The Surface

many ray womanInstead of running screaming from the building, I went to supervise this study hall after school.  Two kids helped another with algebra.  I sat grading vocabulary quizzes while they sweetly talked through subtracting both sides of the equation and what you could do with variables, critical stuff.

One of those kids had a deep accent, I had to ask him to repeat, which I was afraid made him self-conscious, when I am the dummy who is also not attending Spanish for Teachers.  I love accents, though, and people who cross-pollinate English for us.

“You speak two languages, don’t you?”  I said.  “I only speak 1.5”  He smiled.

I was down to about 80% insane.

This was Friday: again kids came in with their anger and their demand for boundaries, and more often than I’d like, their anger angers me, they fight me and fight me and yell or refuse or demand why, why, when I wish they would fight real enemies, and for a million different reasons, I did not give them the boundaries they need, or I thought I didn’t, anyway, it sure looked and sounded like that and no one was too happy.

This morning I read a quote I had written in my summer journal: “like a tick buried in fur.”  I get so full of the situation I have nothing else in me.

I don’t think I can say, or write, too many times: I feel like a failure at teaching, and at writing, all the time.  But I am dug in with all my feet and mouthparts.

I had talks with sympathetic colleagues and talks about unrelated issues, happy Friday time and hugs.  I never skip this step.

Then on the way home, I stepped into a bookstore and opened a volume of William de Kooning.  I had earlier in the week written about how I didn’t like his painting “Woman IV” at the Nelson.  I read the text next to that image.  Something about the actual paint rising up, working with flat surfaces.  I still don’t get it.

I found a book of Man Ray’s photographs and looked at all of them, one by one, instead of paying $85 to take the thing home.  I wished the guy working there would talk to me.  Instead he sang along with a Smashing Pumpkins song, and I thought, in a different mood I wouldn’t find that so charming, maybe.

He called someone on the phone and said he had found her phone.  She opened the door a minute later, wearing something that looked like a hippie cave man costume, and took the phone and thanked him.  I looked at all the nudes, the fun photos of Kiki de Montparanesse and Nancy Cunard and the men who were assholes many of them but oh, delicious ones, playful and wearing clothes that need ironing, and the photos of objects and stuff, and I decided many of those women didn’t have bangs, either, which was why I still shouldn’t, and that I wished I was in Paris then, but who knew if I would actually like those people I would probably find them self-obsessed and drunk and emotionally dumb.  Who knows.

I still felt better with all that Man Ray in my eyes.

“She bought so much, all our books on display,” the guy at the bookstore said.

“Oh, that is happy-sad news,” I said.

“If only it were so easy to find more books that great to put out.”

“What did she buy?”

“Oh, a Man Ray,” he said, and then named some other authors.

“I have a Man Ray right here,” I said.

The actual paint rises up and shows the surface as the surface, whatever that means.

Photo; Man Ray.  Stolen from the internet.  Man Ray is dead.  I need about nine years before I am sued in the state of New York, as that is when my current student will graduate from law school and I would prefer she be my attorney.

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