Fucking Humility

Story no. 3. Yes, I’m already behind a little, but I did write most of this yesterday.


“There is no worthwhile literature about teenage infatuation,” Kasar said, writing YOUR FEELINGS = BORING on the blackboard.

“What about Shakespeare? You know, Romeo and Juliet?” someone said from the back of the room.
“I could point out that Romeo and Juliet is a story primarily about fucking and death, rather than infatuation, but I think my original statement stands without the clarification. R and J is Shakespeare at his most insufferable.”

Maybe I should just stab myself in the face, Ophie wrote in her notebook. Kasar (who snarled when a student started to address him as Mr.—) called her Ophie because he said Ophelia was a name for a psychopath or a lunatic. (And he didn’t even like Shakespeare.)

Ophie wished someone had told her mother that.

She raised her hand.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Kasar narrowed his eyes at her. “No, you don’t. You went at the beginning of class.”

“I feel sick now.”

“I’ll bet you do. Sit back down. Share with us your feelings on the intentionally provocative statement that I just made.”

Ophie stared at the three words in chalk on the board, lingering masochistically on the YOUR. “Accurate.”

“You don’t want to offer any works that speak to the contrary? Any moving accounts of the state of the teenage soul?”

I want to cut out the feeling parts of my brain and hide them in a hole seven miles out of town or maybe annihilate them in a blender, Ophie wrote. “I don’t read that kind of book.”

“But you appear to be writing one,” Kasar said, his eyes tracing the top lines of the notebook before she had the sense to close it. He cracked his palms together and flicked the fingers of both hands back towards his body. “Bring it here.”

Ophie shut the notebook and slid it into her backpack. “I’ll pay attention.”

“But lots of really good books are about people in love,” Hannah said from the next desk.

“Your earnest tone deeply concerns me,” Kasar said. “If the next word out of your mouth is Twilight I may have to excuse myself to end it all by drowning myself in the toilet.”

A little ripple of laughter and applause swirled amongst the desks.

“How do you know? Have you read Twilight?

“No, but I have been unwillingly dragged along by female relatives to certain movies which shall not be named.”

Ophie closed her eyes and wished for her notebook. Jealousy, she had discovered, was an endless font or a bottomless pit or a Bichon Frise who had eaten an entire box of Fruit Loops and was now wandering the house vomiting: It was always surprising you with how endless it was and how many foul little cracks it could squirt into, to be discovered later by any unwary gesture. If she could scribble it down she could give herself a little distance from what was happening in her head (there, look, it’s on the paper, it’s not in me) but being forced to feel it without that buffer unhooked all the sturdy places in her mind and made them pitch around like lava or something else that would fall to ash when she got home.

The class ended. Ophie, sitting at the front, could not get to the door before Kasar tapped on her desk.

“I’m serious,” he said, when she looked up at him in wordless misery. “You have not participated on any meaningful level in this class for a month.”

“I’m sorry, Mr.—Kasar. I’ll try to do better.”

“Speak up, kiddo.”

“I’ll try to do better.”

“Is there something going on? You’re still turning in some high-quality papers, so . . . ?”

No, Ophie mouthed. She could smell Kasar’s cologne and a slight whiff of acrid body odor underneath it.

“So what are you working on in that notebook?”
Nothing,” she said, and panic made her enunciate and look him in the face.

“Really? Let’s have a look, then.”

“I have to get to my—”

“Speak up.”

She coughed. “I have to get to my next class—”

“I’ll write you a pass. What’s in the notebook?”

She had expected some kind of relief from sharing this with someone, anyone, but he was exactly the wrong person to know, and the deepening lines of tension around his pressed lips and the growing shadow above his lowered eyes as he paged through the document told her that he thought so, too.

“Ophie,” and this was weirdly tentative, in Kasar’s voice (and she had to fight that sick joy that A. he had said her name and B. it was not because he was telling her to speak up), “how long have you been feeling like this?”

A month, maybe, she mouthed, but she couldn’t get her voice box to cooperate.

“Have you,” another foreign, tentative pause, “talked with the counselor about this?”

NO,” Ophie said, and burst into tears.

“Oh, my God,” Kasar said. “Let me get some tissues, okay? Don’t do anything until I get back.”

She should leave while he was gone. She should leave while he was gone. She should. . .

“Phew, okay, tissues acquired. Blow your nose.”

Ophie reached for the fistful of scratchy material—unfolded her fingers to grab it—the square ends of his fingertips brushed over the side of her hand—she wanted to die.

“Can I have my n-n-notebook back?”

“Ah, I think maybe I should hang on to this—just until some other people can—uh—assess—”

“It’s not—it’s not—what you’re thinking is not—”

“What I’m thinking? What am I thinking?” He shrugged. “I’m not thinking anything.”

“I’m not depressed, I’m just stupid.”

“Oh, well, thank you, that certainly clears that up. I’m thinking that I could just walk with you down to the office now—”

“No. Please just give me my notebook.” Her voice skittered around the edge of scream. “I need to get to my next class.”

“Depression is a very—uh—normal illness, you know. Lots of people—it’s like breaking a leg—wait, no, that’s the wrong analogy—I mean—it’s like—um—a chronic—chronic—asthma. Yeah, that’s it. It’s like asthma. There’s nothing to be embarrassed—”

“I don’t have depression and I don’t need to go to the office and Mr.—Kasar, can you please just let me—”

“Kiddo, I hate to break this to you, but filling an entire notebook with ‘I hate myself’ with occasional discursions on why, precisely, this is a logical conclusion is a pretty solid point in favor of depression.”

Deep breaths. He was wearing a purple button-down. Most of the junior boys thought Karas was gay. And wouldn’t that just make her feel infinitely stupider? “Look—if I—tell you what—what this is about, and why I’m not depressed, will you let me go to my next class and not tell the counselor about my—about my notebook?”

“I am skeptical, but you can try.”

Her voicebox closed again for a vital minute.

“I think that just to be on the safe side, Ophie—”

“No. I-I-I-I like—oh God—I like a bo—person, but he can’t—I don’t—it’s stupid because it’s pointless and I hate myself for feeling this way because it’s not like high school relationships ever go anywhere except divorce and I just want to STOP FEELING LIKE THIS but it won’t stop and I HATE MYSELF.” Ophie put her head back down on the desk.

Kasar started to laugh, and Ophie thought she was going to cry again in earnest, but he was resting a brown hand on her shoulder—don’t do that, don’t do that—and laughing.

“Please don’t—shit—excuse me. I’m just relieved—I thought—but this too shall pass, and all that.”

“Thanks,” she said dully.

“Lord, it’s bad enough to have to go through it, but to be self-aware about it? That’s the real kick in the ass. Being a teenager just sucks, doesn’t it.”

Could you move your hand, she mouthed.

“What was that? Kid, you really need to learn to speak up.”

“Could you move your hand, please.”

“What—okay—”

It was the worst possible time to look up, probably: because he saw exactly where the awareness lay, and who her hair and dumpy body and cratered skin was not good enough for—

“Here.” He was shoving the notebook back at her. “Maybe still—talk to the—oh God—um—just go—tell your next teacher to talk to me about the pass, I’ll fix it up—”

Ophie ran to the girls’ restroom on the third floor and spent the rest of biology ripping out pages and flushing them, one by one, until all three toilets were clogged and seeping water.

Day 3 illustration

20 minutes graphite stick and pen (en train!)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: