As the dying light of another Saturday faded into oblivion, parents, devoted teachers and giggling school children began to head for the parking lot. The art fair I'd set up for my classes of elementary school children seemed to have been a rousing success. Since the fair had been my project, I suppose it was only to be expected for there to still be a crowd of people waiting to speak to me.
Okay let's face it, there were always people waiting to speak to me and there had been for all of what I jokingly call life.
As I looked at the people waiting to see me, it again struck me as very funny that neither the other teachers nor even the principal had nearly as many people waiting for them. In fact the principal was one of the people waiting for me. This didn't shock me since I knew what she wanted, or at least what she hoped for.
It was important for me to stay on her good side though, so I often did little things to keep her hopes up. Anna, my principal, was an attractive woman. She'd dedicated her life to teaching and working with kids only to find out that as her biological clock began to tick very loudly, she had none of her own. I guess that's where I came in. It was like something out of a romance novel. The mysterious new art teacher sweeps in and sweeps the beautiful maidenly principal off of her feet and they live happily ever after. Okay sorry ... I forgot that this is, after all, the twenty first century.
Let's re-do that. It should be the mysterious new art teacher, who's obviously a bad boy with a hidden past, rides into town on his motorcycle and starts secretly fucking the beautiful principal. She ends up pregnant and helps him to get over the secret tortures and terrifying dreams of the past he's trying to escape.
It doesn't matter which version you prefer, they're both bullshit because I have no intention of ever touching another woman for as long as I live. Been there, done that, got the claw marks all over my heart to prove it. And I'm not like those modern theorists who believe that people can fall in love over and over again. They believe, I think, mistakenly that love is a simple equation that can be generated whenever the circumstances and people are within certain parameters.
In other words, if you take two reasonably attractive people, put them in the right situation at the right time, they will fall in love. I suppose with the number of divorced couples and the amount of cheating that goes on, it does tend to make sense. I, however, say thee nay. The theory is pure hokum and those who espouse it have simply created their theory to explain the lack of stability in the marital unit as of late. I believe that what happens a lot today is that people mistake attraction for love. They find someone they're attracted to, start fucking, enjoy the sex and then get married. A few years later, inevitably, the sex becomes mundane and sex was all they ever really had. They need someone else to stoke their fires and excite them, so they start having affairs or simply divorce.
Real, true love, may only strike a person once in their lifetime. Our problem is that we're so used to getting what we want instantly, that we no longer have the will or the ability to wait for it.
I've had mine. It ended tragically and I'll never go down that path again. I don't think I'm physically or mentally capable of going through it again. It was all I could do to walk away with part of my sanity intact. Real love takes you to the heavens, borne aloft on its wings. But there's always, always, always gravity lurking just beyond the tips of those same wings waiting to return you swiftly and painfully to the rocks below.
I flew ... God damn it I flew higher and longer than I ever thought possible. So when I fell, it was from a higher altitude and far more painful than I ever thought I could endure. I should have died, perhaps like in one of those great Shakespearian tragedies, we both should have died. We both survived, but it was clear at least to me, that we couldn't both exist in the same world any longer.
See what I mean ... artistic people should never be allowed to speak. I've just given you the boring broad strokes of my entire life without giving you any of the details to flesh it out. But don't worry, you're not alone. I never talk about who I was, to anyone. Not even to Anna and she really is my best friend in this chapter of my life, though she doesn't realize it.
My hackles are up this evening. It's almost as if I can feel something coming for me, a shadow of trouble reaching out to fuck up my life all over again. I scan the faces of the people waiting for me. Besides Anna, there are three women and a man. One of the women has a very angry face, the others are smiling. The man is one of my fellow teachers, Jim. We're somewhat friendly. I know what he's after so I take him first.
"Hey Larry," he says to me. It still takes me a while to realize that he's talking to me.
"What's up Jim," I reply. "Before you ask, I'm still on for our run tomorrow morning. Six a.m. by the trail in the park."
"Well I also wanted to know if you wanted to hit a couple of bars with me and the guys tonight," he asked. "Jeezus guy, you have to start getting out there sometime." He looks at the women standing around by my booth and smiles. "Maybe you've already picked your horse," he said, looking at Anna. Then punching me lightly in the shoulder he smiles and says, "It's dangerous to shit where you eat."
A few feet away, Anna blushes as she overhears a part of the conversation and looks away shyly. For a principal she's fairly easily embarrassed.
The two women who follow Jim are simply women from the neighborhood or school district who saw me and wanted to talk to me. I'm not even sure that they have kids in the school. They seem a little bit young to be mothers. I politely get rid of them and turn to the woman with the angry face.
"Mr. Martin, did you buy Melissa's painting?" she asks.
"Yes I did, Mrs. Crane," I told her. "It's brilliant and I wanted it."
"But she priced it ridiculously high so no one would buy it," said Mrs. Crane. "Her father was supposed to show up at the fair today. She was supposed to drop the price when he came over. Then he'd buy it. I can't believe that you'd pay a hundred dollars for a ten-year-old girl's painting. What the hell is going on here?"
"It's worth it," I said. "It was the best piece in the show and I know art."
"Just because you're a fucking art teacher doesn't mean you know anything about art," she snapped.
From, behind us a voice I'd never expected to hear again said, "Art teacher?" The voice was very loud and I looked up and recognized the man instantly. I was also sure he recognized me despite the pains I'd taken to change my appearance.
"None of these people know who you are, do they?" he laughed loudly. "Oh shit, this is rich."
"Anna, could you please take this gentleman inside the school to my office. I'll need to speak with him privately," I said.
I turned back to Mrs. Crane. "Mrs. Crane, your husband never showed up today did he?" I asked. She shook her head. "I really don't know what's going on in your family life nor do I want to. But I do know that your daughter has a monstrous talent. It should be nurtured and fed. She seemed so disappointed that people came by and bought paintings and flower pots and all of those other things that her classmates made. They looked at her painting a lot, but as you said no one was going to pay a hundred dollars for it. That made her feel worse. Most of my students made five or six little projects and just between us, on an artistic scale, most of them were worthless. Melissa has real talent. Her painting was so much more complex than anything else here that she only had time to complete the one painting."
"I bought that painting for two reasons. The first reason is because it really is worth a hundred dollars. The second is because I'd have paid anything to see her smiling the way she usually does. With all due respect, I don't want to see your daughter's talent quenched in the middle of your marital flames. If your husband had showed up he could have bought the painting back from me. But he never showed. Right now you have a very happy daughter. She's thinking of all of the things she'll do with the money she got for her picture even after the school takes its cut."
"I think that you're really pissed at your husband for not showing up and trying to take it out on me. Is that even a little bit possible?"
As a few tears started to fun down her cheeks, she nodded her head. "I'm sorry, Mr. Martin," she told me and hurried away. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that there are problems in that family. Her husband was either so engrossed in his work that he didn't see what was happening to his family or already fucking someone else. In either case, if things didn't change, she would be doing someone else very soon too. Whoever it was, it would not be me."
I turned and hurried into the school. I quickly walked through the deserted building towards my classroom with its large work area and small office. The light was on in my office. Anna stood there looking nervous. The mysterious man had removed his hat. The balding and older man sat there smirking and shaking his head.
.... There is more of this story ...