I love working with student teachers. Perhaps, in part, it’s a way of revisiting my youth. Perhaps, in part, it’s an act of hope.
Today, Mr. Palmer, my student teacher, made one of those mistakes we all make when we are young teachers.
My students, his students now, are writing non-fiction. So Mr. Palmer brought in a love story he studied a few years ago when he was an undergraduate. My class, his class, is an A. P. comp. class, in theory a college class. In theory.
In any case, a love story. A young American, lonely, taking a train from Paris to Beirut, meets a young man, and falls in love. They want to be alone, so they head for the bathroom.
This is the point at which I perked-up, stopped grading papers and —
It turns out that the young lover is a cross-dresser. In the bathroom, they fire-up a joint. At which point the Lebanese dude bends the cross-dresser over, and humps his ass. He rather tenderly gives the American a reach-around. The story ends with the narrator, years later in a gay bar in New York, sadly recalling his one true love.
In truth, the story is narrated with great tenderness and nostalgia, to the extent you can get nostalgic about a reach-around. That said, I see why my student teacher recalls it as moving. I also believe it to be the only story to which my students paid unflagging attention.
When the bell rings, when the students are gone, Mr. Palmer says, “You don’t even need to say it.” I give him that ‘We all make these kinds of mistakes when we’re young’ speech — then I immediately run to David North’s room with that whole ‘You wouldn’t believe’ thing going on.