Finally Finals: Ten for Today (and Tomorrow)


Click, click, tap, tap, ping…the room is a jitter with typing and timers. It’s final exam day, the last day of the semester, school year and year, almost. It is all three for me. Tomorrow I jet off to another land until next year.

 
The tension in the room agitates me, always does, hearing the sighs and coughs, seeing the head scratches and screen light bounce off the wide pupils of mad typists-thinkers. They’re exhausted. And so am I. I’ve stayed up late and gotten up early to finish grading their term papers, the culminating work in this writing course.
 
I hope I’ve taught them something. I always wish that–some affect I might have.
 
But some of them, I will have barely touched the shell of their minds. There’s a young man in my class who stares at me and smiles the entire class. He attends almost every class and looks engrossed in my lectures, detours, tangents and lessons. He watches attentively as I scribble dry erase marker slashes and dashes and dots on the white board. His eyes absorb the light of the projected screen filled with words and pictures.
 
But his work is crazy, of a parallel existence. He’s a photographer. He loves art.

He’ll smile and tell me that he’s got this essay down. But then he’ll hand in some garbled, riffing, hip-hopping, slap-dash jive bullshit about…frankly, I don’t know what. I read, trying to find the thread of his pieced together logic, the color of his world, or sliver of his memory filtering through disjointed fragments slithering between whole sentences and never-ending, like a river meandering down the shallow incline along a stony road, sun-blazed along red rocks, not a ripple, trickled to a narrow rivulet…and dry. Done.
 
I won’t reach him in time. It’s not his semester to catch on. That’s okay. I know it. I think he does too. He wrote a few final papers, two of them incomprehensible, but the third one…it’s practically logical, relevant and convincing.
 
I whisper during the final exam to him with a stone cold face: “You pulled it off.” He smiles. Of course, he does. It’s a breakthrough, but too little too late.
 
And on the way out, he says, ” See you next semester.” Yeah, he knows. I hope to see his smiling face in January, the new year, new semester and new beginning.

 
Image: touch-tap: pixabay

Bar Talk

 
 
I must look safe, the one least likely to intrude in a bar. The uninterested.

She sits down next to me when there are so many other stools to occupy.

All dolled up, clearly she is waiting for someone special to occupy the stool to her right.

I am to her left.
 
Happy hour, bruschetta is half off as are select beers.
Of course, my selection costs its usual six and change. No discounts for the IPA’s–ever.
 

Some have accused me of having gout deluxe, but I say, “nah.” Simple woman.
My tastes range from pleb to elitist. Depends on the thing, the subject. 
Food, wine and beer, yes, I enjoy top of the line. Clothes, functional.
Not a shopper, no interest. That’s why the guys say, “You’re like a guy.”
 

Other reasons, I prefer conversation about what matters: the world, the local and
all in between. My interests range the span of my experience, read, written and lived, 
relationships only one among many. Frankly, I don’t care much for confession.
Keep the distance, please. Tell me about what matters to you as a member of the world.
 
Two beauties sitting on top of each other taking selfies. In another bar, that might be suspect.
 
But this is not that kind of bar. Affluent, beach, blonds.
 
And the texts on my phone: bad news about the revenge of cancer, someone out there, on my mind.
And the stranger narcissist filling my inbox with doings, wishes, manifestations.
 
“I can’t go out with someone I am not attracted to says the made up late fifty something with the silver shiny horizontal studded stripes in her blinged out black warm up jacket.
 
Ping…the cancer returned after five years. I thought I was done.
Ping…I love the way she feels…
Ping…but I am afraid to go through it, the chemicals, the time off…
Ping…Egyptian, her parents moved from Cairo…
 
“Everything doing okay here?” The bartender wants to know. “Yes.”
 
Happy hour at its edges now settles into its middle.
 
“The grass is always greener on the other side….she’s got to pay her dues,” says bling jacket. The babe next to me moves kitty corner with her guests, two other women fresh from work, twenty somethings, nearing thirty somethings. One curly blond, and two brunette: the Asian with the “whatever” bun and the white girl with the straight slung hair parted down the middle.
 
The time difference lets me off the hook. “Good night, sleep well. Dream healing dreams,” I genuinely wish and type.
 
There is a four year old behind the bar, and I watch her skim her hand over every glass and bottle she passes down the row on her way out of the bar well.
 
The device speaks: ring. “Yes, I am at a bar. Come meet me. We’ll eat. Want me to read you the menu? Braised beef ribs…bleu cheese sliders with Angus beef, poached halibut…okay, see you soon. Yes, chill a pinot or merlot, something interchangeable…feeling marinara or fish. Bye.”
 
Boys at the end of the bar closest to the television pin their eyes to football and the commercials that go with, men with pizza slices and desire written all over their orgasmic posed faces, Mercedes mini van advertised as affordability (right) and something computer and football combined, guys at desks and a football player fish out of water, Ameritrade. And then the Cardinals line up at the 40 yard line.
 
