She was a tyrant; but somehow I loved that, even in the third grade. Her ruthless instructional strategies led me to not only learn long division but to strengthen my imagination: her invasive methods became analogous in my dreams, where she would climb into my room at night and kidnap me. A search would ensue, the whole neighborhood involved—but most of the screen time would be devoted to me, tied up on a chair in her house… that’s all I can remember. Everything else is vague, accompanied only by an eerie mix of fear, fascination, and arousal.
Her ignorance of my unfortunate social situation did not deter my pursuit. I stayed after school incessantly, conversing with her so she’d recognize me as a person outside my silent classroom presence. When by chance I found out her first name, I teased her coquettishly for months. Hard as I tried, though, all attempts failed miserably. Maybe it was her so-called fiance. Maybe she just wasn’t into nine-year-old girls. (That I could understand—but it didn’t always help. Accepting that something is morally wrong doesn’t mean the pain will go away.)
I don’t remember our final good-bye, that fateful last day of class. Perhaps there wasn’t one; perhaps the embarrassment of my failed wooing disguised itself as indifference as I bolted out of there without a word. I knew I’d never see her again. I’d never see any of them again. For that summer, we moved away.
Later on, I am walking down a crowded urban sidewalk, my third-grade teacher and first crush the farthest thing from my mind. I am thinking about work, about love, about my upcoming life of grandeur. I am thinking so much I almost zone out as the moving crowd of which I am part suddenly stops at a red light.
I only begin to think about how much Times Square smells and why did I come all the way up here anyway? when something to my left catches my eye. Never one to not, I look. A silky sheen of long red hair always draws my attention—hell, it’d draw anybody’s, if it’s as thick and bright as this was.
She is diagonally in front of me if you go by our relationship in this crunched, cubic consortium of people. A glimpse of her face for a moment leads me to think: Hey, that looks like my third-grade teacher, only older. Another glimpse and I really think she does. But wait, I say to myself. She would be older, wouldn’t she? Fifteen years is not a stroll in the park for most. Another glimpse and the light turns, the crowd starts to walk. She and I are brought along with it. I quicken my pace just a tad so I am closer to her. I recognize her gait immediately—firm and powerful whilst also casual and alluring. Oh my fucking Lord, I think to myself. It’s her. Her. Herrrr…
At the next light, the next stop, I turn to her completely. With this better look I note the obvious changes the years have seen to: a few wisps of gray amongst the red, a few subtle crows feet aroundst the eyes—all testaments to a life spent drilling the proper usages of grammar into the sponge-like minds of pre-teens.
She turns to me, with what could almost, but not quite, be considered a double-take. I immediately say “hi” so as not to make her feel too uncomfortable, then almost as immediately state her name—first name included!—in question form. She nods. Affirmative.
I smile. I try desperately to keep it from peeling my face off.
She doesn’t exactly remember me. I don’t expect her to. We talk until our unmoving bodies are being lightly shoved and jostled by the crowd which has started moving again. On a whim I ask if she wants to get a drink. Also on a whim, she agrees. Our respective plans simply have to be put on hold for this reunion.
We haven’t been sitting in the pub for very long when she says it. My pint of Guinness has settled, a deep sip has been removed. Her whiskey sour—I’d expect no less—sits casually in front of her, blocking the view of the pattern across the chest of her shirt.
“I remember you now.” A small smile.
“Oh really?” I put down my pint, now missing two sips.
“Yea. You were so quiet in class, that’s why I couldn’t place you. I usually remember my kids by how they were in class. But you—you were so silent. But talking to you now I started to remember some of your mannerisms—you know it’s funny how similar some people are to the way they were as children. Then I remembered how we’d talk after class sometimes, and how funny and lively you seemed. Such a difference from how you were during class. And then I saw how much the kids teased you at recess, and sometimes right in the classroom. I felt so bad, I really wanted to do something to help you, something. But the administration wouldn’t let me—they had some policy of not allowing teachers to get involved in student peer relations.”
“Those evil bastards.”
“They really were.”
The conversation progresses, and there is more and more laughter. I don’t know if it was her drink or my winning personality, but she seems to be warming up to me. On my end, no warming is necessary—from the moment I first recognized her on that now fateful street corner, all my memories of and feelings for her came rushing back. The fear, fascination, and arousal define themselves more clearly than they ever had while sitting across from her, our knees occasionally making brief contact underneath the tall standard bar table. Only now, I’m not nine years old. Oh, no. I have long since finished puberty and I know exactly what those feelings meant.
Her face softens, to a level I have never seen on her before. We are two adults, talking about adult things. I have no reason to suspect she will turn stern and begin interrogating me about the solar system. And yet, it amazes me that she does not.
She’s closer than she was before. I watch her interact with me. Her hand sometimes comes to rest on my own, when making a particularly passionate point. I watch her eyes, which are often drawn in the general direction of my unshaven underarms on the few occasions when they were revealed, their sometimes controversial existence only partially hidden by my shirt. These glances are not accompanied by the frequent and thus easily identifiable looks of contempt, but of something else… oh, I don’t know—fear, fascination, and arousal? She even asks if she can run her fingers along my soft, freshly buzzed head hair. I of course let her.
I’m getting a good idea of what’s going on. I am easily pigeon-holed: an independent, free-spirited young woman, bordering on hipsterdom, obviously queer, and probably pretty liberated—maybe even sexually, I can almost hear her mind unwillingly run with. She, on the other hand, had settled down early in life (with aforementioned fiance), and is maybe on the verge of a mid-life crisis. She wants to feel young again and, perhaps, a little deviant.
It’s not long after I make these connections that I’m bringing her home.
She’s in my apartment, a glass of egg nog in her hand, admiring some of the original photographs framed on the walls (the guise that brought her here). I stand next to her and put my arm around her, my hand coming to rest on her back, near her shoulder. Moments pass. She leans into me, almost enough that I don’t think I’m imagining it. Moments pass. My hand slowly treks downward. She’s been looking at this one photograph for an awful long time. Moments pass. I step in front of her. I give her time to pull away from me in disgust and horror. She does not. Quite the contrary. She kisses me almost before I kiss her.
Moments pass. The egg nog rests solitary on the countertop.
“Who’s in charge now, baby?” I whisper as the landscape of body shudders and grows beneath me.
(Published in the Spring 2006 issue of Antioch College student publication Livermore Street.)