Reflections, or, He Shoots Lightning From His Feet

I want to pack up every thought I’ve had in a box and place it in a corner where I will one day forget about it and when I finally rediscover it I will assume it’s a box of old basketball trophies (the kind you get for participating) and because you can’t do anything with old basketball trophies I will put it out with the trash and never have to think about it again.

I want to pull back all the words I’ve ever spoken as if they existed on measuring tape and I could push a little button on the side of my head and they would all come back to me and even if the shock of all of those words hurt me a little and made me feel a little dizzy at least they would stop hurting anyone they have stung.

I want to walk backwards through life and watch as everything I’ve ever done unravels and I want to know how it feels for the pressure to decrease steadily steadily steadily steadily.

I want to line up every person I’ve ever known and I want to stand on trial before them so they can judge whether I have helped or hurt them not because I want to know if I am a good person or a bad one but because I want to know how to maximize the helping and minimize the hurting.

I want to write down everything and everyone I have ever loved so that I can chart it [love] and diagram it [love] and dissect it [love] and maybe figure out what it [love] means.

I want to curl up into God like He is a king-sized bed and I am a three-year-old child and I want to feel all of my secrets wash away under me deep under the covers into long-forgotten and never-traveled bed-spaces.

I want to gather all the people I have seen but whose names I do not know and feed them cake and throw a party with small talk and then later big talk and then much later tears and when I leave I will know many new names and I will have made many new friends and fallen in love perhaps twice or more.

And I want to dance so hard that I create a storm and no one will be able to get near me and they will look at me and they will say that storm used to be a boy but then he danced and now he shoots lightning from his feet.

How to Teach Ninth Graders

Forget that you are cool. You are necessarily lame. You are the father with bad puns. You are the mother who asks too many questions. Don’t feel bad about this. It’s a role you must play. And it will make it much better when your students are pleasantly surprised when you know who Frank Ocean is or when you can dance beyond the few “white-boy” dance moves.

Forget that you have opinions. When your students talk about abortion or same-sex marriage, remember you are there only to make sure they are supporting their arguments. You want them to be skilled free-thinkers, not brain-washed automatons. Remember that now you are capable of brain-washing, too.

Remember you are not their friend in a ninth-grade sense, but also remember you love them dearly. When you get angry, remember to tell them it’s because you want to best support them.

Remember every student is capable of success. Sometimes, it will seem like many of them aren’t. Sometimes, it will seem like many are doomed for failure. But keep teaching. Keep providing extra help. Keep going over comma splices. Eventually, the unwanted commas will disappear from their writing.

Remember to always be excited. There will be days when you don’t like your lesson. There will be days when the kids are so hopped up on hormones that you almost feel like you are going through puberty again. There will be days when every kid in your class is mad at you. Be excited. Especially on those days. Jump around the room. Yell and scream. Make them yell and scream, too. Remind them that learning is always fun.

And when you go home at night and are thinking about the day, forget you were the teacher. Instead, be a student with fifteen teachers. Remember what they taught you about forgiveness and love and knowledge.

Be inspired.

An Evening Promenade, or, “You a bitch?”

“You a bitch?”

This is Ohio University. This is where I live.

They are standing on the corner of a street when I see them. I am hunched over from the heaviness of my backpack. I am supremely self-conscious of the fact that I am the only one uptown with a backpack. But I just finished an assignment at the library, and I like taking the crowded way home just for the possible opportunity of running into someone I know. This night, I don’t. Instead, I run into them.

In my memory, he is wearing a black Ed Hardy t-shirt. But I think I put that on him retroactively. It’s part of his stereotype. When he comes into my line of sight, he is pumping his fists in the air, yelling at his buddy who just passed me, girl in hand: “Brady! Get some!” It is deep and staccato.

I’m not close enough to see her, but I imagine the girl standing next to him (Ed Hardy man) rolls her eyes. She is clearly intoxicated, stumbling as she stands still and hanging onto his arm for balance. She is wearing a dress that is the perfect mix of alluring and modest. I like her. There is something optimistic about her.

When I walk home at night, I try to keep my head down. It’s easier that way. But my curiosity often gets the better of me, and most of the time, I walk around looking like an old-fashioned sprinkler, spinning my head from side to side so that I can see everything that is going on around me. And so as I walk behind this couple, I can’t help but look at them.

I lag behind, not wanting to awkwardly pass them. We cross a street together. We start heading down the hill.

“But she’s my best friend!”

“Fuck that!” the boy answers throwing his hands up in the air. He’s short, probably not much taller than me, but more muscular.

They stand still and argue for a moment. I slow my pace even more. They have a brief discussion about an Olivia whom the girl absolutely adores and whom the boy accuses of being controlling. The boy grabs her hand, and they start walking again. Their voices bounce from decibel to decibel. They cross the street. The girl pulls her hand away every once in a while, but the boy always forcefully takes it back.

We pass house after house. Many people see them. No one says anything. This is Ohio University. This is where they live. This is not unusual.

When they turn down a side street, I decide to follow. I don’t know what I’m thinking. He’s drunk and in a violent mood. He’s bigger than me. If I speak up, I’m probably going to get beat up. I keep waiting for things to escalate, though. I hide behind mailboxes, willing the girl to say “No” or “Stop” or something that would be a call to action.

They turn into Palmer Place, the site of some of the university’s dirtiest laundry. Broken lawn chairs are scattered around the patios. Empty beer cans are everywhere.

I want to say something to them. I want to ask the girl if she’s alright. I want to tell her that she doesn’t have to go home with him. I want to call the police. My phone is dead, but I’m not sure this warrants an emergency call anyway. But there is a crime, here, certainly. Someone is hurting someone else. I’m not sure what it is, exactly. It might just be a boy living out his role in patriarchy, but it’s hard to tell.

I kick at leaves as I pass them, putting my head down for real this time. I am approaching a party. Five large men sit on a patio. They make lewd remarks to two women who go to a side yard to have a private conference.

“Hey man, I like your backpack!” says one of the men to me.


“You a bitch or something?” All of the men laugh. This is Ohio University. This is where I live.