My coffee was cold by now. I hadn’t taken a sip in close to twenty minutes or so. I didn’t care to wake up or get energized. There was no point in filling up on caffeine. With or without it, that bell was going to ring and hundreds of feet would soon come thundering down the halls and dispersing into their appropriate classroom. Cackling voices would sting my ears and choke out the peacefulness of my beloved solitude. The clock on the computer said it was 7:43am. I clicked the refresh button for the hundredth time. Finally, a new e-mail. Looking forward to some sort of human contact outside of this circus, I scrolled up only to find the sender was my boss, Principal Young:
As discussed in my office last Tuesday, I would like to remind you that I and Vice-Principal Masters will be keeping close watch on you. Please expect several visits from us throughout these last few weeks of this school year, as your recent behavior is both alarming and unsuitable for a supposed professional such as yourself.
Once more, if you choose to leave campus again before your contracted hours are completed, you will most definitely be terminated for job abandonment.
Principal Ann Young
I couldn’t delete the damn thing quickly enough. Everything inside of me burned to reply:
Dear Principal Young, Go fuck yourself maliciously.
Jeff Meyers (supposed professional)
p.s. Please expect several visits from myself during lunch break wherein I will most assuredly take a shit on your carpet.
As I got up from my desk to pace around the classroom and mumble further insults under my breath, someone knocked on the door. Mrs. Schultz, the third-grade teacher from next door, let herself in and sunk down into a student’s desk in the front row. The bags under her eyes were darker than usual. Several of her long, purple nails were missing, and the cream dress with faded sunflowers looked as if it had been living at the bottom dirty laundry basket for several weeks.
I sat back down in my chair and tried smiling at her but her eyes were locked on the floor.
“Sherri, what’s wrong?” I asked.
She looked up as if to insinuate that I already knew. I did.
She nodded. “He wants a divorce. I waited until two in the morning for him to get home and when he finally did, the only thing he said was that he wanted a divorce.” She stared at me for a long time, waiting for me to ask what she so desperately wanted to talk further about. I knew the routine. I was used to it by now. It wasn’t that I cared but it took my mind off of my own problems.
I obliged. “Did he mention her?” I finally asked.
“No, but I could smell her on him. The goddamn whore!” Tears began to well in her eyes. In her wrinkled forehead I saw the restraint she used to fight them off. This was the first time I had ever heard her curse the mystery mistress.
For a woman being dicked over by her husband, she was damned polite.
“I could smell her on him.” she repeated softly as her eyes fell to the floor again. “Not her perfume. Her sweat. After ten years of marriage, I know what Dennis’ body odor smells like. This wasn’t it. It was hers.” She paused. “They had been making love.”
Making love? I thought. I’d never heard another human being refer to their spouse’s affair as “making love”. Fucking, screwing, banging. These were the terms normal people used. My ex-wife told me herself she was “fucking someone else” when we split. It wasn’t romanticized in the least.
“I asked him why. He said he couldn’t be in a loveless marriage anymore. I told him that I still loved him. That’s beside the point, he said.”
“Sherri, I’m so sorry.”
She gazed at me for a moment, “Thank you, Jeff.” The tears returned, and just as quickly she steeled herself again.
“I know this doesn’t help, but I how you feel.”
“How long were you married?” she asked.
“Almost four years. We were together seven.”
Taking hold of her purse, she fixed her dress, stood up, and with what appeared to take all the strength in the world, smiled. “Have a great day, Mr. Meyers.” she said, closing the door behind her.
A few hours later, once I had sent my kids off to recess, I went down the hall and stood at her door. Through its aged window I saw her pacing up and down the rows, looking over the shoulders of her students to check their work. I noticed how attractive she was. Her short brown hair was still very dark, very natural. Her skin looked healthy. A child in the third row raised his hand for help. She quickly went to his desk and knelt beside him. After she’d answered his question, she stood up again. He must have said thank you because a smile beamed across her face as she mouthed a welcome. She wore her unyielding smile a few moments longer before she sat down in her chair up front, facing the class.
Looking on, she noticed me at the door and gave a small, courteous wave. Another student called for her and her eyes quickly darted in their direction, followed by another smile.
The bell rang and I walked back to my class and met my kids at the door, listening to them argue over who won the tetherball match.