The new semester looms, and while I attempt to ramp up the performance energy that is required to stand up in front of 25 dull-eyed under-the-table texters and actually get them to look towards the front of the room occasionally, I find myself missing last semester’s crop of students already. I mean, I was used to them; I knew their stories. I knew Jake was mad at his mom for selling his quad (for those of you in the crowd who lean more towards Sarte, Mendelssohn, and cross-stiching than environmental destruction: a quad is a four-wheeled all-terrainish vehicle that is very loud and mud-inducing and not at all something Sarte and Mendelssohn would have ridden tandem on, even though their even attempting that would have required Jean-Paul to participate in a grave-digging caper under cover of darkness, during which he and a pick axe would have worked through the night to exhume Medelssohn’s decaying corpse from Trinity Cemetery in Berlin, and really, if we’re being frank, I tend to think Sartre would have been too paralyzed by existential angst to carry out the deed; one shovel full of earth, and he’d have been whining about all endeavors being “on principle doomed to failure.” Plus, he was a puss of the highest order and had virtually no upper body strength). I knew Elsie was finding happiness now that she’d left the ballet, a place where “community” consisted of everyone sticking their fingers down their throats in unison. I knew Katie and her mom were still sharing a bedroom at her uncle’s house. I knew Chris had shaved his head, gotten a black eye, and peed in his own closet while drunk (events that comprised “October” for him). I knew underground-punk fan Ross had had his car broken into and all his music stolen. Oh, yea, and his textbooks. But mostly, he wanted his Kill Mosh F*** Destroy bootlegs back. I knew Obe hadn’t spoken to his father for five years. I knew Jon had gone to court in November because he’d “broken some stuff”; I knew this same Jon had recently been elected a student body senator. I knew Brianna used to be on swim team but now thought she was fat. I knew Amy liked only her boyfriend and Burger King since returning from two tours in Iraq. I knew Tamara volunteered at an elementary school’s kid connection program.
These were my peeps. We talked about thesis statements and ribbed each other and peer reviewed papers and gave each other rides home. We were cool.
Now, next week, I face tromping into a classroom full of an entirely new crop of 25 dull-eyed under-the-table texters. Certainly, I’ll wear my tap shoes and full Vegas showgirl headpiece, but still. It’s hard to break through their studied indifference. I know a couple of weeks in, when I’ve mocked myself and them enough, we’ll loosen up and slide into the “coherence through use of transitions” party zone.
Until then, I’ll miss the room full of last semester’s weebles. One in particular.
You know who.
She squeaked through my class with a C, and she’s not taking the next level of composition, which relegates her to the ranks of the other 5,000 students I’ve had in my teaching career: a fond memory. Fortunately, because Mindy herself was so vivid, my memories of her will be, as well. One of the last times I saw her, we had this exchange:
Mindy: So my boyfriend, the butthead loser, is going to jail.
Me: Oh, that sucks. Do you need a “file-in-a-cake” recipe, so you can bust him out? I have a great one, handed down from my grandma.
Mindy: Huh? I don’t even have a stove since the landlord took it, plus I cut off all my nails, so I don’t have to file them anymore. I kinda spice them up now, though, with these little glitter stickers that I put on each finger. You likey?
Me: I do. I do. You should send some of those to Posh Spice. She’d appreciate the fashion upgrade. So what’s up with your boyfriend again?
Mindy: He got pulled over again and nailed for all his driving without a license tickets that he never dealt with. They arrested him, and the judge is sending him away for a minimum of 30 days, but it might even be 60. At least it won’t be two months. That would’ve just been nasty.
Me: Wow. So that’s going to really stress out your relationship, I’d guess. I mean, hasn’t he been driving you to school and taking you to drop off your daughter at her daddy’s grandma’s house for babysitting and stuff?
Mindy: Yea, he drives me sometimes, but mostly he goes out and buys $300 track suits and watches cable all day while he gets stoned. He gets so pissed at me when I yell at him for not getting food again. And the big thing about his going to jail is that they won’t let me see him, and he had our rent money on him. So how am I supposed to pay the rent this month?
Me: Really? Can’t you just go in and explain the situation and see if maybe the nice coppies would slip you a few hundred out of your boyfriend’s wallet? Isn’t that how the judicial system works?
Mindy: Nope. I’m screwed.
Me: Well crud, honey. And of course all of this is coming down right during final exams.
Mindy: Okay, I totally shouldn’t say this, but I’m actually kind of relieved that he’s gone. It’s like, I actually want to be in my apartment now. I actually like hanging out with my daughter. It’s so much easier when he’s not around. I can’t wait to clean the place and make some mac and cheese. Truth is, I hope the judge gives him the 60 days, so my vacation can last longer.
Me: I hope the judge gives him 90 days, and in that time, you find a new apartment and a way to pay for it and leave no forwarding address.
Mindy: Wow, that would be harsh. Then he couldn’t find me. He’s my boyfriend. That would just be wrong. Oh no, my baby’s gotta come home to me.
As the next semester starts to swing, and a new crop of students and I launch ourselves into the swirl of apostrophes and brainstorming and developing paragraphs, my secret hope is that Mindy recalls a few of our classroom discussions about logic, applies them to her own life, and wraps her waiting arms around herself instead of the recently-sprung loser butthead.
And on that note, wiping a quiet tear from my eye with one of her essays–the one she wrote about how it’s better to live with someone than live alone–I raise a bong of tribute to Mindy.
Me (inhaling): May you (cough cough) have a (choke gasp) better year (hark gargle) in 2009 than you did (flagglequacken) in 2008. And if (exhaling dramatically) you can’t find the tits to dump the loser, may you at least get your fuel pump fixed (pounding chest).