Once upon a time, a kid dreamed of being in the Premier League in England. The Premier League is considered the best soccer league globally because of the teams and players. ¨Thiago what team do you want to play for,¨ asked your mom. ¨Mom, you know what team I want to play for, Chelsea FC the best team in the Premier.¨ Mom nods.
¨Son tomorrow is your birthday, Thiago what do you want for your birthday¨ asked your Dad. ¨You want to know?¨ ¨ Never mind your mom probably knows what you want for your birthday.¨ ¨You want a soccer ball right Thiago?¨ Mom asked ¨Yes Mom ¨ ¨Well now you gotta go to bed because it is 9 pm and tomorrow is Tuesday so you have school¨ ¨Ok Mom, I love you¨ I love you too honey¨
¨You gotta wake up¨ yells mom. ¨Go eat breakfast, you have school in 30 minutes¨ and then you go get the breakfast that was in the microwave¨ ¨your mom leaves because of work and now you need to walk to school.¨ ¨You don´t see the soccer ball you asked for your birthday yesterday.¨ As you start to walk you see your friend Mateo walking too. ¨Mateo why are you walking to school today usually your mom takes you to school.¨
¨She´s working now at the local restaurant¨ Suddenly when you and your friend Mateo are walking a guy comes by and asks ¨what are you guys doing.¨ You say ¨we are walking to school.¨ this hood is dangerous and that guy was wearing shorts with a white undershirt, sunglasses, and a Miami Heat hat. For some reason, that´s how the majority of gang members and drug dealers dress in Brazil, especially in this part of Rio de Janeiro. When you guys finally arrive at school you see the sky and it looks like it will rain. Everything was normal almost every week in Rio de Janeiro it rains but this time it looked different. You don´t say anything because then everyone will think you are weird. As the day goes on around 2:30, 30 minutes before you leave school you hear the rain falling. At first, it was a steady rain as it happened every week in your neighborhood. Now it is 3:00 pm and you can´t walk home because it is raining, you ask your friend Mateo if his mom can give you a ride home. ¨Sure,¨ Mateo replied. When you and Mateo wait for Mateo´s mom to arrive you see the rain getting more intense and it not look like a normal rain anymore. You hope to get home safe but you see the fear in Mateo´s face and you get more nervous. When Mateo´s mom finally arrives you run to her car. You say ¨Hi¨ with a shaky voice.
¨Hi, how are you¨ replies Mateo´s mom.You hope to arrive at your house safely but with this rain is going to be difficult. The streets are a little bit flooded and you can almost imagine a landslide happening. When you finally arrive home you see the house flooded and a part of your house had collapsed and a body next to it. At that moment Mateo and his mom already left but the only thought you had in mind was who is that? You get closer and it looks like a woman with a stain of blood and her legs fully stuck below the concrete walls. When you get close enough to see her face it looks familiar but you can´t tell who is it. Dad gets home and sees you and the collapsed part of the house but he did not see the body yet. You yell ¨Dad Dad, there´s a body here and it looks familiar can you tell who it is?¨ Your dad gets closer and sees the woman´s face he quickly shouts ¨Monica¨ Monica is your mom. Your mom had died and was in front of you and you didn´t recognize her because of the dust of the concrete walls. Your father tries to call an ambulance but the wifi is not working because of the rain. The only thought going through your head is trying to lift concrete walls but you do not have the strength to do it and is too late because she´s gone. A few days later exactly at your mother's funeral, you said to her that you would make her proud. Your dad doesn´t have a job and you need to help him out so you start to get more into soccer and taking more seriously.
A few years later you are already 16, and you playing a final between your third-division team and a professional soccer team named Santos FC. This team has one Conmebol. The Conmebol is the best soccer competition in South America it has great teams and great players such as Juan Román Riquelme, your idol. This game is really important for you because Juan Román Riquelme is watching the game in the bleachers and there are scouts for Chelsea FC. The game starts in 30 minutes and you are very nervous you want to make your dad proud. It will be a hard game because your team is not the best and the opponent team already has 1 Conmebol so most of your team is nervous. The game starts your best friend Mateo is walking with you and you see the scouts are looking at you. ¨Mateo do you see the scouts, they're looking at me¨ You said to him. Mateo said, ¨Yes, you gotta lock in so you can get a contract for a better team.¨ 17 minutes into the game the opponent team scored the first goal it is 1-0 but you remember your mom, that day at the funeral that you said that you are making her proud. So 6 minutes later you see your friend Mateo and your teammates going up and you decide to go up with them the attack is going as the coach told us to. As soon as you go up you run inside the goal area. Mateo sees you alone in the area and he passes the ball to you the pass was perfect and you score a header.
