding my place and fold the book open. I graze slowly among the words as the sun comes up behind the mountains east of campus.

Eventually, students begin to slip into the room. Because it’s READING DAY, they already know to mumble a good morning. Maybe some of them pour a cup of joe with the tiniest of splash and swirl. Maybe not. First hour students would be so lucky! They could swing by Starbucks on their way to school and get something extra special and it would still be hot, perfect, creamy coffee / tea / chai / chocolate. We’ve a routine on READING DAY! one long-established and cherished of muttered greetings and the shush shush of pages turning.

There is no studying and no one tries to. There is no last minute rush to homework, and I don’t have to check. We each have our space of floor, desk, or wall, our cushion and the book we are working on. Some of use ear buds, and some of us don’t. No devices are opened by anyone; everyone is reading an old-fashioned, paper, analog, book of their choice.

For forty-eight minutes, there are no phones, tweets, whatsapp, instagram, texts messages, emails, parents, principals, or teachers. Just twenty-five or so souls breathing across ink spilled in delightful patterns that dance across paper in story form. Our breath steams, filling the room with the vaporous forms of places and people, near and far, known and unknown, real and imagined.

The building’s bells do their thing, and students slip away reluctantly to physics, philosophy, or some other part of the curriculum, and another group of students slips in. Later, for a couple of hours I’m alone, and I refresh the coffee maker before I return to my quiet corner, where I’ve started the second book in my stack for the day.

Just as I start to feel a little restless and maybe even lonesome, the last group of the day cracks the door open and enters to complete the ritual for the week. They settle to read, until the sound of a waiting line of cars starts to ooze beneath the door, and the rattle and crash of the younger grades in the hallways begins to shiver our air. We all get a little wiggly, and maybe there are a few people talking quietly, but some stay focused until the absolute last gasp before the last bell rings to free us for the day. Students fold their books closed like hands suspended in prayer around a bookmark, before they put cushions back in their place and shoulder backpacks and book bags to make their way home.

And wouldn’t it be the best thing? Oh, yeah.

~LD

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At the Feet of Las Noas (remembering Paris)

Photo courtesy of C. Patrick Neagle

Cristo de las Noas, Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico // Photo courtesy of C. Patrick Neagle

Today,
beneath a tree
at a sidewalk café
I sipped a glass of lime
and Topo Chico
sweetened with grenadine;
a waiter’s smile
made me blush,
while the sun set behind Jesus
on the hill.
Condensation gathered
on the clear glass,
drawing a concerto of tiny flyers.
A young Hemingway sat
smoking Delicados, drinking
a pale green frappé,
and reading El Laberinto de la Soledad
at the next table.
A meter away,
city folk bustled by in cars;
their countenances low-lit,
glanced our way,
before returning zombied eyes
to devices where they live and work.
A cream colored pit bull, leash dragging,
sniffed around the legs of our chairs,
and apparently satisfied,
returned to her person’s side.
Later, as I walked down the street
the stars came on
blink by blink, remarkably
outshining street lamps
and passing cars —
then, I remembered
other trips,
other cafés,
other Hemingways
other labyrinths.

~LD

Knight of Dada (with apologies to Salvador Dalí)

Sometimes, as I walk around out in the world, I feel like I am the only sentient creature here. The lovers in the park are wind up dolls repeating the same embrace again and again. The cashier behind the register is a cleverly programed artificial intelligence with a great smile, glittery eyes, and glowing wit. The cars driving by on the narrow streets are merely battery powered playthings. Even the crows’ and mockingbirds’ and sparrows’ songs are canned, coming from somewhere outside a line that looks like a jet contrail across the too blue sky.

I’ve been set down here on this sidewalk, only gaining awareness as my feet settle onto the rippled concrete. The desert sun on my skin doesn’t even warm me yet, and I sense that if I could just turn around fast enough, I would see giant, childlike fingertips disappearing behind the perfectly white, wandering clouds cut out of cotton batting and then sprinkled stingily overhead.

I clutch my left arm with my right hand: flesh and bone, warmish to the touch.

Occasionally, the sense of surrealism becomes so strong that I can hardly wait to return to the weird waves of dream where at least I will see people I know and everything will be familiar, even the utterly unknown.

Last weekend I danced a salsa with a handsome man who laughed when I fell out of step, but never lost his own way. When I looked down, the ceramic floor beneath our feet had turned to ocean waves. Sometimes, surreal is sweet. Even if it means the timepiece is dripping, deliciously – like melting chocolate — over the edge of a barren landscape.

~LD