1. When you took this job, your self-esteem was at an all time low — an admission that you would never make it as a writer. But it is rapidly becoming clear that to these teenage girls you are pretty much a sex symbol even though you are short and wear Birkenstocks. It is energizing!
2. Not that you would ever sleep with one of your students. You would never. You are deeply committed to your partner, Katherine, even though you refuse to marry her because you don’t believe in marriage. Katherine would really like you to marry her, despite the fact that she also doesn’t believe in marriage.
3. Katherine is going through a dark period as she realizes her dance career is now most certainly over. You knew it was over about five years ago, and part of the reason you have recently refused to attend couple’s counseling with her is because you are afraid you will tell her this.
4. There is an organic market in the tiny town where you teach that smells reassuringly of hemp candles and rotting citrus. Sometimes you see some of the weirder, plumper female students shopping there, buying pomegranates or purple candles for, you imagine, little satanic rituals or something. You have never given a lot of thought to teenage girls, but now your entire life is about teenage girls because boys think caring about poetry makes them gay and so they won’t talk in class, even though you are reading BEOWULF FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
5. Your mother and father recently divorced. Why divorce forty years into a marriage? When you asked your mother, she said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer two years before, and had surgery and chemo without telling you. It bothers you — that your mother was dying and didn’t tell you. Once she was declared cancer free, she decided her marriage was over. You imagine your father was perturbed to find he had helped his wife beat cancer, and then his great reward was a divorce. “You’re being silly,” your mother said, “he likes having more time to go golfing.” It is true that your father seems totally fine. Maybe he has no emotions at all. Maybe he is like a dog and golf is his version of fetch and it is really all he wants.
6. Back to teenage girls for just a moment — they are everywhere and so emotional and so complicated, almost incandescent with the fever of their self-hood. They cry frequently in your office hours because they perceive you as the kind of person who would be interested in their pain, and it isn’t that you aren’t, you consider yourself a feminist, your job is to help these girls in whatever way you can, yada yada, but you are shocked by how alien they seem to you. When you were a teenager yourself you saw your female peers through a haze, it seems. You would never have guessed they were all such raw, in pain, giggling sociopaths.
7. Are you going to keep this job? Are you going to become an old man here? Will you go to the football games and cheer non-ironically? You never supposed you would, not when you first accepted, but now the idea has a strange sort of pull. This isn’t what you want for yourself, and yet it is almost irresistible.
8. Perhaps it is time to buy a ring for Katherine. You keep coming to that conclusion. But the idea of the ring — the whole romance industrial complex, the blood diamonds—it makes you sick. It makes you feel like you’re being tricked, but you can’t pinpoint the shortchange and you worry the grift is inside you, is in your heart.
9. On the other hand, why on earth do all these girls think it is all right to just cry in your office? What gives them the right? You are not allowed to cry — certainly not in anyone’s office. You look at your male students, whose facial muscles are almost totally impassive. In fact, the more embarrassed or socially uncomfortable they are, the less expressive their faces. They are wearing masks. They are not allowed to feel anything. They are not allowed to read poetry. They are not allowed to care about one single thing on this green earth. They are barely allowed to utter consonants.
10. Sometimes you imagine what would happen if, when one of the teen girls was crying in your office, you suddenly began weeping yourself. If you told her everything, every queasy gallop of your heart. Would the teen girls feed you pomegranate seeds and light a little purple candle for your soul? You think probably most men feel this way around teen girls, but they are too scared to ever do it, to ever take the plunge, and so instead they wind up fucking them, so that even their prick becomes a mask, so that no real part of them touches the world at all, not even the very tip of their sensitive penises.