A few seconds later the scouts shout ¨Great header Thiago!¨ You are wondering how he knows your name but you say ¨Thanks¨ and keep playing. The first half is over you guys go to the locker room and the coach starts talking.
¨Good half team, great goal Thiago keep the intensity and we will win this match.¨ You call your dad and tell him how much you love him and you want to make him proud. The second half begins your team has the ball and we are just touching the ball touch pass till everyone gets a chance to get the ball and pass it back. About 18 minutes into the second half your team is attacking your teammate Andrés is going up with the ball in his feet. You see a defender approaching him and tackling him the ref gives a free kick. The free kick is about 40 yards from the net is very far but you have the confidence to take it. The ref blows the whistle and you go slowly to the ball and about 4 steps before you run and kick the ball as hard as you can you see the ball approaching the net it feels like a movie the ball going slowly into the net. The ball went in top bins like your idol Juan Román Riquelme does it. Everyone is screaming cause there are only 10 minutes left and is 2-1. Your team is winning, your team is beating a first-division team.
The match goes on and you hear another scout say ¨What a goal!¨ You only thinking about winning the game getting a contract for the Division 1 soccer team and making both your parents proud. Your team is defending pretty well and no one can go through the defenders. Until finally, the ref blows the final whistle you are crying with happiness and joy. A scout comes up to you gives you an envelope and says ¨Open it when you get home.¨ your parent are proud of you and your mom probably is too.
When finally you get home you rapidly open the envelope you read the envelope and it says ¨Congrats! You're getting a 3-year contract for Chelsea FC, you have a flight in about a week we want you to pack up your things and fly to the United Kingdom.¨ You show the envelope to your dad and he smiles because he remembers when he got you your first soccer ball and now you're becoming a professional soccer player.
Show and Tell
june 11 … dear brad … work on the Pathètique is going well. i have finished the first and second movements: the first is very exciting to play, one cant help but get caught up in the emotion of it—god i wish i could write like that; the second is justso beautiful—i cringe because i dont do it justice, i dont have the smoothness and the subtlety it deserves. tomorrow i shall begin the third movement.
would you believe i have found someone up here who has a grand? a yamaha no less. he is letting me play on it once a week, just for a few hours—not enough—not nearly enough! but still its better than nothing. certainly better than the second-hand upright i have. oh well. one makes choices. if i taught full time, in a few years i could have a yamaha grand too. but i'd have a lot less time for my work. no, i like it how i have it.
i finished a fugue yesterday! yes, i actually wrote a fugue—theyre much more fun to compose than to play. it turned out to be in the key of c minor. cant get away from that old diatonicism no matter how consciously i ignore the harmonies. i could go back and, say, naturalize all the b flats, so it'd be in a different mode, but what the hell, i wrote it this way because thats the sound i wanted.
now that it is getting warmer, Chestnut and i go for our walk in the evening instead of in the afternoon. the beach is quite nice at dusk. very peaceful. and Nut still runs ahead then comes bounding back then runs ahead again—such a joy to see him so free and happy. did i tell you he's become friends with Sheba? a german shepherd who's here at the same time. it is really quite amusing considering that Nut comes up to about Sheba's knees, but they romp around quite delightfully. last time Nut didnt want to leave, and every ten yards or so he'd turn around, sit down, and look back toward the beach. all the way home.
i've started running again. its an anti-depressant and it gives me more energy to work—which is what i need now. i'm up to a nice five miles and wont go any further. i've given up the idea of a marathon, i shouldve done it three years ago when i was doing ten and fifteen mile distances. but now, well, i'm into other things, i guess.
june 13… dear brad … well i have finally finished my analysis of Gagnons music. you know his stuff is ridiculously simple and he uses repetition all the time. and its incredible how conventional his harmonic structure is. and yet, for all that, i find his music very beautiful, very satisfying. thats curious. perhaps i'm using my head too much when i compose, trying to avoid all the cliche patterns. but when i dont consciously attend to its composition, it turns out quite mundane, 'pretty' at best. maybe its just that Gagnon creates such touching, haunting, lyrical themes, perhaps their beauty carries the whole piece.
its been only ten days since you've been gone and already this is my fourth letter. i expect it'll slow down. sometime, soon, maybe.
yesterday i acquired two more new students. so that brings me back up to my minimum of twenty. no more worries about rent! and theyve both been taking lessons for a few years already—a nice relief among all the beginners i seem to have.
by the way, my idea of incorporating composition into the lessons by starting with sound effects seems to be going over quite well. most of the kids just love the idea of figuring out how an elephant falling down the stairs would sound or angels singing out of tune. a few days ago one came and did 'someone eating corn chips and chewing bubble gum at the same time'. neat, eh. after the sound effects, we move into telling a story while playing the soundtrack for it. i can hardly wait for that last kids stories!
