Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
There are many out there who tell us not to look back, but I think that sometimes we all have to. I don’t want to imply that we should hang out in the past like some bored teenager in front of a convenience store; it’s good to move on, but every once in a while we should, just for kicks, peek in on the younger us to, at the very least, get a good life-affirming jolt at the tragedy and splendor of it all. Reflection sort of works a lot like those “don’t do drugs” propaganda films we were all forced to watch in high school. It’s highly disturbing, a little bit funny, and extremely difficult not to be entertained by.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Where do you draw the line with optimism? When do you crawl onto your pessimistic throne with a half-empty glass and stew in all the bad luck and stress that seems to slowly take you over? Don’t we all deserve at least one day to throw some hate at the planet? To bypass any thoughts for those that have it much worse and to give the middle finger to the minute forces of oppression that occasionally weave their way into our lives like a house spider or a fireside mosquito? I feel like everyone should have at least one day to rage with no guilt involved and throw dirt into the atmosphere like some divine can of Aquanet. I had my day recently, and some may judge me petty, but sometimes you have to bend that fake smile and take what’s yours.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I guess, like most people who teach abroad, I figured by the end of the year some big change would come over me, and like some estranged movie character I would walk out at the end of some metaphorical tunnel, changed for the better. I can't say that I lived such a life-changing experience, no matter how bad I wanted to. Regardless of what all the travel brochures and TEFL certification websites tell you, just eating food with sticks and taking egocentric photographs of temples isn't going to truly change anything. I, for one, know this because I was sure that it would.
The plan I had mapped out seemed to start dwindling and falling apart the minute I reached Korea. I was sure that one year would be like a paid vacation, that new knowledge would find me, and that the journey would lead me into true enlightenment. None of these things ever really happened, but the trade-off was actually an all right deal.
I figured by thirty-two this whole “life” thing would have led me somewhere more fulfilling, like the suburbs. A place filled with school buses, snow cone stands, and jobs that paid on time. It did not. However, it did manage to lead to a far more intriguing alternative. A land filled with baby carriages, stiletto heels, impeccably styled hair, and people who compete in alcohol consumption with as much fortitude and vigor as a Wall Street stock broker buying and selling stock. Korea was like nothing I had ever seen, but at the same time, like everything I was accustomed to. The entire country seemed to operate like some controversial television program that never made it past the pilot episode, mixing elements of "Father Knows Best" and "Twin Peaks."
When I set my sights on Korea one year ago, a huge part of me was under the assumption that I would be able to conquer the vast cloud of fear and stress that had been looming over me. I would shed my skin and walk naked onto the battle ground, dealing with hardship like some homeless guy stuck in a rain storm. The idea that a person can conquer fear is as naive as they come. Fear can’t be conquered; it can only be dealt with.
When I sat in my tiny apartment the first night, I could only stare at my tiny computer screen. This fantastical world of Skype, Facebook, and Youtube had suddenly become my biggest ally. All the advertisements and write-ups were in Korean, although I could still get through to my email account. My Inbox was as empty as a Stryper concert, and I couldn’t get Hulu to play anything. I sat for a moment on the edge of my bed and peered into random corners of the room, lingering several seconds on any interesting looking stains or discoloration. “Jesus, this was a mistake,” I thought as I lay back onto the oversized mattress. I pulled the thin comforter over my body, and I stared into the darkened ceiling. This was my world for the next year. I didn’t sleep at all that night.
The weeks that followed all sort of blur into one. I was given a stack of books the first day, was allowed to observe several classes, and was then thrown into work the second day like a slave on a plantation. I had no idea what I was doing (and still don’t) and managed to bumble through classes like a socially and physically awkward child playing little league soccer. My co-teacher, an Irishman, decided to take me out for coffee on the third day. As we slowly drank our coffee, he told me an intriguing tale, one about our school—how it was on the verge of collapse and that payments each month kept getting later and later. At this point I was hoping for some sort of nervous breakdown that would allow me to return to a nice mental hospital back home with comfy beds and orderlies who would bring me lots of drugs and shitty food; however, this never happened. But I did struggle through a dreary two weeks of extreme weekend isolation and only left my apartment to purchase coffee, cereal, and hand lotion. There were no windows in my apartment, so every time I walked outside, Korea would hit me full force, both barrels blazing, and I would realize that I had lost myself beyond rational thought to Youtube episodes of “The Forensic Files,” completely forgetting where I was.
Riding the subway never felt right to me, and although many foreigners claim to love it and lose themselves to a set of headphones or an overly analytic selection of books, I couldn’t help but notice all the blank, yet helpless, faces around me, making me feel all the weight they seemed to carry would soon swarm upon me like some post-apocalyptic zombie film. Everyone seemed so shut off, as if they were all sitting in a shrink’s waiting room, trying desperately to escape through what little pop culture they could pull off their telephones and iPods.
After a while, you get better at ignoring the depression that seems to drift all over Seoul, like some giant smoke stack, and it’s then that you begin to concentrate on the more uplifting things that the country has to offer. Not to promote any sort of bland type of optimism or turn a blind eye, but you have to pick yourself up when a situation or person keeps offering up boot heels to the face. Just to be clear, this is not an essay on finding your smile again or seeing some sort of metaphorical light. It’s just a look at shitty situations and realizing that rolling in shit is not just an American pastime—it’s a global thing. To me though, that’s where the Korean experience really gets good. It’s at that point when you realize you can finally stop searching for that perfect place. For that city or town that’s eager to open up its doors and give you warmth and shelter in a freshly laundered blanket of understanding and kindness. At this point you can only do one thing—stop and breathe that single breath of frustration while slowly starting to look around. It’s in this simple yet fleeting moment that things begin to appear to you like a mirage in a desert, when you accept your cage and then decide to make good use of it.
In the months that followed, everything seemed to pass like a hangover to an alcoholic and I jumped into work and play like some driven crack addict. Work was the same sort of heavy-weighted ball and chain that I was accustomed to; however, very little was said by the school’s management about my performance, and they seemed to have no problem in letting me screw up the job on a more than regular basis; in fact, the only real feedback I ever received was that I didn’t assign enough homework. My boss was a man who said very little, and when I say “very little,” I actually mean “nothing.” When he did call me into his office, it was to ask me to record a speech for students to study dialect and pronunciation or to talk about books and American politics. Although most who worked at the school had an outlook of distaste for him and considered him to be somewhat rude or anti-social, I liked him a great deal. In my experience, supervisors were always people who took way too active an interest in your work, therefore, slowly burning out your spirit and killing any enjoyment the work might have once given you. He never did this though and, in all actuality, went out of his way to avoid any sort of real discourse. Needless to say, someone who hated authority as much as I did had no real problems with his managerial ways.
I probably should have kept my guard up after only two months in the country, but it’s amazing how I ended up throwing myself into a situation I had spent years in the States trying to avoid, simply because an 18-hour plane ride left me thinking that I was fearless. I guess a relationship was inevitable sooner or later, but that it happened in Korea and that she was from Canada seemed to be the perfect scenario to attach itself onto the “outside of the box philosophy” I had become accustomed to. Not to insinuate that relationships are misery or that what I found wasn’t great, it was. It was just one of those situations that required a little bit more work than a natural-born slacker like myself was accustomed to.
As most courtships go, there are the first two months of great times, long walks, and intimate moments, leading up to the three-to-five month wall where you actually get to know the person you’ve been dating and decide whether you like each other enough to deal with all the fucked up idiosyncrasies you both possess; in my case, she probably put up with a little or maybe a lot more. Like some bipolar version of a mythical archetype, I managed to weave my way through five months of dating, only to fall victim to the emptiness of an airport goodbye, a depressing two-hour subway ride home listening to nothing but overly written 80’s power ballads, and a dreaded long-distance relationship—which, like everyone who has walked the planet, I swore I would never do.
