He sits down next to me on the first day of class,
Handsome, anxious, pensive.
The proximity to another human being makes me shrink against my seat.
Murmurs swarm the air,
Of awful jobs and horrendous dates and weather
That stirs up muddy filth and homicidal urges.
Hey, he says, and I nearly jump. I smile and say hello.
Wide, intelligent eyes framed by a dark and beautiful face
Make my hands shake as I reach in my bag for a pencil.
He asks me if I’m excited for this semester.
I tell him I’d rather be at home playing Minecraft.
He laughs. Acquaintanceship has been broached.
He tells me that his sister lost her license,
That he almost didn’t make it today because his parents made him drive her.
Is there a favoritism issue somewhere in there?
He rolls his eyes.
Does them making me pay for her Starbucks when she has no job answer your question?
When I laugh and nod, he turns toward me a little.
Conversation has started.
I have actually made a friend.
The second hand hits the twelve and class begins.
Syllabus, expectations, weekly assignments, no extra credit. We begin chapter one.
The PowerPoint is in Garamond, the bullet points are little stars.
You draw faded, Expo marker lines between us. Dissect the room.
Teach us the futility of fairness, the satire that is understanding
And guilt piles onto my shoulders
For the actions of my great grandfathers and their fathers before them.
Pens tap on papers, pop cans hiss open.
A chime – someone was just mentioned on Twitter.
You reveal the subliminal messages
In everything we do;
The fear we don’t realize we’re feeling
And the oppression exacted by people who don’t intend it.
Monsters or victims,
No one is the equal.
I look down at my spidery hands,
At the sickly-pale skin
And what it represents.
The shrill cry of a zipper welcomes another – and another –
A whirlwind of coats and purses ensues as the period nears its close.
You give us our homework – one through seven in complete sentences.
The boy turns toward me now,
His lips parted to speak
I duck my head to hide behind my hair
Gather my books
And hurry out the door.