Home > Unteachable(10)

Author: Leah Raeder

8:00-9:05, Calculus. Save the worst for first, as Mom says. I was alert, assiduous. I took old-school paper and pencil notes. Some kids tapped at laptops and tablets. This is a dual lesson in class stratification, I thought.

9:10-10:10, World History. This involved numbers, too, but not enough. My mind wandered. Here’s a history of the world: Girl meets boy. Girl f**ks boy. Girl gets scared and skips out on boy. Boy builds civilization to lure girl back.

After class, I made a beeline for my locker to text Wesley, but froze up. What’s the polite way to say, I need comfort but am unwilling to reciprocate or share any titillating details? Whatever. We didn’t even know each other. Who was getting presumptuous now?

Chin up, sport, I told myself. Next class was Film Studies. My first taste of the future. And then I’d have an excuse to text Wesley and gloat about what he’d missed.

As I swam upstairs through the crush of bodies, I thought about what Evan had said. It’s a classic. Well, mister, if it’s such a classic I’m sure we’ll study it.

Like watching a lamb prance cluelessly toward the knife.

Room 209 was at the end of a hall, a huge window beside it like a portal straight to the sun. I spent a second soaking in the light, photons beaming through my eyelids. When I walked into the room my vision danced with microscopic explosions of blood vessels, a hazy red sparkle.

I saw him first.

I didn’t blink. Everything inside me came to a full stop. He wore pressed slacks and a collared shirt, clean-shaven, hair combed neatly, a silver watch gleaming on his wrist, but it was undeniably him. I knew those hands. I knew that mouth. I’d pictured that face, grizzly with stubble, his eyes half-shut, nuzzling at my neck as I lay in bed and got myself off.

I knew instantly, unequivocally. Evan Wilke. Starting his new job as a teacher at Riverland High.

My teacher.

10:15-11:45, Intro to the End of the World.

He raised his head and swept a generic, acknowledging smile over the room, starting with the far side. It took all of two seconds to reach me but I felt it coming like thunder, sensing my imminent doom and yet paralyzed, unable to run.

He reached me and paused. His face fell. Not into dismay—all expression went out of it. Shock.

A kid nudged me aside and walked in. I stood stupidly in the doorway. It felt like a series of small eternities, but it was only seconds.

Evan stared at me dazedly. I think he was confused. I don’t think he realized I was a student yet. I made myself step in and took the seat nearest the door.

His mouth opened slightly.

What did we do wrong, Your Honor?

I was eighteen. He wasn’t my teacher yet.

I drank. Everyone drinks.

He purchased alcohol for me. I lied about my age. Not his fault.

I rest my case.

My eyes were open, but I wasn’t conscious of having seen anything for a minute. A gray-out, Mom called it. You didn’t pass out but you just…weren’t there for a while.

The room was starting to fill up.

Evan shuffled papers around his desk. Then he stood there, staring at the surface, only his eyes moving, a rapid back-and-forth like REM.

Was this a dream? It felt distinctly nightmarish.

He straightened and walked toward the door, pausing beside me.

“Can I see you outside?”

Soft, discreet. No hint of emotion.

I stood without looking at him. I hadn’t brought anything to this class. I thought I had everything I needed in my head.

He waited in the sun. Kids streamed past in and out of a bathroom. All their noise seemed fuzzy and far away, behind glass.

I’d imagined what I’d do if I ever saw him again. Rush into his arms. Apologize for skipping out. Touch his face. Kiss him, kiss him.

Instead we stood with two feet of solid sunlight between us.

“Maise,” he said.

My head rose as if his voice had lifted it.

“Is that your real name?”


“I am so sorry.”

I wasn’t prepared for this. I’d expected anger. You lied to me. You ran off. “Why?” I said.

He only shook his head.

“I’m eighteen,” I said quickly. Darted a glance at the kids around us. No one seemed to see anything out of the ordinary—just a teacher talking to a student. “I was eighteen then, too. So—don’t, you know. Be sorry.”

“Are you okay?”

I think I’m starting to be. “Yeah.”

He rocked on his toes. It made him seem young. God, how old was he, anyway? I figured past his twenties, but I had no real f**king idea. Two feet of sunlight wasn’t enough to block out that suede smell, tame and subtle now, but unmistakable.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “You tell me what you want. You can transfer to another class. Or I can—I can submit my resignation, right now. I’ll do it. Just give the word.”

He was talking crazy, and it made my heart expand like a balloon. You’re guilty. Flustered. You know this will be a disaster if we pretend like nothing happened. Because you still feel something.

The warning bell rang. One minute.

Evan didn’t move. His gaze focused unerringly on me.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I whispered, conscious of the emptying hall. “And I don’t want to transfer to another class.”

“Maise,” he said. Just my name.

“And I’m the one who’s sorry. I shouldn’t have left like that.”

Thirty seconds. Lockers slammed. Footsteps hurried.

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