Friday, June 17, 2005

six hours

...and I am back to you, Ohio, lonely, green, where my mother has flung nets over the strawberries. I found one, perfect, the size of my thumbnail.

I was taught to eat things straight from the ground.

I am about to rip open the envelope and read my new students’ poems. Some of them are centered. Many of them are about death and longing. That’s okay.

At 24, I got over myself, taught high school. You meet kids, you love them, kids who have real problems, the kind that leave marks. Your life isn’t so bad. You come home. You make dinner and stand at the sink, watching the moon. You love them.

There is a song by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush called Don’t Give Up. It was playing on our radio all the time in England, through our room strung with scarves. It was about teenage runaways, and the chorus went: don’t give up. You still have us. What a funny thing to be comforted by, the notion of these two singers, relatively famous, who teenage runaways do not have, of course. They do not even know, will not ever know. We tried to find Peter Gabriel. We went to his nightclub called The Mole’s Club, and stuck it out, even though a drunk in a hat tried to get us to go home with him.

But it was comforting, that line.

One of my students, Luke, will be president. I snuck into common hour, and nearly cried when I heard him speak, stand up and speak. No one else was standing. Someday, someone will say, don’t give up. You still have Luke.

Here at my family’s house, I was going through a closet, and I found a pair of my dance shoes. Not the toe shoes; they are somewhere, hard in their secrets. But everyday class shoes, soft, pink once, scuffed, cracked leather, busted open at the toes I once looped scotch tape around. Whatever happened to those girls? We went to class. We wore tights rolled over leotards. We ripped the necks of our sweatshirts, taped our shoes. We were very serious, spoke of cities we would move to, when we were grown.

I heard Charlotte did the splits over two chairs, drunk at a frat party. Jenn got married.

Don’t give up.

I don’t know if I am a good teacher. I never planned to be one. I don’t know what to expect when I meet these new students. I am nervous. Every time I walk into a room, I am nervous. I spill things. I break things. I mispronounce things. I have a hearing loss, and milky scars, and freckles. I don’t know what I am, if I am anything.

But whatever I am, I give to you. Whatever comfort I have, I give it to you.

Don’t give up. You still have me.