eyes

In the backyard, a hammock stretched between two trees like a fishing net. It was just before our speech communications department’s welcome potluck with fruit-in-wiggly-Jell-O and foil-covered casseroles and jalapeño-cheddar burgers. Amy, the director, was sick. So, Christopher, the assistant director, had hosted it. Out by the hammock, he asked one of the new graduate students if she wanted to have a threesome with him and his fiancé. She walked away.

When it happened, I was looking through the porch’s screen. My girlfriend Lauren and I were ready to eat. The evening tinted darker despite flames licking out of the fire pit.

***

I found porn on my computer, Lauren texted.

I had checked the time on my phone as I made copies of rubrics for class. I wondered what the porn was and how I hadn’t deleted it. I didn’t use my laptop for the Internet, only Lauren’s which was always on. I always covered my tracks by clearing history, emptying cookies, and refreshing the cache. I never downloaded anything and never paid for anything. The laptop had pop-up software and virus detectors. It almost would have been easier to deny the porn if I could pass it off as randomly appearing. Without more information, I needed to be vague.

Do you know anything about this? Lauren texted.

What?! I texted back and then turned off my phone and shoved it in my pocket.

***

One of my students was advocating for emergency poles on campus. Her plan for installing poles in the line of sight all around campus made sense. Then she began to list off other colleges to support her argument. While our university was a public research school, the ones she used were historically women-only private institutions.

I’d had another female student attempt to turn in a persuasive topic calling all women to not walk alone at night. In office hours, I had asked her if our town was unsafe. And were only women at risk? I didn’t ask if all crime—want of money, want of flesh, want of power—was mostly done by men. The girl changed her topic to suggest every college student not walk alone.

During the emergency pole speech, I didn’t interrupt. I let her finish. The class applauded as they always did. I wrote on the notes section of her rubric: So, are men the real problem?

excavation coverFall 1986

“Open your notebooks,” Mr. Ivers ordered, stepping backward from us, his eyes blinking rapidly behind his glasses. I saw a glimmer of a smile, and then a furrowed brow in mock seriousness.

“You’re going to use these notebooks to compose journal entries. You’ll turn the notebooks in to me once a week, every week. You can write about whatever you want, so long as there’s evidence of writing somewhere, somehow, in that notebook. Got it?” He held his elbows. He caught my eye.

 

When I first started working in China, my students laughed at my name. A day or two later, as I talked with my manager, I was told that my name had been a bit of a problem in the hiring process. “Our last teacher was called David,” he told me. “The Chinese didn’t want us to hire another one.”

I thought this more than a little strange. If my name had been “David Hitler” or “Kim Jong-David”, then it might have been a little more understandable… But even so, I couldn’t imagine why my name – surely one of the least imaginative a parent could bestow upon a child – had been jinxed by whoever came before me.

Then the stories came out, albeit slowly. My co-workers – a friendly and talkative bunch with whom I can discuss just about anything – were very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of “Crazy David”, as he was known.

I learned a few things about him that began to explain why he was so intensely disliked:


As soon as I enter the room I want to fuck someone. A kaleidoscope of colors and words assaults me.

While other students filter to their seats, I’m bewitched by a canopy of poetry scribbled in bad penmanship on all the walls and ceiling. A banner of Blake reads:

The unfolding of the imagination is the only true education.

The bell rings and a buck-toothed dancer in pink tights and high-waisted tweed shorts brushes past me hurrying to her desk. I scan the room for a seat and find one near the back corner underneath a verse of Poe.

While I’m reading the wall, Tom Dillon walks through the door in a white t-shirt, ripped Levi’s and clunky motorcycle boots, duct tape holding the soles and buckles digging canyons into the leather.

 

We make eye contact and time goes all gooey while he walks to his desk, a desk I long to mount. Instead, he climbs atop, the desk, not me, unfortunately, and roars, “I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.”

