A three year-old tottering up the sidewalk starts to tip over backwards because she's lost herself in the sunglare of the passing ten year-old's bicycle spokes. He squeals his brakes to gape at the 24 year-old foreigner trudging the other way in yesterday's jeans and a synthetic fur-lined coat that looks thrift storey but really cost him close to 200 American dollars. In seven years, the 24 year-old thinks, the three year-old will be another ten year-old coasting along on a bike. In fourteen years, the ten year-old will be another 24 year-old floundering around a foreign land he knows almost nothing about because he can't find sane work in the country of his birth. Birth; walking by one, pooping in the can by two, reading by six, nocturnally emitting by 13, having second thoughts about everything by 24, what then? ... Our lives unfurl with increasing slowness while our surroundings speed up exponentially. How weird, he thinks, everything must seem to the elderly.
By dinner time, a six year-old affectionately known as "Fart Boy" has kicked me twice, square in the crotch. After the first kick, I get that post-soccer-ball-impact upswell of nausea and hobble to the bathroom, hovering over the can waiting for the puke that doesn't come. After the second kick, I feel positively nothing, I just stand there looking nonplussed. On neither occasion do I use my powers of bigness to scare the shit out of the little shit. But then, a six year-old who is kicking his English teacher in the balls twice in the same day is probably on the right track.
Today has been one of those not infrequent days where the 3rd graders scream for the sake of screaming. A test of the emergency broadcast system. Children ought to be schooled on farms or, when plausible, in the depths of blackest space. Trapping kids in classrooms, arranging their desks so they can be hoppingly navigated like lilly pads, arming them with toys like ceiling fans and markers and whiteboards and flashlights and chairs and windows and electrical outlets and fire extinguishers to play with, giving their high-frequency sound waves four walls to ricochet off of before they come slashing down into my eardrums like drumsticks shaped into shanks, Why?
Teaching in tongues. Give me a black marker and I swear I become a different person. I dislike that person. He's loud and sulky, prone to ranting. Today's pearls:
(after I've kicked over a desk in the front row, I rear my head and bellow so loudly the plexiglas windows rattle in their wooden casings)
"You like being loud, huh? Well, guess what? I can be even louder than you!"
(intoned in a heartbroken warble as I doodle frowning stick figures on the whiteboard with my back to the class)
"Fine. If you won't listen to me, I'll just teach myself."
"A superintendent is almost the same as a plumber. And who was the most famous plumber of all time? Mario. And what console did Mario Brothers come out on? That's right: Super Nintendo. And Super Nintendo is almost the same as superintendent! Um, but it's spelled and pronounced differently."
Who says these things? Where do these words come from? Not from any mental state that could be called consciousness.
The elementary schoolers blast out of school around 7 PM, leaving in their wake a murder scene of Dixie cups and red sauce. The middle schoolers ooze in with their humid troposphere of sweat and octopus chips. The ecstasy of early childhood, the heroin withdrawal of adolescence, the rickety Temple of Doom bridge that sags down between the two. I make my first class of 7th graders act out a skit.
Tony: Surp is up, doody.
Surf's up, dude.
Tony: ... surp's is up ... dude.
Denise: Hey. Tony. I heard you lik-ee to catch-ee some wabes? I'm Liza's priend-uh, Dennis.
Jamal: What's up. Dennis. How - [suddenly realizes he is black, points this out to Tony and Denise, the three of them keel over laughing]
What's so funny?
Jamal: Teacher. Oh my God. I am look like ugly monkey.
Ten o'clock. My last class, 8th graders. They're sucked into to their cell phones within the first five minutes, so I get sulky and start writing Polish on the board. It takes a few minutes for the ringtones to fade, but my cryptic scrawling of seemingly random c's and z's gradually woos their interest for some reason.
"Teacher, what that?"
"Przepraszam. It's Polish for 'Excuse me,'" I say. "You bump into some drunk on the tram, you say, 'Przepraszam.'"
"Teacher, how say?"
[in unison] "Shuh-pra-shahm."
[As if awakening from a prolonged vegetative state, several students glance from whiteboard to notebook, notebook to whiteboard ... I stare back, aghast ... they are taking notes!]
"Teacher, Poland speak, what hello?"
By the time the bell rings, they are saying hello, excuse me, goodbye, thank you, goodnight, my cat is black, chattering away like little Copernici. They are saying things in Polish that they probably can't say in English. I leave class looking constipated. In the water cooler reflection I can see the new cowlick that's sprouted from the back of my head flapping around like a car antennae; I didn't have a cowlick before I got everything straightened out. On the heels of this marginal teaching success, I'm thinking that my foppish personality might not be the problem. Maybe I'm just teaching the wrong language. Tomorrow: Plattdeutsch, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, American Sign, morse code ...
My copy of Infinite Jest has a knife wound that doesn't heal until page 157, where there is only the faintest dot of a dent under the word "fellow" in the sentence, "She was in love from afar with this fellow Marlon Brando, son." The book was stabbed on a Sunday morning before dawn two years ago by Jared in one of his whiskey knife rampages. With the same miniature bowie knife that he had earlier used to gouge a chunk of plaster out of our living room wall, he pitched Infinite Jest into the air and stabbed it in the heart, sending it tumbling an impressive ten feet across the room, where it thumped onto the couch and sat there bouncing up and down on the seat cushion for maybe ten minutes.
Infinite Jest is 1079 pages long, not including inside covers (of which there are several), a section dedicated to critical acclaim, and copyright pages. The margins are creepily slim.
Reading Infinite Jest is going to make the next four months more inconvenient than they're already going to be. After a day and a half of lugging it around, my right lugging bicep is already bluish and lumpy from so much lugging. On top of all the lugging, there is the added burden of explaining to people why I'm lugging around this brightly colored pretentious-looking book, and as most of the people I encounter in my lugging are Korean, there is the added added burden of explaining to them that the tome I'm lugging around is not The Bible, though it may one day become something like it.
I just devoured a marine eel (acoustic) in its entirety. According to the local folklore that surrounds all slimy, red, phallic-shaped beasts of the murky depths, choking down all those tiny eelbones is really going to do wonders for my stamina.