||Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007 |
by Lori Pratt
I don’t even notice the small scalpel they are using to take me apart, piece by tiny piece, until I’m mid-stride across the front of the classroom, well into a groundbreaking analysis of the feminist implications of the Industrial Revolution on modern Canadian society, thinking I have all of them in the palm of my hand, when one of them suddenly pipes up, "Ms. P., I have a question."
For a split second, the letters of his name teeter on the brink of my memory like black bowling pins in a bubble gum-pink alley, but luckily my Super-Sub ability to pluck the correct name from the attendance Scantron doesn’t fail me.
"Yes, Johnny?" I ask, rather pleased with myself. I am a confident woman with an excellent memory who has just inspired discourse in a perfect stranger, a teenager no less. Strike!
Titters from the class. Something is wrong.
"It’s Victor, actually."
"Oh." I wince. Still, I am a confident woman who opens channels of communication with her stunning insight. "Yes, Victor?"
Victor makes a show of draping himself casually over the back of his chair before he speaks again. He fixes on me with a steady stare the one glittering eye that his long Goth bangs don’t cover. His tone is serious, intent, earnest.
"Why does your left eyelid have 92 eyelashes, but your right one has only 89?"
The faint sound of a lawn being mowed 12 blocks away wafts through the open curtains. No one is looking at Victor. They are all looking at me. My mind is now reeling through the list of possible answers to Victor’s insolence. No, that’s too sarcastic. Might do damage. No, that one is too light for such an infraction. No, that one is too heavy. Nah, I wouldn’t want to mark that one. That one is not immediate enough. That one is too authoritarian. That one invites a response. Too cliché. Too confrontational. Humorous. Ambiguous. Too...
"Victor, come sit up here at the front so you can focus more on what I’m saying rather than what I look like."
Victor slouches to the front, deflated. It doesn’t matter. My lecture has been on pause too long. When my mind unfreezes, it can’t remember where it left off. It flops about for awhile, like a fish on a dock, struggling to get back into the water but knowing intuitively that this is the last gasp. I sigh.
Victor has won.
"Take out your books. Turn to page 40. Your teacher wants you to do questions one through seven, odds only."
Lori Pratt is a teacher on call, Vancouver.