Dodging My High School Drama Teacher
Listen to the reading below
Here’s the location. The scene begins in the interior of a busy grocery store. Asheville, North Carolina. 1990. It’s the week before Christmas. Hippies, yuppies, townspeople are the background players, the extras. They’re pushing around heavily laden grocery carts, pulling merchandise off of shelves and crossing off items on lists, each person consumed with his own private tasks and thoughts.
A young man is there with his mother. He is a sophomore in college, home for the Christmas holiday. He is pushing the buggy for his mother, trailing along behind her like a rickety old train car connected only by a long, loose chain. Barely connected at all. His shirt is tie-dyed, his baseball cap sits backwards on his head. His fleece pullover is knotted around his waist. Aaand ACTION!
Good Lord, look at these people. Who are they and where have they all come from? I figured everyone would be at the Asheville Mall, buying last minute doohickeys for their mamas and papas and mamaws. Christmas is nothing more than a materialistic spending spree and caloric bender. That lady has two full buggies. And Christmas pajamas. Do you see what I see? Apparently not. Asheville sure is different now that I’ve grown up. Or maybe I’m different.
So if Dave arrives tonight, that will give us six full days at home together. That’ll be cool. I haven’t seen Big Brotha since the Carolina football game. Wish he coulda seen this freakshow. That dude looks familiar. Grade school maybe? No idea. Dave would remember. This reminds me of when we’d go to the mall and made a game of dodging random people we knew. There were actual points involved and to get a point you would have to name the person and successfully avoid them. We‘d dive into clothes racks or put up oh-so-subtle face shields to keep from being detected. What jerks.
Oh my gosh, that’s Mrs. Van Alstyne, my old high school drama teacher. I haven’t seen her in years, she may not even recognize me. Oh crap, she sees me. I’m just gonna study this ingredients list. What would I say to her? I can’t bear small talk. Maybe I’ll meet her again in the future and actually have something to brag about. Isn’t that what old teachers expect when they meet up with old students? Tales of glory and world domination? I’m president of the firm. Here’s a laminated photo gallery of my kids. You should know that I donate 15% of my 6-figure salary to the alumni foundation at the high school. That’s not me. Never will be. Merry Christmas.
This looks like a nice pork loin. Not much fat. On special. Yes, this is the loin for me. Plop! Through with the list—well done. People aren’t coming for a few more hours. There’s plenty of time to get home and feed the dogs and get the food going. Yes I will have another cup of that yummy cider, please and thank you.
I love this time of year. Love it love it love it. There’s such a feeling of good will and togetherness. Not to mention a few weeks out of school, which is a definite job perk. Hmmm. That guy looks like someone I know. A former student? No!—is that Mike Johnson? Goodness, he’s changed. Look at that beard, looks more like Jerry Garcia. Yes, that’s definitely him and his mom. He must be home from school. Wonder how he’s been…Well. He’s not even gonna say hi. He looked right at me and kept walking. Hope he’s OK, staying out of trouble. Michael, do something with yourself. Please. And Merry Christmas.
This speech/one-man short is dedicated to Robin Van Alstyne, my high school drama teacher, and witness to the insecurity and cynicism of a young man trying to make sense of the world. If we do meet again, we’ll have plenty to talk about.