I am alone.
I come in to class wondering how I am going to tell him its over. Fidgeting with my clothes, my bags are a mess, and I think I may have left my students papers at home. I can’t let this take up all my energy. I need to focus.
My students as usual, burst in to the silence of my classroom. Some of who are brimming with energy, too much for me to reciprocate today. Some of them mirror my exact motivation level. None of the seniors acknowledge that I am even present in the class, that is, until Michael strolls in to class and greets me.
“Hey Mr. Mason! Havin’ a good morning? Nice cardigan.”
His dark hair styled in a faded Mohawk, and light brown skin, dressed in the same black and teal uniform as the rest of my students. He was always able to stick out, even in a group of identical pupils. I have noticed the girls in my class fawn over him as he walks in to class, and today is no different. Several girls nudge each other nodding in his direction. Reminding one another of their undying crush on him.
“Thank you. It is a good morning, Michael.” I respond trying to hide any and all indication that my personal life is on the frits.
“Settle down and take your seats.”
I called for silence, but as the words left my mouth, the mayhem continued. Shouts from teenage throats filled my room with –
“Sir, I forgot my homework!” cries Jade, whose voice drowns out by
“we had homework? What… The… -“
“Your mouth Eric.” I interrupted
Followed by whispers of curiosity creeping past aisles asking their peers
“Can I copy your homework?”
“Your homework, now please!” I call trying to quell the noise. “Grab a book and continue reading.”
I finish collecting their papers and slump down in my chair and begin to correct and grade their work. After grading their homework, I hear the soft ding ding of a cellphone. Students froze in fear, praying to any god that will listen, that it was not their smartphone they ignorantly forgot to turn off. With all the ferocity I could muster, ding ding, again. It comes from me. All my students, even those who can’t pay attention, have their eyes trained on me, all of them knowing full well that their teacher is receiving text message in class.
Some students snicker at the sound of my phone going off again ding ding.
“Oh, booty call!” shouts Jason.
“Eric!” I bark.
“Wasn’t me. That was Jason!” Eric says.
“That will do, guys. Back to work. Eric, Sorry.” I say “Jason.” I hold his gaze for a moment and walk by to my desk. I reach for my phone.
“You look upset. –M.J. ” Received at 8:16am
“Is something wrong? –M.J.” received at 8:16am
“Sorry! –M.J.” received at 8:17am
“No, I’m fine. We just need to talk.” Sent at 8:20am
“About? Is it bad? –M.J.” Received at 8:21am
“Michael, just come back to my class at lunch. Now get back to your book” Sent at 8:22am
“OK : ) –M.J.” Received at 8:21am.
He sent me a smiley face? I guess I can’t expect him to be worried when I assured him everything is fine.
The class ends and Michael is the last to leave, he is always the last to leave, turning around before walking out and smiles at me.
I just stare at him as he walks out, I can’t bring myself to smile back.
How do you tell a boy it’s over? For Christ sake! A BOY! He is a child! What was I thinking? No I wasn’t thinking! I was stupid. I was reckless! Now, I am paying the price!
At this point I can’t breathe my heart is racing and all the blood rushes from my face, leaving a pale green tint.
“Mr. M, are you OK?” Asks Lena as she walks in to my class.
“Excuse me?” I reply, shaking myself free of my thoughts.
“Like you look a little pale. Are you feeling OK?” she repeats
“Yeah, you do look like you are sick, sir, maybe you should go home and rest.” Aaron says, quickly following behind Lena.
“Oh, ye-. Yes, I’m fine. Just a little bit distracted this morning. I haven’t had my coffee yet. I need my coffee. You all are driving me up the walls today. Don’t worry Aaron I am not sick. You won’t be needing a sub today.” I say unconvincingly. As if on cue my hands find my coffee cup, and begin to drink. I am once again reminded of him, Michael, and my problem. I take a deep gulp and swallow hard on the warm coffee.
I should just tell him, flat out, like a band-aid. “It’s over.”
He deserves more than that. He deserves the truth.