For all those people who swear by their life that long distance relationships are worse than an IRS audit, I can only reply by saying that they know their shit. Nothing can really test stamina and mental stability more than a relationship dictated by time zone availability and Skype connectivity. If I have ever had more of a love/hate relationship with anything in my life as I had with Skype, I cannot remember. It feeds on you like a fix to a junky, leaving you dependent, worn down, and disproportionately drained. Although I think Skype, like Korea, also works to rehabilitate. It hits like a shit storm, taking pressure to an ultimate high, and making every small disagreement seem like a Faye Dunaway “Mommie Dearest” moment. Though once in that tunnel, there is a certain catharsis that happens, and all the hope and excitement of reconnecting seem to morph into something bigger than you; inevitably, you have weathered out a great storm, and, in the end, you managed to do it together.
Before I left for Korea, I felt I needed a new hobby, and climbing had always sparked my interest. I wanted to take the almost non-existent knowledge that I had accrued from home and build on it. Truth be known, I had little hope that I would manage to do little if any climbing in Korea, but when you’re in a lonely situation and desperate for hope, you have a tendency to lie to yourself a little more convincingly. Stumbling through a bar one afternoon, I ran across a brochure for a climbing school out of Seoul and realized that this could possibly be my white light—it was. In the months that followed, I found myself intensely involved with a climbing organization out of Seoul called Sanirang. Little did I know that this organization would dominate most of my time and pull me from the maddening grips of foreign solitude. What few expectations I had from the program managed to be completely blown to smithereens, and before the middle of November, I had already made three summit climbs. As the winter months brought in a cold beyond anything I had ever felt, anticipation for spring climbing began to build. In mid-March I was able to begin the Sanirang intermediate climbing school. In just five weeks I had taken what minute knowledge I had gained during the fall and multiplied it by five. Almost every weekend after that was a summit climb, and by mid-July I had more than 15 under my belt, as well as my first trad lead. Climbing in Korea built on me like a heroin addiction, and anytime I could get out and do it, I did. Like most who end up getting involved in this wonderful subculture, a vast percentage of my income usually went towards new gear and more involved training. Most people who get into climbing will probably tell you that it changed their lives for the positive; I am no different. Climbing in Korea was undoubtedly a blessing in almost every way I can think of—from the adrenaline rush of the climb to the drunken nights after a summit down to the amazing people who ended up accompanying me on all of these mountain adventures. In Korea there always seems to be some sort of newly discovered hobby or activity that most foreigners cling to, whether it is running, yoga, or climbing. As if in some sort of less insane version of prison, many foreigners need something to fill the time and kill the devastation that comes from too much isolation. I figure this may be why people do many of the things they do in life, so that too much of the real world can’t sneak inside their bedroom at night, like the Boogie Man, and devour them whole.
In the end, I guess that is always how I’ll see Korea, a cold and empty place that I had to find the good in, just so I could stay sane and keep going—although, I sometimes tend to exaggerate for the sake of the story. I guess Korea, life, or whatever you want to call it is perhaps sometimes as simple as just wanting to have a good time.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
It’s easy not to notice the cultural differences in places when you have been living away from home for over a year. When you live in a culture different from your own, you tend to forget the cultural differences that exist from place to place. When I arrived in South Korea last year, I certainly noticed those differences, but after a slightly uneasy transition into the South Korean lifestyle, I guess I really just forgot that any differences existed. That is, until I returned home and started trying to resume the life I had left behind. So in honor of my return to The States, I would like to create a top-five list of the biggest cultural differences to present themselves to me since my return home.
1. Fat People: Koreans may be some of the healthiest people I have ever seen, and finding an overweight person in that country is a lot like trying to find Waldo in those books we loved so much as children. During my entire time there, I saw very few overweight people, and the ones I did see were typically Westerners. That’s not to say that the country is overly health conscious. It is not, and fried chicken seems to be more popular in Korea than in certain places in the American South. Koreans also smoke and drink as much as any English rock star out of the 1970’s. Despite these factors, Koreans never seem to rock the fat like a majority of the people in the good ole U.S of A. do. It never really occurred to me how fat the people in my country were until I reached the L.A airport for my flight connection. As I walked through the terminal, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everybody I passed seemed to be overweight, and all the airport bars and restaurants seemed to be clustered with people ripping into burgers and beers as if these things contained the secrets to life. I am not saying that indulging in tasty food and alcohol is a bad thing. I certainly don’t believe that. Everyone indulges, but Koreans just seem to be able to do it without getting fat.
