Here I am, showing up, doing the thing I’ve assigned myself to do.
I feel a little hollow, scraped out. Writer’s block is when you have the words but can’t release them. They’re trapped behind a wall. I think I’ve got writer’s drought. Lots of arid sky in my head, dendrites dry as August dirt.
Tears came easily this week. Thursday, I had a panting, sweaty meltdown: droplets spattered everywhere. I thought some physical work would make me feel better, but instead of dissipating a persistent ennui it activated a wet rage. (At least my garage and yard look better.)
I have nothing worth saying today. Feel as if I have been swimming and swimming in everyone’s torrent of words for weeks now, and all I want to do is lie still on some shore and dry out a bit.
School (what is school now?) ended Friday, but I still have tasks to be done, so the work hasn’t ended. Two weeks ago our leaders asked us to vote on taking furlough days, and last week they told us they’re giving themselves raises. Thursday our state released guidance for re-opening, and it all sounds impossible. People talk as if the virus must conform to what we feel able to do, and I want to scream at them that that is not how viruses work, but my throat is dry and I just let my words fester in my mouth. Friday I went into my building to check out for the year and no one was wearing a mask. No one. I looked at the clutter of papers and books I left on my desk on March 13 and just left it all there. I went back home and kept working. We teachers are asking ourselves what we will and won’t do, what risks we can and can’t afford, and the questions feel as theoretical and fantastical as the state’s guidance.
To be in a position of being able to ask such questions–to have choices to make–is a privilege not all enjoy. (It’s one I don’t enjoy, not really. I will be at work in the fall, in whatever form it takes.)
My C-19 test was negative. Quarantine is a kind of island, could be a shore–but it feels more like a cage. I got the result the same day I had the meltdown. I was still too sick to mow the lawn, sweep the garage.
Last night, lying in bed, I did the kind of math I do when I want to get grounded, even though it’s kind of a mind-fuck, too. Sort of like looking in a mirror until you become too aware of your own consciousness. I began teaching 30 years ago. When I started teaching in 1990, those who’d been teaching as long as I have been would have started in 1960. In 1990, 1960 felt like another era. It was. (Was there even anyone teaching who’d started in the 1950’s? I don’t know. Seems like everyone retired when they hit that 30-year mark.)
When I started teaching, we didn’t all have our own computers. I used a clunky beige box of a Mac in a communal office. No internet. No email. No phones, pads, tablets, social media. Instructional technology was a ditto machine.
How much adaptation can an organism withstand in its lifetime, how many times can it change?
After the meltdown, I wrote out all the things I’ve been carrying, trying to understand why they feel so heavy when my burdens are so relatively light. In the days since, I cannot stop hearing Friar Laurence’s rant to Romeo, in the play I taught to students the first four years of my career:
I have a job: There art thou happy!
I have a home: There art thou happy!
My children have what they need: There art thou happy!
I am not sick. No one I love has died: There art thou happy!
I am white. There art thou happy!
There is food in the grocery store. There art thou happy!
There is rain on the ground, watering my onions and garlic and cauliflower. There art thou happy!
To which I want to say: Yes. And also: Fuck you, Friar Laurence, you stupid bumbler who made everything worse. Impact has always mattered more than intention.
More math: The oldest of my first students are now 48. 48! “Some of your students are probably grandparents now,” Cane says to me. I remember a senior boy, Jeff, last period of the day, all shit-eating grin saying to me: “You just have to understand, Ms. Evans, that most days I’m going to be stoned.” We didn’t have “resource officers” in school then. (Why don’t we call them what they are: police. Who do we think we’re kidding?) I just told Jeff to go back to his seat. He did. I laughed about it in the teacher’s lounge later, a room stale and bitter from the cigarettes my colleagues sucked into their lungs during passing time or their prep periods. It was a different era.
I’m thinking now of Langston Hughes and his Theme for English B.
This is me, hoping that this page is true.