I managed to dismiss most thought of Michael and continue my classes. The coffee helped. The papers are graded and handed back, assignments are handed out and the rest of class periods go by in a blur, a black and teal blur. Until –
Its fifteen minuets until lunch; fifteen minuets until; I tell Michael. My breathing is mimicking my heart beat, as I paced the room, waiting for my students to finish up not alone when he comes in. We need to be alone. Soon the sound of books being stuffed in to bags and zippers sealing shut, begin to fill my classroom, though the bell had yet to ring. They are anticipating the sweet sound, a signal to their freedom and my imprisonment.
There it is. The bell. The class files out, talks of food, where they will be and the general teenage gossip fill the halls, vibrating my room. The door slamming shut, sounds like jailhouse bars locking in to place.
I huddle in my chair, sliding so far down; I might as well be under my desk.
I am alone.
He isn’t here.
Did he forget? Maybe I can just pretend this never happened, go about my life, no phone calls, and no text messages. I could quit. Run away before this whole thing gets out of hand.
It’s already out of hand. I can’t quit.
Either way, if I don’t end it now I won’t have to quit. They will fire my ass and send me to burn in pedophilic hell.
I can feel the sweat in my hands dry and reappear as I calm my breathing.
How is he going to take this? Hopefully he understands the gravity of what’s going on. That this, what we are doing, is wrong.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS HE?” I shout, slapping my face as I try to silence my anxiety. I need to get this over with. By this time I’m pacing left and right, jumping off the walls. The coffee is not helping anymore. I calm myself and sit on my desk facing the door. I sit here reminded of the day this started, the day I enjoyed the company of this boy, this child, on this exact spot.
An Intimate moment with a child, the smell of his neck lingers in my nose. I can still feel the swiftness of his hands to find my body, he knew what he wanted, and mine in turn finding the ends of his shirt to expose his resilient brown skin. I should have stopped him. I tried to.
“No. We can’t, this can’t happen.” I say, half pleading, half accepting.
“I’m turning eighteen soon. No one will find out, everyone just thinks I am getting special attention after school.” He puts “Special Attention” in air quotes.
“You are.” I joked.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was simple, it was innocent, it was a mistake. Michael’s mother, Rhea, called me mid-year, upset with her son’s grades and asked if after class tutoring was an option. After some consideration and schedule evaluations, we set the date. It was arranged that Mondays Wednesdays, and Fridays after school until 4 o’clock, Michael and I would meet.
A few weeks of sessions went by, near the end of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 8” lesson, he diverted from his work to something else.
“I read that Shakespeare was gay. I mean he had a wife and kids, but they said he wrote love letters to men. So this poem he wrote for a guy?” He asked.
“Some scholars like to think so.”
After that the questions about my sexuality, my relationship status, and even my views on same sex marriage arose. Knowing this could only go south, I ended the conversation. I cant exactly put my finger on when between then and now did out meetings go from his desk to the top of mine, but right not my whole fist is on the spot it started.
The door slides open
“The hell have you been?”
“Excuse me?” asked Ms. Ooka.
“Oh. Ana, Sorry waiting for a student to come in for detention. He’s late.”
“and that is how you greet your students?”
“If they are late. Yeah.” I laugh.
Ana being here makes my skin turn green and even I can see it this time. She will know. She has had Michael in class before she knows he isn’t the type for detention. She needs to leave.
“So what’s up?” I asked. Just say “Nothing” and leave.
“Well, I wanted to ask if you could-”
where is he? I swear if he walks through that door he better have enough sense to play along. She needs to go!
“Where are you? Is everything all right? You seem distracted.”
“Oh yeah, I’m just a little off today.”
“yeah, I am ok. I promise.”
“All right. Well, can you?”
“Can I what?”
“See! You weren’t listing to me were you?”
“Sorry. I’m just waiting on a student to come in. He is late.”
“You said that already. So, I need some one to keep an eye on my students next period. Only about 10 minutes.”
I wait by the door. Staring down the hall, like my concern for Ana’s class, it’s empty.
“Oh yeah, my class is starting with their readings, that’s fine.”
