Saturday, November 02, 2002

I just had the strangest dream about my ninth grade English teacher. Don’t ask why I was dreaming about her, I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t thought about her in years. And I was quite happy not thinking about her. In retrospect, I think she was sort of influential in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time though.

My dad always said that she was the most ridiculous looking human being he’d ever seen. My dad’s usually a pretty nice guy, but he honestly found the lady comic. I remember we usually described her as what would happen if Elvis and a horse got together and decided to have a love child.

That being said, I didn’t hate her really. Not at the time anyway. She wasn’t all that bright, but she didn’t seem like a bad human being. She was completely incapable of relating to her students. She referred to us as “turkeys” and tried to stop us from talking by saying things like “ATTENTION K-MART SHOPPERS” and walking around the room with a book on her head.

Once, a college student was doing a study on the amount of times kids talked in a class or something like that. The kid had been a friend of my older brother, so I talked to her a little. She’d been sitting in on lots of classes and this was her last one. I asked her how we were doing. She said, tactfully, “this is a very active class.” What she meant was, this teacher has no control over her classroom whatsoever.

I always felt a little bad for her because she might not have been a bad teacher for small children or something. But fourteen and fifteen year-olds are meaner than any other age group, save possibly twelve and thirteen year-olds, so she didn’t really stand a chance. I was nicer to her than I could have been. Nicer than I should have been, as I later found out.

In addition to being my English teacher, she was also my Academic Challenge advisor. Academic Challenge was this statewide academic competition type thing I was involved in. I didn’t overly like her and I let her know when I disagreed with stuff she’d do. But we never really fought or anything. She tried to kick me off the team once because I was failing most of my classes. But since I was our top scorer, she couldn’t talk the principle or somebody into it, and I got to stay. I wasn’t bitter, I just wasn’t overly happy with her.

The year passed in relative quiet between us. That Summer I was talking to a friend of mine on the team and my friend was sort of making fun of her. I half-heartedly defended her, because I always defend people when I feel they’re being unjustifiably picked on, even when I don’t like them. And my friend said: “Why do you defend her anyway? She hated you. She told us to watch out for you because you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

It actually hurt my feelings. For one thing, I defended her for a year when I should’ve been encouraging her downfall. For another, I was hardly what could be called a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I mean, when your nickname is Satan, I don’t think anyone can honestly describe you as being “in sheep’s clothing.” Besides, at fourteen, I was a terribly nice kid. My nickname didn’t refer to any personal malevolence on my part. It had to do with the fact that I listened to heavy metal music and wore a lot of black in a Baptist dominated school district.

Admittedly, there was some cause for her to be a little freaked out by me. I wrote this wicked story once about this kid killing her mother and gouging her eyes out because she wanted to have pretty blue eyes like her mom’s instead of the brown ones she’d been born with. And I wrote a paper defending the right of prisoners to practice Satanism in prison. And, I definitely did quite enjoy the time that these two idiot classmates of mine got into a huge fight in the middle of class and broke each other’s faces. There was blood everywhere and we got out of class so they could clean it up. Not only was it a terribly funny fight, but I’m always going to be happy about anything that gets me out of class.

So, I wasn’t necessarily the most normal kid. But I was a pretty nice person. The year before my class had voted me friendliest girl. And it was pretty accurate. I wasn’t popular, but nearly everyone talked to me. I never personally hit anyone, even if I did find it funny when they hit each other. I didn’t practice Satanism, even though I defended the right of others to do so. Perhaps I wrote grotesque and violent stories, but she knew that I objected to so much as killing flies in real life. I don’t know where she got that I was a secretly evil person.

The truth is, I guess I do know. I looked evil. And I was smart. And I rejected the mainstream and her worldview. She was afraid that I’d corrupt other kids because I was thoughtful enough not to be duped by every dumb thing people tried to mindlessly drum in to me. I was a threat because I objected to being herded down hallways when bells rang. She didn’t like me because she knew I had the tools to succeed without her or without lousy Crestview High School.

I hated her for a long time before I decided that it was all actually pretty funny. Every time she thinks of Columbine, or of angry kids who just didn’t fit into the sterile world she and her ilk tried to force onto us, she probably thinks of me. She probably tells people about the scary girl she once knew, who refused to try in school and wrote disturbing stories and defended people that nobody else cared to defend. I’d like to write her a letter and tell her that I’m doing just fine and that I haven’t been imprisoned for anything yet. But maybe it’s more fun to let her think that I have. Scary chick has a certain mystique to it that successful student and law abiding citizen lack.