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01.25.05 7:52 p.m.

What I fear the most about stress is not that it kills, but that it prevents one from savoring life.  

-Jean-Louis Seven-Schreiber


Previously in Xenology: Xen was a teaching student, despite his best intentions. Conor vanished occasionally.


I drove to Cold Spring with the explicit purpose of getting beads for Emily. She has made a hobby of creating malas to give away and I sought to validate this with shiny rocks. This may be a microcosm of our relationship.

While this was my explicit purpose, my real intention was to track down Conor. Through my younger brother, I had learned where he worked, though not when. Conor had not been responding to my calls and thus stalking was the next logical step. There are few steps in my world and subtle desperation can only last so long.

Wandering down the hill, I ran through the theoretical interaction with Conor in my head. I tried petulance and sarcasm, but neither made a lick of sense when Conor was added to the mental equation. He may have ignored me for more than half of the year, but a slight feeling of wounded rejection was all that I could muster. Conor is not wholly in this world and has forgotten than many fascinating people existed, but I had always marked myself as excluded from their growing ranks.

I went to Conor's bookstore first, not wishing to waste any potential time that could spend pestering him should the intelligence I received actually be correct. Even in my stalking, I lack nuance.

The main room contained no trace of Conor, not that I could have justified what qualified as a trace of Conor outside of the boy himself. I looked patiently at the political humor books, analyzing the blonde cashier out of the corner of my eye. She was most certainly not Conor in drag.
See? Existing.

I began to leave but stopped myself. Beads would not be justification enough for coming this far and I would still be returning home emotionally empty handed. I turned around and walked into the back room where the less popular books live.

There he sat at a computer, looking not a day different from when I last saw him. From behind his glasses his eyes sparked to life. He did not say anything for a long moment, nor did I. I'm not certain that he said anything at all, but he jumped up to hug me.

The conversation was sporadic between us not because we had so little to say to one another but that we had so much and each topic fought for supremacy. He is well, though he had not been for a long time, having contracted something exotic and anonymous that would debilitate him in a different way every day. He admitted that it sounded as though he was suffering from something psychosomatic, given that he transitioned from pneumonia to stabbing pains in his big toes, but was certain that he was too ill to be making any of it up. This malady had stayed with him for months, apparently. This does not excuse his absence from my life, but contributes to my sympathy.

In an unrelated aspect of his life, he has also acquired a girlfriend by the name of Olwyn. They both ran in the same circle of friends but never chanced upon meeting until they were both participating in Wayfinder Experience. She teaches acting to children in the city, which requires Conor to visit the city to see her thereby lessening the window of being able to see him. While visiting Olwyn recently and to demonstrate how ghetto Olwyn's school is, Conor was accosted by a wizened hooker who supposed that Conor was horning in on her whoring because he was walking by her street corner. It is perfectly rational to assume that all young men passing by are sex workers. At least it is if the syphilis had seized your brain.

When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Teach

I begin student teaching tomorrow, assuming that the blizzard that is raging outside of my apartment dies down long enough.

Aside from waking at an ungodly hour five times a week for the next fourteen weeks for no pay, I am strangely calm about the situation. Perhaps, I hope, it is resignation to an inevitable but unfortunate future and the knowledge that this, too, will pass. I have hit a few bottoms, if you will pardon the phrasing. I have lost my dear job. I am soon to leave my depreciated but fond apartment with its leaky fixtures to return to my parents' home. I have lost what I feared I would lose and I do not think much more can be taken from me, not that I am daring to tempt fate into proving me wrong.
See? Terrified.

I am trying to properly program myself for this experience, mostly through my subconscious, which is acquiescent and pliable. I took a book of stories written about teaching from the library as a bridge from one experience to the next. So far, two stories featured teachers - one freethinking liar and one tool of conformity - getting screwed over for their respective faults. The third story featured a teacher that the audience was assured was an innovative and caring teacher grossly missing a "teachable moment" (if I may appropriate the disgustingly fluffy vernacular of the profession already) with a chronically unpopular transfer student. The last described a troubled teacher who plagiarized her students' stories and how her student wistfully let her get away with it. I am not nearly as inspired as I had hoped, and things are only bound to worsen once I read beyond the title and author of the fourth story.

My potentially more effective strategy is sleep programming. Yes, I know how that sounds, but I am leaning more toward the science of sleep than the pseudoscience of astral projection and the like. I think of likely teaching scenarios and run them through in my mind as a means to induce slumber (which is every bit as soporific as it sound). Anecdotal evidence states for a fact and science is beginning to agree that sleep can strengthen the connections for new activities and skills. One can only hope that such effort can work in advance. I do not feel that I am co-opting my dreams, which I take to be valuable as entertainment if not oracular education. I had a teacher a few semesters ago who insisted that she taught each of the day's lessons three or four times in her dreams each night (very unlikely, given the duration of REM sleep that would imply) to the exclusion of everything else. I found it sad that she was proud that, not only did she sell most of her waking hours to teaching ingrates (myself gleefully included), but she gave them her dreams as well. This will not be me. I am not my job. I am particularly not my indentured servitude.

I really have no comprehension of what to expect from this experience. Everyone is curiously tightlipped, which is unnerving. I would be obviously more comfortable had I the slightest memory of what the student teachers did while I was in high school. I do not feel, and will continue to therefore protest, that I haven't actually been taught how to teach. The only thing I feel is in my favor is that I tend to excel at those jobs to which I apply myself, though this has only ever worked with repetitive library work where I am left to my own devices. Being monitored constantly as I try to inspire learning in the apathetic does not particularly fit that bill.

I have somehow developed a fear of public speaking, which is likely one of those requirements that should be taught. Even in my interview for grad school, I was stammering and looking away. Shouldn't the nuns have realized?

Soon in Xenology: Student teaching.

last watched: Buffy
reading: In a Sunburned Country
listening: Godspell
wanting: Not to student teach, that's for damn sure.
moment of zen: Conor's hug.
someday I must: See Conor again.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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