One of the most difficult thing about being a teacher is the fact that I cannot write much about my job. That is to say, I can and — as this post will demonstrate — will, but the repercussions of lawsuits, job loss, and public humiliation always undermine my efforts to write about my life anymore. Other topics such as my siblings, new houses, geek stuff, and adventurous excursions to far off realms may prove fodder for my ‘talents,’ I often fain from ranting of late. It’s not the ‘been there, done that’ feeling per se, the ennui of a former life, but my writing has always centered around my feelings, ponderings, and frustrations about daily living. What is the point of spreading my thoughts across this blank page if — much like a wayward girlfriend — my heart just does not want to commit.
So screw all that. Time to start afresh (which I discovered the other day was one word, not two; the world indeed is awash with wonder, Charlie Brown).
For the sake of my financial independence both present and future, I’ve decided to disguise my students identity with an alias, or a faux nom if you’re feeling fancy or . . . perhaps French. Thus, Students of the Murph, I dub thee . . . Robin. Ta-da. Now, those that know me may assume (which is always a mistake if you wish to avoid the title of ‘ass’ for both you and me) that I choose this appellation due to my obsession with Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, but you, Sir, could not be more wrong. As a matter of fact, Robin serves as the perfect androgynous nom de plume for a school of either boys or girls. Or both! I could teach at either private or public. You never know, because it’s a mystery. I am totally relishing your confusion right now.
So this particular incident occurred the other day during an exam review session after school. Many teachers volunteer their time to review the final test and acclimate their students to information long buried by snow days, proms and the promise of summer.
In my experience, nothing excites and unnerves a geek more than pitting his (or her) favorite imaginary character against a rival fictional character in a hypothetical showdown to the figurative death. Nothing. My good friend, Rodney, believes with every fiber of his being that Jason Bourne epitomizes ‘badass.’ Yeah, Matt Damon . . . badass . . . My friend is somewhat goofy in the head. Rodney has even gone to such lengths to name his iPhone after the chronic amnesiac, and dubbing himself ‘The Rod Identity,’ secret sidekick to the world’s most kickass secret agent Again, the guy’s goofy in the head.
Still like all zealots, Rodney actively sought altercations with those who believed Mr. Bourne had proven himself . . . slightly less-than-awesome. As so often was the case, the argument exploded from a deep intellectual discussion on the quality of Hugh Jackman’s performance in The Wolverine while on vacation last July . . .
We had just exited the theater at Downtown Disney, a cornucopia of Disney merchandise, theme restaurants, and — my favorite — AMC theaters. Both Ryan and Rodney, having tragically lost half-a-dozen tennis matches two weeks prior owed the gang lunch, ice cream, and a few hours at the local cineplex. We had spent much of the day at Animal Kingdom, sweating in lines and jumping between sunshine and deluges of afternoon thunderstorms. As the evening sky cleared, we felt grateful for the safety of soft red velvet and an air-conditioned movie theater. I had suggested Marvel’s latest superhero tale — thus, harmonizing my love for Japanese culture with my passion for Canadian mutant assassins — at AMC’s Dine-in theater where we snacked on sushi, mozzarella sticks, and bread pudding . . . mmmm.
“For the last time,” I sigh, “I have no idea what kind of wood they want. If it’s not written on the sheet I gave you, the pieces can be made from cardboard for all I care.”
I tapped the ‘sheet’ — a square piece of cut cardboard, where Mom and her carpenter had scribbled the dimensions of various planks and decorative trim. The sheet wobbled atop a stack of wood samples like the roof of shanty poked with a funnel cloud. The guy behind the register was not particularly blind, but I felt that calling attention to the list helped to establish my incompetence.
“Well,” the old man said, returning my sigh as if vying for a Grand Slam, “well, do you want to call them? See what they want to do?”
I pause for a few seconds and pretend to consider the suggestion, soaking in the fact that I’ve made authority figures out of nothing more than pronouns. ‘They’ could be the Queen of England (using the royal plural) or the NSA, scouring the guy’s phone records. Or perhaps our alien overlords. That’s the power of obscurity. Besides, specifying my employers as ‘Mom and Dad’ just sounded lame.
Work in progress
Over the past several months, my folks have undertaken a massive home renovation project. We plan on taking our small undersized kitchen and expanding it into a culinary workshop that would make Gordan Ramsey sit up and beg. ‘How?’ you may ask?
Mostly, it seems by totally rearranging the whole damn house into a lifesize Escher painting. Currently, I have little to no knowledge of the location of cereal, forks, television remotes, the Lazyboy, salsa, chips, pots, soap dispenser, can opener, or the front door. All are lost or currently buried beneath bins, boxes and furniture.
You see for years, our current kitchen has abutted next to the ‘good’ or unused dining room. Nearly every home has one, a well-polished table adorned with silver candlesticks and untouched silverware, relics which mothers maintain in mint quality as if the queen might stop by one day unannounced for tea. Our own dining room was an ersatz museum collection of fine china, dark ebony tables, Polish tea cups, Belleek vases, and grinning Hummel figurines. Needless to say, if the queen did stop by for a cup of Earl Grey, digestion would prove difficult with hundreds of small frozen children exchanging blood-red posies, laughing maniacally in their small ceramic wheelbarrows from dust-caked bookcases. Teaching before a room of bleary-eyed kids and . . . well, it’s no wonder I’m so anxious. Anyway, we rarely ate or drank anything in this dining room, even just to spite Mom, who despite our professed phobias screamed bloody murder at any sign of drink or beverage on her ‘nice wood floors.’
Fear them . . .
It’s nearly quarter to 1AM and the boys are arguing in the other room about what late night game to play: Call of Duty or the Zombie game within Call of Duty. A four-player limit finds me the fifth wheel, and I bow out to play some Starcraft. Kevin is sleeping behind me, having passed out hours earlier. Every half-hour he mumbles incoherent curses in his sleep, a sign my roommate’s sleeping peaceful (the boy is never happy unless he’s not), rousing himself as Ryan begins his recital in the other room. I do not know what prompts it, perhaps the excitement for digital battle, the click of electronic triggers, the tinkling of bullets on 3-D landscapes. His voice begins low, gradually crescendo-ing into a rebel shout, a call to arms for humans against the inhuman, a love-letter to the battle-borne and bullet-ridden:
“Good evening,” he begins. ” In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation.”