I walked out of my school this afternoon, breathed in the sharp, cool air and thought about where to stop for a snack before going home. It’s a busy street that joins other busy streets, with lots of people and traffic and stores. It’s perfect if you like those things. If you don’t, it could be rather off-putting.
I saw a student of mine who graduated last year. I crossed the street and ran a bit to catch up with him….I thought he saw me. Maybe he ignores me because it’s not cool to acknowledge me….or maybe I’m just a narcissist, thinking I’m worthy of being ignored and all. But would he really just ignore me?
(Maybe he would. But, on the other hand, as I am sitting here writing this in a notebook and eating my fries, three boys who were embarrassed when I said ‘Hi’ to them on my way in have just stopped to say ‘good-bye’ to me on their way out. It’s a complicated relationship we develop with our students. It’s good. And it takes time.)
Anyway, this kid…I catch up to him and say, “Hey, Carlos!!” pretty loud.
He’s got headphones on. Or ear-peg sound whatever they’re called. And he’s probably got the Walkman turned up to 11 and he’s kickin’ some Steely Dan or Menudo or something else the kids are listening to.
So I tapped him on the shoulder. He was startled and took the sound drops out of his ears. He smiled and shook my hand. He said he was doing good. I told him I just left school. I had been grading papers…heading home.
I asked him where he was going. “To work.”
“Cool. Where do you work?”
“Downtown on 9th Street.”
“What do you do down there?”, I asked.
“Fuck you, man.”
I’m rattled. But we keep walking. I’m thinking back…ok…he’s not sharpest tack in the box, but he’s not an asshole….Try again.
“Carlos…what was that? What do you do downtown?”
A truck goes by.
“Fuck you, man.”
“What? Are you saying ‘fuck you’ to me?”
“What? No. I no say.”
“That’s what I thought you said….stop walking…what did you say? What is your job? Because I thought you said ‘fuck you, man.’”
I’m going to go have some fries and write this up. I think I see some kids I know in there.