I take another look down the hall. No one. Ding. Ding.
What the hell?
I reach into my pocket to grab out my phone. Its not there. FUCK!
I turn to Ana and in her hands, my phone. “Who is Michael?” she says with a shimmy.
“What are you twelve?” I respond.
She breaks in to a smile, and before I can say a word she has the message open and she reads it out loud.
“Sorry babe, After class I went to grab food. I’ll be right there. -M.J.”
Her face darkens and she looks at me confused.
“M.J.? as in James?”
“Ana, let me ex-”
“As in Michael James? The student from your first period Michael james?”
Shit! Shit! Shit!
Blank. That’s the only point I can draw to. Nothing not even a thought. I look at her. She is waiting for some form of explanation. That is what is say.
“I can explain.”
“Explain!” She yells. She walks up to me, although she is almost a whole foot shorter than me at this point, I am the child and she is the adult.
“Explain how there is a sixteen year old boy calling you ‘babe’.” She says in a whisper. “Explain how you are in a romantic and probably physical relationship with a minor?”
“Well?” She is back to yelling. “Go on. Explain!”
“He is 18.”
“He is a student!”
“So I’m assuming you know he can send you to jail, get you fired, basically ruin your life!”
“I know. Believe me, I know!”
“About five months.”
“Didn’t your class have something for him just last month? His birthday was last month wasn’t it?”
“Adam! How could you be so stupid? You need to end it today!”
“I know. I am just trying to figure out everything first.”
“What is there to figure out? You will go to jail. End it!”
“Just what? How did this happen?”
“The tutoring that we were doing?”
“Well that ends today. I am your friend Adam, but I am a teacher first. You need to end this.”
“He still needs help.”
“Fine. I’ll take him. What days and times?”
“I can’t ask you to do that?”
“I’m not doing it for you. He is a student who needs help. Let me continue his lessons and you end it now.”
“I was going to end it today.”
“Am. I am ending it today.”
“I am meeting with Nate’s teacher, I have to go. You need to fix this.”
She leaves and a slight pain settles on my back in her absence.
I am alone.
I slump in to my chair, hoping my desk with over take me and hide me from the world. I don’t want to do this. I have to do this. I jump at the sound of the door creaking open. I check the time, 1129am. Michael walks in.
“You. Are. Late.”
“Sorry. I was hungry. Want some?” He says gingerly holding out a bag of chips in his hand
“No. Listen we need to talk.”
“What? I just got here. No ‘Hello’ ‘How are you?’ nothing?” He winks telling me he wants more that just “hello”.
Right now? With the school filled with students and teachers. All of whom can walk in and expose us both. He must be out of his mind.
“Are you out of your mind?” I scold him.
“So what’s going on? Why are you acting like this?”
“I’m sorry, you know how I feel about you-”
“I do, but what are you trying to say?”
I take a deep breath and look at him.
“Oh. A pause for dramatic effect.” He smiles making sure I know it’s a joke.
“Damn it! No. This can’t go on. This thing. Me and you. What we do. It needs to end.”
His smile quickly leaves his face. “Wait, what? You, you just want to end it? Is it something I did?”
“Just what? You don’t love me anymore? Is there someone else? I thought we were happy? At least I was.”
“Why are you doing this? What can I say to change your mind? Please, tell me.”
I can see the tears welling up in his eyes. If he cries, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Please don’t cry. We sit in silence. Minuets go by before he speaks.
“Fine. I can take a hint. I’ll leave.”
“No! you don’t want to be with me.. That’s all I need to know.”
He is gone before I can say another word.
Lunch is over. The next batch of kids is filing in to my class. I am drained. My head is spinning. Class continues as planned, students behave as expected as Michael, he stays loitering in the back of my mind.
He accepted it, just like that. Was it really that easy for him?
“He just up and left.” I whispered.
“Who?” asked Gena.
“Who left?” She clarified.
“Oh. No one. It’s nothing. Just thinking out loud.” I reassure my students.
The rest of the day goes by all to fast. It isn’t until the end of the day, that I realize its over. We are over.
