I regret that I am not going to be a student ever again. A real student I mean, with an assigned desk, a name tag, a government-issued pencil, composition books, wooden ruler.

Standing in line for my turn at the hand crank pencil sharpener mounted on the wall beside the globe we are not supposed to spin. Why not. Will we make the world too dizzy?

I regret that I am not going to be a real student again with hand-me-down, hard cover textbooks. All dog-eared and water-stained. Covers scuffed, ripped. Punctured by what, the dagger on the end of a silver compass? Names of the students before me listed inside the front cover where I add my name and erase it a hundred times because I can’t get my writing to look cool enough.

I regret that I won’t hear my name in attendance roles, that I can’t find my home room, my locker, the entrance to the gym, the cafeteria, the auditorium. Where is my bus, my lunch table, the idea that everything I did would lead me to some preordained and glorious destiny. To my unique place in this world, to my purpose in life. To what I will be when I grow up.

Here is what I regret the most. That day my best friend Lisa forgot how to make her fingers move inside the music room that reeked of motor oil. The only classroom in the basement. There were no windows. The door always closed to not disturb, whom exactly? Our voices walking to that classroom, past the boiler room and janitorial closets, like a cannon ball rolling around in huge metal tub, as if someone had melted the tuba to take a bath.

Lisa, her hands frozen in air over piano keys. A person in an oil painting, or rain clouds over a person in an oil painting. I, the page turner, seated beside her. We’d practiced, you see, at her house in her sunken living room with the white shag carpet and the baby blue velvet furniture.

I didn’t look at her. Her tears wetting the keys, the white ones, the black ones. I held my breathe.

The teacher folded herself at the waist like a playing card, brought drumsticks down hard and swift. Lisa’s fingers dipped and struck an awful music. She might have cried out.  I’m not sure. Two more hearty whacks, and we were back in our seats, Lisa’s hands red in her lap. Why wasn’t she rubbing them. She needed ice, but the door was closed.

Now someone was playing notes so easily, so clearly. I’ve heard them ever since. Why didn’t I get to my feet and shove that monster. Why didn’t I rise up, take my friend by the forearm and drag her out of that room.

Yes, yes, the obvious reasons. Blah. Blah. Blah. Teacher, Student. Adult, Child. Authority Figure.

I don’t buy it.

What are you going to be when you grow up.

A coward?

 

Virginia Watts

Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found in Illuminations, The Florida Review, Burningword Literary Journal, The Moon City Review, Permafrost Magazine, Palooka Magazine, Streetlight Magazine, Sky Island Journal among others. Winner of the 2019 Florida Review Meek Award in nonfiction and nominee for Best of the Net Nonfiction 2019 and 2020, her poetry chapbooks “The Werewolves of Elk Creek” and “Shot Full of Holes” are upcoming for publication by The Moonstone Press. She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize.

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