The teacher asks a question. You know the answer, you suspect you are the only one in the classroom who knows the answer, because the person in question is yourself, and on that you are the greatest living authority, but you don’t raise your hand. You raise the top of your desk and take out an apple. You look out the window. You don’t raise your hand and there is some essential beauty in your fingers, which aren’t even drumming, but lie flat and peaceful. The teacher repeats the question. Outside the window, on an overhanging branch, a robin is ruffling its feathers and spring is in the air.
Reprinted from Cold Pluto by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright © 1996 by Mary Ruefle.
we let our hair down. It wasn't so much that we worried about what people thought or about keeping it real but that we knew this was our moment. We knew we'd blow our cool sooner or later. Probably sooner. Probably even before we got too far out of Westmont High and had kids of our own who left home wearing clothes we didn't think belonged in school. Like Mrs. C. whose nearly unrecognizably pretty senior photo we passed every day on the way to Gym, we'd get old. Or like Mr. Lurk who told us all the time how it's never too late to throw a Hail Mary like he did his junior year and how we could win everything for the team and hear the band strike up a tune so the cheer squad could sing our name, too. Straight out of a Hallmark movie, Mr. Lurk's hero turned teacher story. We had heard it a million times. Sometimes he'd ask us to sing with him, T-O-N-Y-L-U-R-K Tony Tony Lurk Lurk Lurk. Sin ironia, con sentimiento, por favor, and then we would get back to our Spanish lessons, opening our thin textbooks, until the bell rang and we went on to the cotton gin in History. Really, this had nothing to do with being cool. We only wanted to have a moment to ourselves, a moment before Jazz Band and after Gym when we could look in the mirror and like it. June and Tiffany and Janet all told me I looked pretty. We took turns saying nice things, though we might just as likely say, Die and go to hell. Beauty or hell. No difference. The bell would ring soon. With thanks to "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks