Touched A Nerve?

The boy,

pursuing pleasure, through dubious forms of expression.

 

Sway to my left, sway to my right. I feel my beard oil seep into my white tee as I sway side to side, disconnected from reality. It’s ten past nine in the morning, my eyes, a set of kettlebells anchoring my jaw. I’m seated, neck in a rhythm, running on no more than four hours of sleep. Sway to my left, sway to my, pause, disturbed, my set of kettlebells slowly raise to watch an eraser smack the shit out of a student’s bottom lip. Great way to start the day. Amused, and in unison, myself and another LSA (Learning support assistant) swiftly stand in-between the students, becoming engaged audience members. The show, a fast-paced, energised battle of words. Silence. The stage is set. ‘Do something, then,’ says the protagonist. His threatening words cause a slight pause, silence. Agitated, the deuteragonist strikes back with words potent enough to intimidate the toughest coward, ‘Mothers, I’ll fuck you up.’ Another slight pause. Other students, members of the audience, fill the room with Ooohs and aahs. Pause. It was secondary school all over again, and as entertaining as it was, the stench of horse shit was beginning to burn my tired eyes. I no longer wanted to be a willing participant in this battle of words; so, I turn to face the protagonist and firmly ask that he sit down. ‘What, sir, do you think you’re bad?’ Oh, now, I’ve become the deuteragonist. But, unwilling to partake in this horse shit, I chuckle, placing my hand around his tricep, and then giving him a slight nudge towards his desk. Silence. ‘No. I don’t think I’m bad, nor have I said I am, but you think I am and that’s why you asked if I was.’ A slight pause. The corners of his mouth curve, he smirks, unable to come up with a witty response. Silence, the show is finally over.

Later that morning, I’m sat with another student of mine. And, unwilling to engage with the lesson, he begins to rock on his chair, initiating trivial conversations with fellow students. I ask that he stop and return to his work; to which he responds ‘I can’t.’ And, doing my job, I try to encourage him till at some point in our back and forth he tells me that he can’t concentrate because of his ADHD. Uneducated on and intrigued by the diagnosis, I ask that he explain it to me. ‘What is ADHD and how does it affect you?’ To which he responds, ‘It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain and it doesn’t let me concentrate for long.’ See, I’ve heard this simplified explanation many times before; so, I prod a little. ‘How and why does it stop you from concentrating?’ A slight pause. I can see his eyes dart back and forth, searching every corner of his mind in hopes of an answer, ‘I dunno, that’s what I was told.’ I prod a little more. I ask ‘by who?’ ‘My parents and doctor.’ He replies. Ah, right, ok, his authoritative figures. See, I might as well had been speaking to my younger, naïve, self. I’m all too familiar with his current thought process, and with that inclination, I accept that we had reached a dead end. But, I didn’t stop there, I felt the urge to ask him one last close-ended question before we changed the topic. ‘Shouldn’t you know and understand what affects your behaviour?’

 

A tall, slender sculpture stands firm as it’s glossed over in rich cream.

Ay, yoo.

Softly curved hips, the centrepiece of a fine, filled figure.

My size.

A robust nose, playing compliment to a set of warm, luscious lips.

I see you.

Her distinct belly filled laugh, falling gently on one’s ears.

What you telling me?

 

‘Sir? Sir.’ It’s lunchtime, and I’m sat at the edge of a lunch table, in wonder, listening to these young men berate their links, ex’s and ‘stush bitches who aren’t freeing up the narn.’ Once again, I’m back in secondary school. The conversations too vulgar to repeat. I’m sat in silence, pondering if I were as dramatic with my descriptions as these young men were. I mean, did I speak this ill of women or was I the cool cat posted in the corner, amused by the theatrics of his fellow students? ‘Sir, Sir?’ I snap out of my daydream to address the broken record. ‘Yeah?’ I respond, ‘What is that your girl?’ My wallpaper has caught their attention. ‘Yeah, that’s the Mrs.’ Silence, a crowd forms, heads turn to face me. Through the crowd, a frail figure shouts, ‘Ay, what, lemme see.’ He leans through the crowd as I turn my phone to him. A slight pause. ‘Oh, swear, what country she from, sir?’ ‘Jamaica.’ I respond. Heads nod with approval. ‘What she do?’ ‘She’s a child therapist, currently teaching in China.’ Bemused, ‘She’s teaching in China?’ ‘Yeah, she’s there for the year, teaching English to primary school kids.’ The crowd turns to face one another. Silence. ‘Ay, sir, your girl is getting dicked down by Chinese yutes.’ The crowd erupts; laughter fills the room as I attempt to defend myself. ‘We’ve been together for almost five years, she ain’t cheating.’ Triggered. I halt all responses, looked around the room; realising that I must surrender to the moment, their moment.

 

No, you do as I say, not as I do,

 for you must revere what I claim to be true.

 

A few years ago, on a rare night in my home, each member of the house sat together and ate. We laughed, listened and learned till our eyes fill with tears of joy. No sense of contempt, no phones, no warzap – we were present. A pleasant surprise, sadly only to be tainted by these caring words, ‘don’t ever cheat on a woman.’ A sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with, even if my reaction suggested otherwise. I burst into laughter, and just like that; in a matter of seconds, what had been a pleasant night was ruined by my deep-rooted distaste for my culture’s ingrained methods of child-rearing. I mean, what if I had been offered this advice long before my infidelities? What if? I mean, their words and actions, projections of their insecurities, expressed under the guise of parental love. Words and actions reasoned with told you so’s, and obey your parents. And, on this rare evening, that very deep-rooted distaste evoked a strong emotional reaction, spiralling me into a state of resentment. I can imagine why she shares the sentiment that cheating is wrong, but I dare not ask her why. I mean, the effects of my father’s infidelity, present as ever, yet viewed and spoken of as if a passing thought. She wants the past to be the past, even if her children continue to feel and act out the pain caused by it. The lessons learned, the laughs shared, the pleasant surprise, rendered a victim of an ambush.

Back to school – freedom. I’m now working in the primary school section of our school; so far, it is proving to be my most hard-hitting experience. But, due to my understanding of the environment, witnessing their reactive behaviours is the least heart-breaking aspect of my role. What triggers me most is the constant reminder that they’re just kids. Unable to understand and articulate their emotions, they’re becoming well versed in the art of bullshitting – seeking pleasure, through dubious forms of expression. The tears fall as unease sets in; doing what they know best in hopes of escaping the discomfort. ‘Sir, I’m sorry.’ ‘Ok, what are you apologising for?’ Silence, their body begins to fill with tears of rage as I await a response. Questioning what may have been a genuine apology seemed an insult, to them. But, why, why does questioning their intentions evoke such a strong emotional reaction?

 

The boy

taught to fear what he knows,

to suppress what he feels,

to neglect what he owns.

The boy

told to be the man,

to express what he feels,

to accept what he owns?

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