Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Next Time I Will Bring a Pen

“Can we get a picture with you?” one of the three teens asks.  I laugh and smile for the SnapChat selfie, grateful that I have learned to laugh at myself when I don’t know what else to do.

I straighten the stacks of recently rescued papers and start to reflect on what just happened as the young men gather their skateboards to wheel away.  “Have a nice night, ma’am!”  The sentiment gets swallowed in the wind, but I hear enough of the parting words to reignite the smile and shake my head a little.

When you’re me, every day is an adventure.

It started off harmless enough, with me contemplating the same two roads that diverge in front of me each afternoon at about 4:30.  Do I take the third dose of Ritalin ensuring a calm and focused evening, or do I let it wear off and leave room for a little more daydreaming and creativity?  Knowing I brought home four stacks of papers to grade but still looking forward to the noisy company of an evening with my own thoughts, I choose to brave the stacks au natural.  This means coping mechanisms, and while still under the helpful influence of my prescription, I mentally thumb through the options.  I settle on a personal favorite: isolation.  Instead of going home where I have plenty of projects and distractions, I opt to head to a local park with nothing except my schoolwork. 

Grabbing my bag, I head to an unoccupied table still awash in a pool of afternoon sunlight.  I remove the four folders of assignments and sit down, ready to begin.  I unzip the front section of my backpack where I keep pens.  But instead of a pen, I find three items I packed for lunch yesterday when I couldn’t find my lunchbox.  (Of course, since they weren’t in my lunchbox, I forgot to eat them).  I unzip the second section and find a book I bought in Garden Valley this summer… and forgot about.  Third section.  A granola bar, three pencils, and the filing system I use to track EYT receipts each summer.  Fourth section.  Why does my backpack have so many sections?!!  Pencil. Tampon. Paperclip. Power cord.  Seriously?  I am a teacher, and I have NO pens in my bag. 

So I head to the car.  I check all the normal places.  I am now up to a total of 8 located pencils.  Seriously, where are all of these when the kids swear their homework isn’t done because they couldn’t find a pencil.  I start checking non-standard places.  I find… another pencil.  Oh, and the fidget cube Kirk bought me a while ago that I never really used because I lost it.  Now I am reaching over the back into the scary recesses of things I am hoarding in the back of the car because I don’t quite know what else to do with them.  I find my Crazy for You rehearsal binder, complete with a fully stocked supplies pouch including three pens.  I select a promising blue and turn to leave the car.

But the fidget cube!  I have always wanted to try working it in my left hand while I correct papers.  And unmedicated as I am, tonight seems like the perfect chance.  Where exactly was it?  I find where I had knocked it back into the scary abyss that is the floor of my car, roll the silver ball under my thumb, and smile triumphantly. 

Now I have a pen, a fidget cube, and a foolproof plan to focus on correcting my papers.

I take a confident step toward the table and spot instead three teens quickly gathering white sheets from the concrete. 

“Are these your papers?” one asks.

“Yes,” I state and nod.  I greet the feeling of embarrassed failure like an old friend. 

“They’re all copies of the same thing,” another states.

I explain that I am teacher and these papers are my students’ work. 

“Oh, man!  That will really suck if we can’t find them all.”  I am impressed by their compassion as they recognize the difficulty of the situation. 

“Give them all A’s,” one says. 

“Or I guess if you can’t find one, they could just re-do it,” another offers.

“But that doesn’t seem fair!” the third pipes in, putting himself in the shoes of my students.

I explain that I would never ask my students to pay for a mistake I made, and note gratefully that with their help it looks like I can account for every paper anyhow.

We chat about where I teach, and I remind them to be kind to their teachers because they are getting a rare look at what goes on behind the curtain.  As they place the last of the papers in a pile, I promise to put something heaving on top of the stack.  One of the boys jokingly offers his friend as a paperweight.  I am grateful for the levity as I place the pen and fidget cube atop the stack. 

Just as my chin dips toward the task still remaining before me, one boy decides the encounter needs to be part of his SnapChat story.  And I end up smiling, frantic curls blowing in the gentle breeze.  I am not sure exactly how their side of the story goes.  But this is mine.

And I realize I am kind of glad I am unmedicated tonight. 

Otherwise I couldn’t write it.