I hadta get rid of my teaching nerves before class so I went to the faculty bathroom.
When I was a student I pretty much never went to the bathrooms at school. Only bad kids went in there, and they might be outside the stall and go, “I can smell your nerves coming out, Nervy!” You were only supposta use it to do bad kid things and the janitors knew it. They didn’t clean or fix them. They wouldn’t refill the toilet paper. There’d only be an old cardboard tube which had run out semesters ago.
As someone who always hadta get rid of their nerves but just hadta hold it in ‘til they got home, I had a lot of envy for the faculty bathroom. Located safely away from the students in The Office hallway, its door seemed to be constructed from a sturdy exotic wood, and I assumed its golden deadbolt lock was polished daily. Inside I imagined its toilet sparkled like a pearl, and the air smelled like the first whiff of a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Yep, I’d think, a teacher deserves something like this.
So when I started teaching English at a high school as part of the college’s concurrent enrollment program, I was pretty excited to officially be permitted to use one. As soon as I entered the building I tracked it down, bounded in, locked the door, squatted down in total privacy and pushed all my teaching nerves out with a relaxed fury. Splash! Then I used as many sheets of fluffy soft paper as it took until there were no more teaching nerves left to wipe off. It made me feel like I was finally on The Right Side of Things.
However… when I pushed down the metal handle to flush, it was very loose and made a strange dull jiggling noise, and nothing happened. I pushed down again and realized it didn’t have the right leverage to activate the simple machines I needed. My teaching nerves just hadta stay in the center of the bowl cuz nothing could suck them away. And they did not smell like vanilla. They smelled like intestinal-bacteria-illa.
I felt shocked and betrayed. I didn’t know what to do except follow my first instinct – to leave my nerves right there, tell no one, and let the whole staff wonder what kind of ‘faculty member’ could’ve done something like this.
When I got to class I looked out at all the new young student faces and something came over me…
I told them exactly what had just happened. Every single detail. My nerves’ exact shade of darkness, their precise stink, and the pain of the cramps as they erupted out.
I don’t know why. It wasn’t something that could help them write an English composition. It was something that risked losing all credibility and them calling me Professor Couldn’t-Flush for the rest of the term.
But I guess I’d been a writer specializing in honest poems for too long. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help seeing myself that way first. I told the audience my truth and waited for them to say “me&you, both.”
– January 2015, Broomfield, CO