One Monday during lunch I was sitting at my desk listening to a band from my high school. I was in one of those pseudo-depressive moods where I fantasized about being a rockstar but knew that I was probably making the right decision by teaching after all.
Sweetheart, stay gold
I’ve known so many others
But you say, stay a lover
Jasmine came in to cut class. I knew that she belonged in senior English, right down the hallway, but her genuine interest in me often bought her several minutes of conversation as well as a free pass with my invaluable signature. She would always ask what I was teaching in class that day, followed by a chuckle, as if to say, “I remember those days! Ahhh, the joys of being a naïve freshman in physical science class.” She was often incorrect in her recollection of the material. Then Kyren walked in.
“Mr. Galt, I can have one of these zip loc bags for weed?” He walked to the corner of my desk and removed one of the plastic bags that I was using for lab materials.
“I’m just playin’, Mr. Galt.”
Then I kicked them out to go “make copies”. I just needed a break from teenagers, but I figured It wouldn't hurt to make some copies. The only place to print in the building is the library on the first floor. I had a feeling that the library would be full, and it was. I was walking down the large, open hallway near the front office when I ran into Officer Johnson. He went out of his way to free up his right hand in order to give me a firm handshake. He’s a great guy. His shoulders are starting to sag. He once remarked to me that he had “Worked the overnight shift at the prison and came straight to school at 7. I’m getting too old for this bullshit.” He’s a security guard who makes every effort to take command of the situation but somehow fails to hide his love for kids. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
“Off to lunch, Mr. Galt?”
“Uh, yea.” I figured it would be easier just to lie than to explain that I was wandering around school in order to avoid hanging out with kids in my classroom.
“Where you goin’?”
“Ummmm,” I stammered, “McDonald's.” That seemed like a normal place to be headed for a lunch break, right?
“Wanna grab me a Big Mac?”
“What? Oh, Big Mac? Yea… you want a Big Mac?” Shit. I didn’t actually want to, or have time to go to McDonald's.
“Yea, if you don’t mind. And some fries too. You got enough money?”
“Yea. No problem.”
I laughed as I pushed the heavy doors aside and walked out into the heat of the parking lot.
“This is ridiculous.”
Hannah later made fun of me for being such a pushover. She asked me, rhetorically, "How many Big Macs are you going to have to buy in your lifetime?"
It must have looked silly when I returned to school and handed Officer Johnson the McDonald's bag with nothing for myself. Whatever. I went back upstairs where Kyren and Jasmine soon found me again. Kyren asked me how old I was.
“Damn, so you’re only seven years older than me.”
I was glad I lied. We were really only separated by 4 years. He started asking me all about college. He was getting so excited when I told him how much fun it was.
“Isn’t it a lot of work?”
“Yea, but you get to sleep in until like 10 every day.”
He asked me all about dorm life, girls, and stuff like that. He asked how long I had been living in New Orleans.
“Only like 4 months.”
“Where do you live?”
“Uptown. I live with two other teachers.”
“Okay, I noticed this last year. Why do all of the… well… I don’t want to be disrespectful. But, like, why do all the… Caucasian teachers have roommates?”
“Haha. Well, it’s cheaper.”
“Uptown is a really rough place to live, right?”
“Uptown? No, it’s like the nicest place to live in the city. You’ve never been there?”
“Nah. I’ve only been over the river a couple times.”
“Have you been to Bourbon Street?”
Geez. This kid has lived in New Orleans for 18 years and he hasn’t been Uptown or to Bourbon Street? New Orleans is NOT a big city. They weren’t kidding at professional development when they said these kids have never left the ‘hood.
“So, where do you go on Friday or Saturday night?" I asked. "I mean, I guess you’re not 21 yet.”
“Yea. Also, my mom doesn’t really like to let me go out. I have younger siblings and stuff so she’s always worried about me.”
“Well, that’s probably a good thing. Next year when you get to college you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.”
A wave a wonder lit up his face. This kid couldn’t WAIT to get to college.
“It’s really like that?”
“Yea. You’re gonna love it.”
“Would you ever go back?’
“In a heartbeat.”
Later in the afternoon I was sitting at my desk working on a review sheet for my physics class. I began the worksheet by listing a bunch of jobs that require a background of physics knowledge because I fear that my students do not understand why they should give a fuck. I had a Coldwar Kids playlist on Spotify playing in the background. Damian and Matthew were sitting in the back of room messing around on the computers.
“Why you always listen to that White, I mean, rock music?” inquired Damian.
“It’s not White music,” Matthew corrected him, “It’s Caucasian music.”
“Why do you think I listen to White music?”
“Cause you White.”
“You ever heard that song, Mr. Galt, that goes like, ‘wake me up inside?’”
“I dunno, just type it in.”
“What’s the name?”
“Wake me up inside.” I typed it into the search window.
“Ohh, the song by Evanescence?”
“Now THAT is some White music,” I proclaimed to the back of the room.
“Yea I know, but I love that song. You ever listen to that song and watch a Dragon Ball Z video?” Matthew asked.
“I can’t say I have.”