Bring the Browns Back Home

The first time I ever taught a creative writing class, I was sweaty. I’m not talking clammy kind of “cute female” precipitation. I’m talking showered in a sauna of a wet sock smell. I was drenched in a scent so specific I can only title it raw ape. The first time I ever taught a creative writing class, I put on my best pair of shoes, my mother’s. These five inch thick leather extravaganzas were the clunkiest kind of fabulous. Cheap Italian soles. Smooth buckles.

I walked into the room full of high school students, scented with Eau de Raw Ape laced up with cosmetic, clunky confidence on my feet. As a writer, I think ink dynamite. I was ready to teach these young writers, what it meant to battle for glory with language. As an ape clunk, I think fight or flight and these kids saw through me.

I placed my #1 Teacher mug on the table. The mug that was a Christmas gift from my Mom. The mug I asked her to buy for me. And gave her money for. These kids knew. I wrote down my name, Mrs. Conbonsky, on the board. The fourteen year old super-jock, that probably avoids potatoes, pasta and bread during the day and binge eats kale at night, screamed, “Does that say Mrs. Condomsky? I don’t have my glasses.”

I turned as red as his beet salad. I’m a nervous B inverter. I had to own it now: this was war.

“I am Mrs. Condom-sky.”

The class giggled.This is the sign that I have failed as a creative writing teacher, failed as a human, and should probably set my mom’s shoes on fire, making the clunky fashion statement scatter into ash across the classroom.

I took a sip from my self-bought Christmas present. Better than the loving embrace of shoes and a self-bought mug.

“Alright class, we are going to do a lesson on how to build the home of your story.”

I began to gibber on auto-pilot repeating the lines in front of this class, which I practiced over and over last night. This class, which was resembling more and more like the cast of Peanuts, seemed to be increasingly disinterested.

The PowerPoint experienced a glitch that lasted 15 heartbeats.

The Peanuts Cast looked disengaged. I started to flap my arms around like an ostrich, trying to seem passionate about my lesson. The torture PowerPoint ended and I realized I still had an hour left of class. I zipped through 50 slides in 20 minutes.

“Any questions?”

“What’s our assignment?” asked a little brown-haired boy in the back.

“I’m glad you asked,” Charlie Brown, “It’s right here.”

In a victorious lift, I placed the stack of worksheets on my desk. A victory sneeze followed. Ka-Pow! My ostrich flappers moved without my consent after my sneeze. I knocked down my hot mocha all the way down the assignments, onto my desk, down to the floor. The mug shattered.

I watched the blitz: each drop of the chocolate coffee reach rock bottom in rapid succession. The class yodelled with glee. I’m sure they were screaming “Womp-Womp! Mrs. Condom-Sky!”

Drenched, in the sticky mess of victory, the students chuckled and I somberly slammed my face into the pile.

I stayed there for 20 heartbeats. I took the stack and threw pages across the room. I wondered if my mother would reimburse me for the five buck token of “her” affection.

“Class dismissed.”

The Cast of Peanuts scrambled, whispering nervously.

A little blonde hair girl in a pink dress stayed behind. She picked up one of the stained worksheets. “I found the class interesting, even if it was short.”

In building a safe haven, you have to go through war to earn respect.

“That means a lot, Sally Brown.”

“What did you just call me?”

Shatter and Build

I began my daily attempt at exorcising my anxiety:

I don’t have hobbies aside from writing in this Moleskin.

My fingers clung onto the torn leather. I sit on couches in Cafe Trois Lunes everyday. I roast my anguish by the idiot fire. Cafe Trois Lunes, located in a crack in the wall in between the dirtiest parts this city, has a gleaming light peaking through its windows. Among the alleys of graffiti and kids getting high, it stands tall. It stands paint-peeling, signs broken, rugs stolen, sticky wall- beautiful. The couch I sat on, had my imprint and a sharpie smiley face. I don’t have much, but at least I have this couch, this smiley face and this journal. I took a sip of my Tuesday drink, Vanilla-steamed milk.

I prefer a blank page that is always open and home that closes at 5pm on Sundays to what I what I had before.

I pursed my lips. I wondered if any men or ladies were trying to catch my eye. Jordan, the weekly MC of the Open Mic at Cafe Trois Lunes, assembled the microphone and speakers. When the poetry is too diary entry, I’ll stand outside and light a cigarette and scratch the skin under my turtleneck and he’ll try to hit on me.

Today, I was out of cigarettes. I focused on my journal ignoring the first poet, whose poetry was literary device debris. I stopped writing when the second poet came onto the stage.

“I’m Kyle.”

He had forest eyes and a smile that could slice. He recited a piece poking fun at teenage literature. I snapped and laughed.

Kyle sat down next to some girls that looked like Febreeze commercial models. I hated their boring cashmere button ups and perfectly combed hair. They eat oatmeal for breakfast with their mothers. They think water is interesting.

I belong to a dysfunctional family and all I have is this cafe, writing and vanilla milk but I’m superior to those cashmere sweater, velvet headband girls who think boarding gaming with a Palm Bay in hand at the community centre is an exciting night out.

I looked back at Kyle. I glanced down to my Moleskine. I’m sure those girls would drop their jaws at my stunning work. After months of writing in my journal here, maybe it was time to go on stage. The idea never pleased me, but not much does. I gestured at Jordan.

My red pumps moved me like a cheetah to the stage. I stayed to wink at Kyle. I placed the pen behind my ear and cleared my throat.

Then, twenty heartbeats of staring blankly into the audience. I was malleable. I began to speak, but god knows if it was English. I rushed through, stuttered, and fought back nervous tears.

“Home that closes at 5pm on Sundays..”

 I recalled my mother. I recalled how easy it was to lie to myself that this café is all I need. I found it difficult to focus on the ink on my page. The lights grew brighter. I recalled that underneath my lipstick and smirk was fear, six times bigger than my body. I gasped. I stared into the audience.

I fumbled back to my seat. One clap, two claps, three claps- silence. I drank the tiny drop of Vanilla steamed milk left. I did not look up until I heard the voice.

“Hey, that was really cool of you.”

If honey could talk, that would be noise of this voice.

“I’m an awful writer. I bombed.”

“Keep writing, some day you’ll build something beautiful.”

My façade stuck back onto me. I said he should kiss me. He blushed. He sliced me a smile. He said he was gay. He walked back to the velvet headband cashmere girls.

I decided to shatter myself again next Tuesday. This time, for myself.

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