Canary developed a painful rattle this morning. its at the garage now. hope its nothing too costly. maybe i shouldve kept your car after all, instead of selling it.
… love, amanda.
june 16 … dear brad … The National Academy of Music called today offering a job. if they had called a week or so ago i wouldve accepted, but i have enough students now, i dont need any more money. and anyway when you teach at an academy, they skim off half the students fee for themselves, so on my own i make much more per hour.
have finished analyzing Supertramp. i have always been impressed with their music—and now i've found that it actually isas interesting and innovative as it sounds. Hodgson sure likes to use the bVII chord.
work on my Pieces, Opus 2, continues to go slowly.
Anna dropped by the other day, 'to see how i was getting along'. she brought her photo album of her trip, apparently i need seme 'cheering up and distraction'. she says its unnatural to be alone so much, especially at a time like this. i tried to remind her that ive lived alone all my adult life and i like it that way, but, well you know Anna—
we actually spent a whole hour looking at those—those awful snapshots. they werent photographs, i cant call them that. i almost brought out all your work to show her the difference, but no, i didnt.
'thats us in those caves up at Collingwood, you know, where they make that blue mountain pottery … and heres us at the Calgary stampede … here we are getting on the ferry to Vancouver Island … here we are getting off …'
my god. why do people keep photo albums. not for aesthetic pleasure, thats for sure. as a record of their experience, i suppose. no, its more than that, its a validation of their experience, their very existence. the album s something to show to other people: see, this is where have been, what i have done, here is proof, look, i exist.
funny how important, how necessary it is, to show and tell. how we need to verify our subjectiveexistence by exposing it to an objective existence. a reality of the self depends on an interaction with a reality of the other.
and its the giving in that interaction that matters, not the taking—the transmission, not the reception. Anna didnt even notice if i was interested or not, if i nodded at the right time or asked a question here and there. it mattered to her only to be able to show the snapshots to me and tell me about them.
its like that old riddle, does a tree falling in the middle of the forest make a sound if no one hears—well, the tree doesnt care, that blessed oak or pine just needs to be able to fall. its existence is validated by the mere falling—whether it is heard or not is irrelevant.
… love, amanda.
june 17 … dear brad … today when i looked at that picture of you i have one my billboard, you know, the one taken in your Vancouver apartment after we made love all morning—i suddenly realized that you are my snapshot, you are my way at validating my existence.
no, listen. when we talk about love, what do we mean? im not referring to that general love of humanity, that impersonal respect for individual life in all its manifestations—im talking about personal, specific, one to one love. what is it?
well, lets take away all the business that goes on between two people in a love relationship. take away the family business—the kids need new shoes, johnny went to the dentist. take away the household business—what do you think about new furniture for the den, dont forget to pick up the drycleaning. and take away the social business—the bowling league starts thursday. now what is left of this loving couple, what is left of their interaction, their relation? i had an awful day at the office, so and so called this morning, i did the basement rug: show and tell. thats what passes for love. just show and tell.
and we're no different. oh we dont have any family business—neither of us wanted to be the mother. we dont have any household business—we've lived apart, so each to their own, no need to interact on this dimension. and we dont have any social business—again, living apart leads to separate social circles, though neither of us is very social to begin with. yet we do have a relationship, we have had a very stable and satisfying love, for seven years.
this lack of 'business' in our relationship just makes it easier to see what that relationship, what that love is. and look—our telephone calls are like progress reports, our together times every two or three weeks are part piano recital, part photography exhibit: show and tell, affirming our subjective existences by showing and telling to an objective existence, the beloved. that is love. nothing else. nothing more.
… love, amanda.
june 18… dear brad … and in our relationship, in our love, its been the transmitting, not the receiving, that has mattered most—like the tree, it matters not whether i am heard. as long as i could say, hey listen, i finished that piece i was writing, or hey look, i tried this out and it worked. as long as i could talk to you, share my life with you, as long as i can show and tell to you, love you—then my life is valid, it is real.
so thats why im writing letters to you. weeks after your funeral.