I am just on my way out, eager to start my weekend, most likely with a drink or two. I open my door to leave and he stands there looking at me. His brown eyes examining me, tracing the dark circles around my own.
“You look like you had a rough day.”
“Michael, what are you doing here?”
“it’s Friday. We have plans today or did you forget?”
“Well, I just figured since we ended things, that was ending too. Anyways I have made arrangements with Ms. Ooka she will be taking care of your sessions from now on.”
“Wow. Just like that?” He snaps his finger at me.
I walk back in to class, set my bags on a nearby desk. He follows me inside and shuts the door.
“Do you not realize what we are doing is wrong? I could lose my job over this! My entire life will be ruined! I will never be allowed to teach again. If this gets out it will not only affect me, but you as well. You think we will get a slap on the wrist and be told to stay away? No! it doesn’t work like that here. Your family will crucify me! This whole school will. I will never see you again. This needs to end NOW!”
“I am not afraid of what they will do to me. I wont tell anyone. Not until, we can be together. I can’t be without you.”
“Please, You don’t know how much this hurts me.”
“You? Hurts you? You are leaving me and you are the one that’s hurting? That’s rich!”
“You. Can’t. Say. You. Don’t. Love. Me.” He says stepping closer with every word.
He grabs my hands, my back, my head. I know what is coming, but I can’t muster up enough strength to stop him. We are once again tangled in each other’s arms. I try to hold on to some sort of stability and free myself from this temptation, but my attempts at hindering his advances are futile.
My hands grab at his shirt once more and my fingertips brush the embroidered school logo, I am immediately thrown to the wall, hands to his chest. I can see the begging in his eyes saying “Please, don’t leave me.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m sorry! We can’t. IT’S OVER!”
He pulls away, and drops to the floor, tears finally making it past his eyes.
“So this is it?”
He has finally stopped sobbing and I take a seat at my desk. I try to compose myself, as he tries to calm his nerves.
“you need to understand why I am doing this. You do understand don’t you?” I ask him.
“Yes, I do. I don’t like it, but I do. This is so stupid.”
“What about it is stupid?”
“Everything I hate how we can’t be together.”
“There will be other people. We can’t take the risk of someone finding out.”
“Others? So, that’s what this is all about? There is someone else? Who? Is he a student?”
“No!” I shout. I am standing at my fullest height now, “there is no one else. Stop acting like a child! There is not, nor has there ever been anyone else! What we are doing is wrong and you know it! The fact that you can’t accept that I could go to jail for this shows that you and I can’t and won’t continue seeing each other.”
“Oh for God’s sake, we can’t have everyone finding out you are fucking the children, can we?” He yells.
“Keep it down if someone hears you!”
“Let them here me! I love you!”
“I can’t love someone who is willing to throw it all away on-”
“I am eighteen its not illegal for me to be in a relationship or to be having sex with someone older.”
“No, but it is wrong for me to be in a relationship with one of my students, especially since the first time we did anything you were seventeen.” I say motioning toward my desk.
The dust has settled from this and the room is still. Time has passed, but neither of us has acknowledged it. There is a knock at the door and in walks Mrs. James.
“Hello Mr. Mason. Michael, are you ready?” she asks.
“Hello Mrs. Ja-”
“What are you doing here?” Michael interrupts.
“You didn’t come out to the car. Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, mom I’ll be right out. I just forgot my book. I had to come back.”
She looks at me and then back at Michael.
“Yes. We were just finishing up here. I am glad you came in Mrs. James. I was going to call you. Unfortunately, I will not be able to continue after school lessons with Michael. I have made arrangements with Ms. Ooka to continue his lessons.” I smile.
Michael cringes as I say this.
“Well that is unfortunate, but thank you for your extra time Mr. Mason. Michael?” she motions for them to leave, but he doesn’t move.
“Yeah, we are done.” He says every word spitting out of his mouth.
He walks out of my class, his mother in tow. He does not look back, does not say good-bye. He walks away as if nothing happened. I am left in my room.
I am alone.