Honey, you don’t look as if you can handle the double IPA. Stick to your happy hour house wine. She just moved in and made it clear to the bartender that she was ordering for her boyfriend who was on his way. She is two barstools away: young, neat, attractive, twenties, trying to keep herself entertained, phone, looking around, the silk scarf around her neck shifting with each turn of her head from the wine cabinet to my left and the incoming guests. We are at the entrance. And he arrives. This is a new boyfriend. I can tell by the kiss they greet each other with–something between a peck and I-recognize-the-sink-into-the- thick-of-your-lips. They are still something stand-offishly, sweetly polite. He is soft and quiet, appetizers smartly waiting for him by her selection. He digs in with gusto, eats obediently, appreciatively, while she authoritatively introduces her informed choices. She will make a fine mistress of the house.
 
Isn’t this great?
 
“Who is training her? Their job is to come in, check in, go down the hall, check the laundry…” bling says to her patient hearer, the one who asked the bartender to turn down the lights, which bother her eyes. Bling speaks for the crowd to hear. “I’m not bashing her. I haven’t said nothing about her for weeks…”
 
The girl friend returns from the water closet with her hair bunned up. Why? What’s the projected look trying to achieve? I’ve never been good at style and signals. I do New York bag and that is the extent of my “style.” And that was a long time ago. Now I just dress whatever-is-clean-and-top-of-the-pile. It used to be important to dress with purpose. I am nearing golden, no need.
 
The symmetry of a wine cellar on display soothes, the circular slotted holders sprouting capped spouts or the buddy bottles snug lined up along a leisurely reclined shelf to feature chillin’ wine bottles, casual, seductive. I hope the temperature behind that glass is 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing worse than room temperature wine, the myth of the uninitiated–says a pretender.
 
The beer has done its work. It only takes one, especially after a sleepless night of sacrifice: term papers and morning frolics in missed motel beds. The buzz combines exhaustion with hops, and I am content. School’s out. Time to eat: transition from bar denizen to restaurant patron.
 
Wait, the four year old swiper’s parent just came on shift. Maybe just a few more minutes….
 

credit: 1stdibs.com

The Missing Art Gene

  
Her reading skills caught up with the other students by the end of second grade, and I was fully indoctrinated in the volunteer life. I first volunteered as the room mom for her classroom admittedly to watch over her–hover. Unwittingly, I also signed up to be the art teacher for her class, though I thought I was signing up to teach about the art masters via books in a program titled, Meet the Masters. Turns out I signed up for is a program where an art teacher came five times a year to teach parents how to teach an art lesson. 

When I found out during the orientation meeting that it was me doing and teaching art to second graders, I freaked out.  Approaching the parent volunteer presiding over the orientation for all of the art volunteers, I uncomfortably sought my release: “Excuse me, but I thought this was something else. I am not an artist. I cannot do art, but I can help out in some other way.” She, a no-nonsense, thin, long-haired blond, small-framed woman only a few years my junior donning serious glasses and a South African accent replied gently but firmly, “Well, you certainly can do better than a 7 year old no matter how bad you think you are. Just try it. If you really can’t do it, we will replace you.” She pinned me. What other excuse or protest could I make? However, I consoled myself with the silent sulky retort,  “I damn well sure can do worse than a 7 year old. Just watch me” as I grabbed my instruction sheets and left.

It turns out the workshops were therapeutic–an hour of focused forms and colors–even if I had to shame-facedly compare my art to the parents who clearly had art backgrounds or natural talent. Some were artists by trade or passion. My art was better, by a hair, than most of the 7 year olds, though some were clearly far more talented.

Back to School

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I cannot recall the last time I sharpened pencils, yet I smell them.

Crayons disappeared from the house five years ago when the kids stopped using them, schools dumping color-in-the-lines after fifth grade. But I can almost feel their waxy paraffin between my thumb and forefinger, leaving that oily residue that stays way long.

Like a return to the new, the school year starts in the season of dying.

The dissonance, I sense it like spasmodic leg quaking that tremulates chairs while calming nerves.

“It’s show time!” I mimic the movie star’s manic Joker’s smile as I fly out the door. No chorus line.

Yet not the performance but the insistence that erodes: “Wake up!!” I want to jolt them in stentorian holler as my head spins and spits pea soup—in a virtual world they recognize.

In real time, I merely cajole, advise, admonish and filibuster, all for their awakening to themselves, their process and their world, adrift in someone else’s expectation.

 

credit: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/0OwImLxeoFI/maxresdefault.jpg

Calico Days

  
Like Mary’s lamb, Betty walked us to school each day.

Athough, the street crossing delimited her hospitality.

She left us, standing her curbside guard as we passed,

rounding the corner to the garden playground tarmac,

launching little ones to the land of rowed rote learning.

The morning ritual drew her celebrity as the cut-tail cat,

the shepherd of the suburban neighborhood children.  

She pranced for pets, then skittered past to prod them,

“Don’t be late,” as if urging them to the teachers’ walls, 

brick-lined in students armed with backpacked lunches.

And thus she bid the morning watchfully, awaiting 2:42 

when full of 2+2 and rainbow-colored painted clothes,

her charges returned to their tri-colored ambassador,

strolling four-footed assured along a territory secured

in pats and giggles, amazement and chase of the calico.