I have a weird slideshow of images that pops up whenever I think of the word “school”. None of them have a connection to specific memories, happy or otherwise, of my time there, and they all, oddly, are from middle school.
In one, there is the hallway where the two sections of 6th grade had classrooms. Just the hallway, empty, with two doors both cracked open a bit. I know it sounds ominous, but it’s not. I didn’t have a weird experience with the janitor. I wasn’t bullied or reprimanded or sent to stand out there because I was being disruptive. It’s just a hallway with two doors but like an empty stage, quiet, un-peopled, waiting.
It’s like a dream.
But then when I think about it I do remember a few specific instances that happened in those rooms. And maybe these instances do actually have something to with my development. Maybe they have something to say about how I became the way that I am. One of them happened behind the door on the left. This was Miss. Watson’s classroom. She was the teacher, a former nun, who said that when a child died it was for a reason: that if he had grown up he would have committed crimes or been a bad person. This made no sense to me and when I asked why, if that were true, were there criminals and bad people who existed anyway, she stared at me for (what seemed like) a full minute of satanic silence and then changed the subject.
Anyway, one day in her class, she used the word prostitution (WTF, Miss Watson?... I don’t remember what we were talking about, maybe The Scarlet Letter?). I quickly raised my hand and said “What’s prostitution?” and everyone laughed. In my memory, at this point, there is the loud sound effect of a head-on two-car collision starting with the sound of brakes and ending with the actual impact, I look slowly to my left, looking for someone, anyone, who might be on my team, then to my right, hoping to see someone else who was shrugging and mouthing the words I don’t get it, but all I can see are slow motion Happy donkey faces laughing and laughing and laughing. I remember feeling completely ashamed and confused and instantly getting a lump in my throat. Miss Watson, who assumed I was being a smart ass, again, explained it and then I felt doubly mortified.
People were laughing.
People were laughing, so I took credit. When people treat you a certain way, most of the time you can rise to the occasion.