Squeak goes the pencil.
The vending machine gobbled my sixty cents and did nothing. It was the bully who puts their shoe over the coins you’re trying to pick up off the pavement. The ones you dropped. The ones you need. You look up at the bully, halo from the sun hanging brightly above their head, and take in their stupid smile. You wish you had a roll of coins to toss through their bicuspids. Instead, you’re only relieved when they finally lift their foot off your change and allow you to snatch it back up, returning it to your pocket safely. The whole walk home you rub your fingers over your coins, making sure they are still there. This is my relationship with the vending machine in the teacher’s lounge.
Students test while I walk, slowly peering over their hunched shoulders, every-now-and-then reading some silly testing instructions. They dream of big colleges back east where they can start a new life and forget about the identities they obtained while in high school, intentionally or not. Others simply want to test well enough to travel up the coast, live by the water and fall in love over and over again. Eventually they’ll graduate college and be in the pattern I am in; thankful, proud of myself and happy to be where I am doing what I do, whatever that may be.
High school kids have heads full of dreams and loud stars in their eyes. In a class of 40, maybe two or three will still be so bold when they are my age. I put myself back into my third hour class, my senior year, and count through the list of those who are still around. By still around I mean, the ones who control their own lives and have met face to face with the dreams and the loud stars from their pasts.
Soon, I will be in a bar. There I will eat a sandwich on Jewish Rye and high five random strangers. Later, I’ll go home to my wife and two boys, the one in her belly and the one with the chew toys.
Sing loud, stand tall.