… love, amanda.
The English Teacher
How does it feel? To be on your own … I turn up Fieldstone, then onto East Street. Like a complete unknown … like a rolling stone … I pull into the high school's parking lot, and turn off the ignition. Dylan shuts up. So does his harmonica. (I once listened to that song for two hours straight, was I stoned. I musta been.) I sit in my car and prepare myself for the passing through. Each time I open the school doors and step onto the other side, a wave of culture shock hits me. I am a foreigner.
But pass through I will. I am The English Teacher. Shit, I'm on time for 'O Canada' again. First time I sat through it in a classroom, I was called down to the office. Naughty. "You aren't setting an example for the students." Damn right I'm not. I'll be no model of hypocrisy. 'The true north strong and free'? Come on. 'I'll stand on guard for thee'? I will not, I'm pacifist. 'With glowing hearts—' "You don't have to sing it, you just have to stand for it, it is our national anthem." Nationalism is an infantile disease, I footnoted Einstein. (It was Einstein who said that wasn't it?) I was dismissed. No detention.
And then 'The Lord's Prayer'. Oh god. I stand and look out the window at the garbage blowing in the wind. So they don't see the derision on my face. Quote for tomorrow's writing exercise: Religion is the opiate of the masses. (Marx?)
Then the announcements come on. I don't put in any announcements. I tried once, at the beginning of the year, but they censored it, can you believe it. It was to start a debating club, The Forum, and it read something like 'Does God exist? Should you burn your draft card? Is capitalism good? Is abortion murder? Should attendance be compulsory? If you're interested in issues like these, come out to Room 304 at 3:05 for the very first meeting of LCI's new club, The Forum.' They read, instead, 'A new club for debating will meet today after school in Room 304.' Too controversial, they said. What the fuck? What about the spirit of educ— freedom of— I don't understand.
Morning rituals over, it's time for class. I stare for a few moments at the rows of faces until a vague notion of habit moves me. I go towards the filing cabinet, but then stop. Suddenly conscious. I remember my self. The smartass sixteen-year-old in the fourth row sees my dawning incomprehension and says "What's wrong?" He'd love to see me stoned in class, but when I'm stoned, I call in healthy and don't come to class at all. (Actually that hasn't happened yet, but I can hardly wait, to hear the department head's response.) Shall I be honest and open with my students? Shall I say I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here? I tell him "Nothing" and open the drawer. The seizure has passed, Lethe rushes on.
I get the graded essays out of the cabinet. Ah yes, grading essays. Pick a number, any number, to represent the quality of this piece. I hand them back and allow a few minutes for insults and complaints. One guy comes up and says "Why did I only get a 64% and she got 66%?" Right. Account for that 2% difference on a ten-page essay read two nights ago after 25 and before 30 others. "You used a semi-colon incorrectly twice, and she used it incorrectly only once." He believed me. He went back to his desk. I laughed.
My god— I laughed.
I carry on with English class. Vivisection becomes dissection with the instruments of an a posteriori black bag. I mean what writer is conscious of the plot pattern of rising action, climax, and resolution, the four techniques of building suspense, and the three differences between direct and indirect characterization? Is that the essence of the study of literature? Class dismissed. No detentions.
What the fuck am I doing here? I who disdain and mock the public am now its servant. Ah and here comes one of the masters now. I'm not against parents. I even called each one, yes each one, in September to introduce myself and open the lines of communication. But when they come in and demand "Susie got 70s last year and she's failing your course this year why?"—I mean, what to say? Well she musta got really dumb over the summer? Or she had an asshole teacher last year who didn't know the difference between the Petrarchan sonnet and the Spenserian sonnet? (I don't know the difference either but.) Or having successfully maneuvered herself through puberty, she is no longer interested in dangling participles? Or well she's into drugs now, didn't you notice? I tell the mother I don't know and dismiss her. No detention.
Susie by the way isn't the only student who is failing. So are John, Shirley, Mick, Rob, Paul, Marie … The failure rate of my classes last term was 45%. I got called down to the office for that too. Apparently it's supposed to be no higher than 20%. "Justify your figures," the man says. Well, I replied, twenty-nine of the thirty-six students who failed did not hand in at least ten of the twenty required assignments and tests. As well, all failing students were absent at least fifteen days during the term, that's three weeks of missed school. "Well we can't have a failure of 45%, that's too high." Oh. "Perhaps you could raise all the marks by 15%. Would that bring the rate down?" Well, yes. It would. "Fine then." (What language are you using?) It would also give six students a mark of 105% or better. "Oh no, that's too high. We can't have that. The computers can only handle two digits." Oh. (What language did you say you were using?) I was sent back to my room. Number 304.
