My Day at the Podium

Thirty slack-jawed faces sit atop awkwardly slumped bodies.  Half-mast eyes reveal several students skimming the surface of sleep.   Above the chalkboard, the clock’s arrows resemble the ring and pinky finger on my right hand.  From an open palm, a head succumbs to unchecked gravity and smacks against a wooden desk.  Two muffled giggles ensue.

” – and what interests me is how you get there – ”

As he speaks to the room, CC Xander can feel his armpits swamping.  Dangling from the bottom lip of the classroom’s worst student, a string of saliva is now pooling into a near-perfect oval. Food coma is rampant and a faint digestive smell exists.  On the leeward-most row, a tank-topped sixteen year old is trying to control an undesirable erection and suffering the sort of embarrassed and acne-laden angst your average teenage boy knows all too well.  Behind him, a cheerleader is air-tracing his shoulder tattoo.   On the clock, the fourth finger ticks one degree east.   Xander experiences intellectual numbness the way crack addicts experience withdrawal.

” – because ultimately you have to come to some conclusions about yourself. About your principles.  And it’s pretty fucking hard to know where to turn for all that, right?”

Hoping his erection will subside, the driver’s licensed kid is flexing his thighs.   From a distant desk, there is a sucking sound.  The class’s regular teacher gnaws on one of her cuticles with canine intensity.  From the back row a hand ascends above a gentile head decorated with very uncool spectacles.  Adjacently, a peer crosses his legs and turns away.

Half-closed (pessimistic perhaps) eyes open wide above a voice. “The Church teaches us what is right.”

Xander locks onto the intrusion into his now-unconscious ramblings.  Moral majority nitwits permeate secular education and despite Xander’s efforts to introduce original thought into America’s classrooms, religious dogma has a history of credibility – this despite the fact that facts have nothing to do with faith.  Zealots are a lost cause, mutually.  Still, working through the arguments might help some of the kids so:

“And you are certain your religion is correct? That your moral foundation is irrefutable even though it may fly in the face of other religions, religions which have billions of followers whose faith and commitment is on parallel with yours?  Are you so devout that you won’t allow for the possibility that other ethical systems might prove more effective, or at the very least, more intriguing?”

“What God says is incontrovertible. I follow his word.”

“Your God?  Or Allah? Or Yahweh? Or Buddha? Because you rest on a tenuous foundation if all of your principles are based on faith.  More importantly, if you haven’t come to your own conclusions about things, and I mean really worked shit out in those young brains, you are headed for a miserable life. The word “screwed” comes to mind.”

His erection deflated, the grateful teen shifts in his seat.  A classmate massages the bump on his forehead.  The cheerleader considers the possible sexual positions which would allow her to visually access the tattoo during intercourse.  Back by the water fountain, a girl is having a go at herself, the dry skin flakes lifting off her forearm with every side-to-side nail scratch, the red swelling of her forearm becoming brighter and brighter until at some point the whole thing resembles a baboon’s ass with a dandruff problem, poor kid. Time is now flaccid.

“What I’m driving at here, in a bright red Ferrari mind you, is that you have to start thinking about this stuff.  You can’t just go on trusting news sources or parents or peers or religions or anything else that preaches some moral philosophy, because when it comes right down to it, when the feces pummels those spinning blades, you need to know where you stand, on your own terms, irrefutably.”

Xander steals a look at the clock. Big hand lifting Southwest.  Time is almost up on several accounts.  He touches the cotton at his sleeve’s edge and stares out at the numb class, wondering if anyone in this generation has the intellectual wherewithal to say anything inspiring.  A Spanish boy in the middle of the room appears to either be pondering a fly on the ceiling or searching his cranial cavity for something to grasp.

Twirling her hair, the cheerleader chirps “But who really cares about that stuff?  Most of us aren’t going to be in your situation, probably none of us I mean, really.  So, so what if we don’t have principles and stuff.  I mean, yea, they’re important and stuff, but we don’t need them now, and probably not soon, and you know what I mean, er, not really?”

The dull ache of something intestinal twists inside Xander.  The nerdy kid removes his lenses and rubs the bridge of his nose.

“It’s not a matter of whether there will come a time where you need principles.  Understanding how you come to conclusions informs every decision you make.  And most of you, in fact I’m wiling to bet all of you, have no idea where you get your opinions on things, unless you start to think about it, at which point you’ll start to get a little peeved…sorry I mean pissed off… that no one ever told you to stop listening to them and to think for yourself, which is in itself a command, so it sort of negates the whole thing, but then, you get the point, I hope.”

Clock’s extended hand and tattooed boy, once again, both point vertically. Aluminum legs grate against laminate flooring and students shuffle backpacks from seat to shoulder.  Cuticles clean, the teacher lifts a manicured hand Northward and points toward the imminent bell.  Someone belches.  At the head of the classroom, Xander stands waiting for the stray student who feels compelled to approach and tell him how well he or she related to his words.

There is a mass exodus of humanity as students tumble through the far door, their squished arms and hot breath hitting each other with the sort of innocent behavioral malaise one expects from youth, the inappropriate ass-grabbing and arm punching and intermittent giggling all part of the maturing process, all happening as Xander watches the Spanish boy approach.

“I just want to say thanks. I mean, I sort of, you know, I kinda get what you were saying, in a way.”

“I see.”

Xander sees the fidgeting fingers and averted eyes conveying this boy has already lost something of his innocence.

“My Dad, you know, he sells drugs to some people that shouldn’t be around our house, and, you know, I mean, I have two little brothers that I’m sort of like the real father to, and then the other night things got pretty bad and I think I just wanted to protect my little brothers, you know, and so, I, you know, like turned him in.”


“Did you feel lighter when you did what you did?”

“Lighter?” Xander pauses.  “Hmm, good question. I’m not sure I’d use the word lighter so much as cleaner, like I’d been relieved of something dirty.”

“Yea, I get that.  Anyway, thanks for speaking today.”

“Listen, you did the right thing, ok.  Sometimes it sucks, but one day twenty years from now you will look into the mirror at your life’s memories and you’ll know you were way more mature in your youth than most people on their deathbeds. You did good.  No matter what the consequences, you did good.”

Spanish pride appears in a lifted lip,  the subtle swell of a chest,  a quicker step.

“Thanks again. See ya.”

By ccxander

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