Ok, maybe I don’t want to fuck him. Maybe he’s just a dork who watched Rebel Without a Cause orEasy Rider one too many times. Maybe he won those boots off an East Side Rider in a back-alley gambling ring. My dad once won a 1969 Jose Ramirez classical guitar in a poker game.

Mr. Dillon pounds his chest, another yawp I presume, but I’m not really sure because I’m no longer listening. I’m watching his mouth, the way it puckers when he comes to the end of a phrase.

He reminds me of a rooster my grandparents once had who used to chase the dogs with his chest puffed out.

“Full of hot air,” my Grandpa used to say before the IRS killed him.

I look around to see if any of the other kids in my class are buying what Mr. Dillon’s selling. Three inky-haired goth girls wiggle their asses in their seats, and the boy next to me wearing a shredded Day-Glo jacket and oversized rhinestone earrings checks out Mr. Dillon’s package.

It is a nice package, I note. Nothing like a dick in Levi’s. I can imagine the boxers underneath. Probably light blue. Maybe striped. I sneak my hand into the cotton hole; feel the steamy warmth, the flesh of the balls, warm and soft, like fresh baked dinner rolls.

“Stop staring,” the boy next to me snaps.

“You’re the one who was staring. I was just trying to figure out what you were staring at.”

He scoots closer. “He’s fucking hot, don’t you think?”

I glance over at Mr. Dillon possessed by the Whitman rant.

“His teeth are kinda small,” I break. I don’t want to be one more groupie.

“You’re fucking crazy,” my Day-Glo pal snipes. “You can’t tell me you’d kick him out of bed.”

“Eh,” I reply, shrugging my shoulders like he’s no big deal.

Mr. Dillon seems enraptured by the poem, but I can’t help wondering what the big fucking deal is with Whitman and why Mr. Dillon seems so moved by him.

Or is he? Maybe he’s just another poser sycophant teacher who wants to ride the clock and fuck all the little girls. He keeps reading:

I think I could turn and live with animals,

They’re so placid and self contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God…

Though I don’t want to, I love him. His small teeth. His big feet. The way he colors his world with bright hues. The way he smirks when he gets to the end of a stanza.

I’d never loved a teacher before. Some of the girls in junior high were crazy about Mr. Nuggins, but I thought he had a big butt. There were also rumors at my last high school that Mr. Millie raped a student, but then that student was expelled, so I gathered it was all bullshit.

My earliest teachers were nuns with nose hairs and halitosis. Not very fuckable nuns. Not like Julie Andrews or anything. Except Sister Brigettte; she was pretty, even if she didn’t wash her hands all the time. They always smelled of cigars and shrimp.

When I switched to public school after my parents divorced, I spent most of my time practicing my super powers to turn invisible, so I didn’t pay too much attention to my teachers, which worked out great because they didn’t pay too much attention to me, either.

“I heard he’s fucking Amy Wattingen,” my new friend purrs, pulling me out of myself.

“Who’s Amy Wattingen?” I ask, scanning the room of fluttering eyelashes.

Day-Glo examines his navy blue nails for chips. “Oh, she’s in regular English,” whispering the word like it was pedophilia or cancer.

“Is she pretty?” I ask, regretting it immediately. I sound jealous.

I am jealous.

“She’s tall and thin,” he laments, sucking in his cheeks like a New York junkie. “Go ahead and hate her. I do.”

I turn to my book, ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I’m jealous of a girl I don’t know. Ashamed that I love a man I don’t know. Ashamed that at the end of the day I’m just like everyone else, falling for some scruffy boots and a line of poetry. Not like he wrote the goddamned poem. 

I didn’t want to be like everyone else, so I vowed to fall out of love with Mr. Dillon immediately. Love was a choice, and I would simply make another. But as he climbed off his desk, I noticed a small hole in the crotch of his jeans. Though but a fleeting glance, what I saw made time stop and go all gooey again. 

Mr. Dillon wasn’t wearing underwear. No boxers. No briefs. No tighty whities.

Blake me now.