The Awkward Option

“What’s it like?”  I looked around my messy kitchen with my table piled high with student information folders, mail threatening to take over my credenza, little tufts of dog fur on the floor because I hadn’t swept in days.  I sunk down in the chair next to me and sighed.  “It’s a million times worse than I ever thought it would be.”

It was 7 o’clock on the Friday after my second week of school.  I had sweated so much in my classroom all day that the first thing I did after Zachary and I got home was to take a cold shower.  There was something about the classroom full of hot sweaty bodies and possibly the amount of effort it took to use the crank pencil sharpener effectively that just made sweat pour out of me.

My first week was actually reasonably calm, with roughly 2/3 of my students showing up for the first half day of classes.  I felt a small pang of alarm when Laleisha couldn’t find her own nametag because she didn’t recognize her own name in print.  But she and her twin Lakeisha, plus the other twenty three or so charges that appeared that day were enthusiastic and happy to be with me, a young teacher eager to win over their hearts.  Their parents met me at my classroom door in the morning, even some fathers, and I thought that perhaps Betty was just too old and jaded to be teaching these still needy but not nearly as bad as I’d expected from her stories kids.

But the day after Labor day, as Betty has predicted, the rest of my students showed up.  My class size swelled to 38 students, one having registered just that morning.    The dynamic of the classroom was immediately changed; we were crowded, we were hot and there was no playground or downtime for them to blow off steam.  I could see that my simple act of praising model behavior just wasn’t going to cut it in terms of discipline.  At any given moment I felt like I was trying to keep a lid on a pot of angry, boiling water.   If I shouted over the students, their noise just grew louder.   I took breaks at least four times a day and had the students dance and sing to try and “get their sillies out” as I’d seen done in my student teaching classroom.  It just wasn’t as effective with thirteen more students in the room.

Dennis sounded sympathetic on the phone.  “I’ve been wondering how you’re doing.  It really is such a shame the disparity of education experience in this country.”

I laughed at that, my former high school teacher who had always taught in the comfortable suburbs railing on about disparity of educational experiences.  “You can’t even believe what passes for acceptable in this place.  Do you know there is one phone that teachers are allowed to use?  One for forty staff members.  How likely is it do you think I can use it right after school to make parent phone calls?  So I have to do that at home, which is a long distance phone call.”

“That’s unreal,” Dennis responded.  “How are the kids, though?”

“If I’m dealing with them one on one, they’re fine.  I have a few behavior issues…well…more like ten.  But the thing that kills me is if I’m just dealing with them alone, they’re great.  Really.  But it’s just the combination of all of them together at once, all thirty eight of them…I’ll never be able to teach them anything.  I’m so tired every day.  I sleep like the dead.”

“Sounds like you need someone to lean on.”

“I do indeed.  I keep telling myself it will get better, but then the next day is just as bad, or worse.”

“I could be there for you, if you want.”

“I appreciate that Dennis.  I really do.  It’s great of you to just let me vent.  It does help.”

He paused.  I could hear him take in his breath on the other end of the phone line.  “If you ever wanted more than that…I could be that for you too.”

I nearly dropped the phone.  Did I hear that correctly?  “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“You heard me, and you heard me correctly.  You need someone to listen, to be there for you, and you probably need someone to hold you too.  Am I right?”

“But Dennis,” I sputtered.  “You’re married.  Remember that?  I need less stress right now, not more.  Having an affair with a married man sounds like more.”

“I’m not trying to add to your troubles, truly,”  he replied.  “But it’s can’t be a secret that I’m attracted to you.  And if I had to guess, I’d say that you’re attracted to me.”

My cheeks glowed with the crush I’d had on this man since I was fifteen.  This couldn’t be happening.  “That is neither here nor there,” I responded.  “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.  You’re not unhappy in your marriage.”

“No,” Dennis answered honestly.  “And I have no intention of leaving my wife.  But I could be there for you, if you wanted me to be.  Don’t decide tonight.  Just think about it.  It’s just an option I’m putting out there.”

An option.  Like lavendar or vanilla scent.  Like blue or red crayon.  “Well,” I said awkwardly.  “That’s…kind of you.  I’ll think about it, but I have to tell you, I think it sounds like the worst thing I could be doing right about now.”

I hung up the phone and stared at it.  Did that just really happen?

 

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One Response

  1. […] fit perfectly with me. But after years of dating people who weren’t even close, and after that one affair, I started to suspect that maybe it was true.  Maybe one person couldn’t be that all […]

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