Let it Rip
I split the ass out of my pants on a cold February day. It wasn’t a full split, technically--just my right ass-cheek was left exposed--the little patch of corduroy limply hanging to the side. I was left with with the sheer cliff of a less-than-new thong waiving at the audience behind me.
My twenty-six year old ass was mostly intact--a faint hint of aging to come, evidenced in small traces of stretch marks, although still roundish and suitable for most viewing audiences--except this one. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this particular viewing audience is that they were a classroom full of ninth graders.
And I was their English teacher.
I had been in my chosen career for all of seven months--they were my first babies. With hormones and “thug-life” tattoos, and stark-white Jordans, and pregnancies, and scars--they were all mine.
Rebecca, her kindly round face, thin glasses, and disproportionately large-chested upper body, yelled first. She yelled often though, so our class was used to the real estate of her voice in the room:
“I knew them pants was too tight when I saw you walk in this morning, Mizz Burns.” The booming follow up was her laughter, so deep in the chasm of her chest, I wondered how many lives she had lived before this young one.
I loved Rebecca every day.
But not at this moment.
I whipped around--ass to the wall, flushed face to the front, ready for combat: “Now wait just a minute,” I argued. “First of all--
Looking out at the sea of eyes and ears and mouths agape, I had already lost. Half of them in silent shock, half rolling on the ground dying. Laughter. Then Bryce cut me off--he sat right up front:
“Mizz Burns, you want me to get yo jacket? You can tie it round yo waist or sumthin…”
His voice teetered off with his eyes--couldn’t bear to commit to mine--to team with my misery. A small, weak smile at me --his front teeth gilted with dollar signs--a permanent juxtaposition to his kind eyes.
He’s not the one who is supposed to save me. I love that kid, but fuck. He sleeps through shit all the time, he saunters in late, he comes to school to make plans for the weekend.
Fuck him, most days, for making it cool to not give a shit about school. He’s not the one who is supposed to save me.
“Thanks, Bryce. Yeah, that would be awesome.”
Kids clowned me for the longest three minutes of my teaching career before the bell rang. Some took turns being me--bending over the book cabinet, snagging their pants on the cabinet door trying to grab copies of The Odyssey, and then sticking their asses out while the others rolled on the floor, dying. Laughing.
The herd emerged in one big amoeba into the hall, [the fucking bell, at last] to share the most important news of the year:
Ms. Burns just ripped her pants and we all saw her ass.
I taught the rest of the day with my jacket around my waist. It felt unusual to carry on as though my body, often the subject of their classroom discussion, were tucked away neatly. Mizz Burnz, why don’t you shave yo legs? Ain’t that weird for yo husband? Do you shave your armpits? Do you shave other places? Mizz Burnz, why you so skinny? Don’t you eat nothin’ but seeds and shit? Mizz Burnz, you know you them pants is hot!
That night at home, after drinking the wine and telling the story to my dear one, I began to undress-- preparation for a shower--let the water wash this clean.
I untied the knot from the jacket and thought of Rebecca, of Bryce.
He wasn’t supposed to save me. I had made up my mind about him--about what kind of kid he was, what his failings were, what he couldn’t do, where he wouldn’t be, and what he would never be able to have because of his life.
And yet, he was the human.
He was the decency.
He was the love in my weakest moment.
He gathered my things.
He grabbed my jacket.
He saved me from his friends.