I teach wearing my jeans, a shirt, and my hiking boots. (I could tell you what kind of socks too but it might not matter. I'm not sure anymore. What matters.) My attire seems to pose a problem. I was called down to the office, this was in September, and I was told that I'm to "Set an example by dressing properly." What's improper about my clothes, I asked. "Well maybe inappropriate is the ward." What's inappropriate about my clothes, I asked. They don't seem to hinder my ability to teach, I don't suddenly forget the material when I put on my jeans, my evaluation standards don't decline if I have jeans on— "Well there is an accepted convention regarding dress for teachers." Is an Accepted Convention kinda like a Commandment? Or are you saying its mandatory for staff to wear uniforms? If the latter, why?
A teacher in this department, they still talk about it, confessed to me the other day that he was very grateful for his suitcoat and tie during his first years of teaching because they gave him the authority and respect he needed to control the class. So that's why. I thought so. I told him every day you wear your suitcoat and tie, you're teaching the students that it's what's outside that counts and you thereby discourage them from looking beyond the facades, from reasoning; you perpetuate the mentality of evaluation on the basis of appearance, of 'You are what you look like', of 'Judge a book by—' It's funny, my dog acts on much the same basis: response patterned by sensory stimuli. He didn't understand me. The other teacher.
I mean I could wear a suitcoat and tie too, but then they'd all wonder if I really was a lesbian, and then I'd have to shave my legs pierce my ears pluck my brows curl my hair paint my face and varnish my nails to prove that I'm normal.
On hall duty. Someone has spray painted "John sucks Arnie" on the ceiling by the door to the outside smoking area. Every student coming in either tsks or laughs. I don't understand. When I read it, I just thought so what? I mean, who the hell cares?
After my last class, I got called down to the office again. They sure do show an interest in me. I told than that and added an apology for my inability to return the compliment. They almost dismissed me then, but remembered I was there to account for my truancy during the last two days of the exam schedule. I told him (him, they, synonyms here, see I am too learning) that I was not scheduled for any supervision on either day and as all my exams were graded, marks calculated, and the first month of third term prepped, I couldn't justify driving half an hour each way to spend six hours in the smoky staff room picking my nose. He couldn't justify it either, but I had violated the Board's rule and that was a no-no. Oh dear.
One last check in my mailbox before I leave for the day. Item. The written report of an evaluation by one of my superiors who sat in during one of my classes last week. Could I please sign each copy and return all but one. Observations: The class began at 10:31 a.m. A few students came in late, one as late as 10:37 a.m. Many of the students were sitting towards the rear of the classroom, fourteen of nineteen. Attendance was taken by the teacher. A definite homework assignment was not given. The class was generally well behaved.
Wow. What observation skills! The implications of this man's priorities, his understanding of what education is all about— Content is irrelevant, I see. We may have been discussing the function of the cilia in a two-toed paramecium on rainy days in February. However, what we were discussing was a story's theme: the desperate extents to which being an alien can drive one. The character in the story, able to understand and be understood by no one, starts talking to dandelions, and then kills himself.
she sits in the third row
at the second desk
wearing one of those new shirts
with words on it—
her words are in black and blue:
all dressed up and nowhere to go.
the laws of her country won't allow her
ever to go back
and the laws of this country won't allow her
to go forward
until she looks like, speaks like, acts like,
thinks and feels like
the first one is easy,
she has done it already.
the second two are more difficult
though she is learning in my class,
and she is trying hard.
but the last two are almost impossible—
and she cries with each cut across the grain:
she is made in Taiwan.
(to Eve, the first teacher)
thinking about the apple
left on my desk,
wondering about the origins
of the tradition,
i suddenly remember you
and think, why of course,
you picked it from that tree,
its our symbol of knowledge.
well if its that
and not a symbol of
disobedience or idle curiosity or evil
why, i wonder for the hundredth time,
do men still condemn us?
especially since you offered the apple to Adam
you shared your knowledge with him
and he turned around
and kept it
in a thousand different ways.
yet here i am
still holding out my hand and smiling
sill sharing that gift, that power,
(but every time a male student
walks into my classroom
why should i?)
(free downloads of the complete collection at chriswind.net)