Friday, October 13, 2006
That Bag Is Bigger Than You!
I can’t remember the first time I carried a gun to class, you know, the particulars, what the weather was or if I saw a carved-in jack-o-lantern on my way to class, you know, the details I’m always stressing to my students -- the abstract doesn’t work! I do, however, remember the student who inspired me to it, an ex-Marine named Karl who had an aura that said things, things like this man is a rapist/serial killer/torturer of animals. I'd just turned twenty-one and had my first class to teach, a freshman comp class that met every Tuesday and Thursday. I'd never so much as been a teacher's aide and the thought of filling an hour and a half already had sent me into thoughts of terror. The night before I was to teach, I did my laundry at rundown place by the university and thought about a lesson plan. A woman started to talk to me about her life in the battered women's shelter. I listened to get my mind off my fear and fixed on the fact that she said that nothing but writing in her journal had allowed her to move on with her life, get out of the abuse. Looking back, I realize she also spent a lot of time talking about fear and intimidation and if I had been more attuned, I would have realized that in addition to the cosmic support she lent me for my chosen profession (writing and teaching others to write), she had also given me a grim warning about what else I was to encounter in my life for the next few years.
Karl left my class after a series of incidents, but my fear didn't. I noticed that the students never sat in the chair that he had occupied, even though there was no formal seating arrangement. I suppose the choices we make ourselves are always more lasting than the ones issued to us. Having taken a gun safety class the year before, I had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, although I never thought I would use it. The gun rested in a side pocket of my backpack for years. It took up room, had weight. I carried it with all the other things I chose to lug around -- books and papers, anxiety like a chronic illness. Like with the late point in most addictions, the gun didn't make me feel any better, but I couldn't do without it. I gave it up eventually, but it wasn't easy. I backed away from my fear as if it were a snake, something beautiful and deadly that I would miss, if only for the room it took up, the weight it had, the power to define the days. I don't carry half of what I used to around anymore, but sometimes I miss the way that my things used to wear me down, the comments people made -- Hey, that bag is bigger than you! and the mark on my shoulder from all the weight I was carrying.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all." Buddy Guy
Drinking music suggestion: Burning Hell John Lee Hooker
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday the 13th!