2. Driving/Transportation: Transportation for me was quite a big shock. In Texas, where I am from, everything is spread out, so you have to drive almost everywhere you go. In Korea, mass transit is essential to the foreigner, considering that he/she couldn’t go anywhere if it did not exist. The subways, buses, and cabs in Korea can transport you to anywhere in the country you want to go. Not using a car was a little strange at first, considering my morning drive time in Texas was my opportunity to reflect, drink coffee and listen to music. In Korea the subway was somewhat like driving, you could do all of those things, but it was also congested with people, so the alone time wasn’t really alone. As with the food, you do tend to adapt to the ways of the country and slowly over time learn to appreciate what the subways have to offer. Driving for the first time, after returning home was very odd. I almost felt like I was taking a driver’s ed class, holding the steering wheel at two and ten and taking especially long glances back and forth before pulling out into intersections. Driving after a long lapse in time, however, proved exciting, and I almost felt like I was flying low to the ground. This was definitely a much more adrenaline-fueled experience than it had been in the past.
3. Food Size: I guess I hadn’t really thought much about the amount of food I ate on a daily basis, until I returned home. Food portions between the two countries are considerably different. This difference didn’t really process until I ordered a grande-sized coffee at Starbucks my first morning home. The size was massive, and this cup of coffee was only a medium. The same was true for all kinds of fast food, pizza, Mexican food, etc. Needless to say, we super patriots consume a lot of shit. In Korea I managed to lose 42 pounds fairly quickly and wasn’t quite sure how. After being at home and eating out for a week, my question was easily answered. Just watching people hovering over and shoving food into their mouths like prehistoric cave men encouraged a longing for a healthier lifestyle. At the same time, it also made me feel like some ancient Christian fundamentalist, coming back home to convert the confused and misled. After three days of sitting in judgment, and then another two more of feeling guilty about it, I decided to join my fellow Americans rather than pointing the finger. With this decision, I ended up gaining back five pounds and wasting two more days glued to “Saved by the Bell” reruns. Seeing myself return to old habits sort of sent me into a mild spiral of depression, but also helped me realize that being a hedonist can be somewhat fun if not taken to extremes. This is probably way too much information when all I really wanted to say was that the difference between food sizes was kind of shocking.
4. People’s Dress: I was shocked to see how much effort people in Korea put into their appearances, and it wasn’t until I reached the Los Angeles airport that I realized how little Americans put into theirs. In Korea you will have no problem finding a mirror because they have been strategically placed in most buildings, subways, and elevators. I was amazed to see people constantly checking their hair, clothes, and makeup with not even a remote attempt to conceal what they were doing. You could also often see many people taking pictures of themselves and then checking the picture when no mirrors were available. People in Korea seemed to dress up for even the smallest of activities even going to do laundry or buying groceries. Most everyone you see looks as if he/she were going to a photo shoot. Even when hiking in the mountains, most Koreans garnish the best in backpacks, boots, and hiking poles. The “I don’t give a shit” attitude is more prominent within American culture, and the Korean way can only be found in certain elite circles of American society. Coming home, I noticed the lack of upkeep that seemed to manifest itself in contemporary America and how steadfastly many seemed to glorify it, with their unshaved faces, stained shirts and pants, dirty work boots, and all types of tattoos and piercings imaginable. It’s a confusing difference to me, and I couldn’t tell you which side I think is wrong or right on the issue. I must say that living for a year in a culture that takes pride in appearance provides a certain comfort and professionalism that creates confidence and safety in its community. Although there is something refreshing and liberating about giving the middle finger to “The Man” and saying that I am going to do what I want to do.
5. Alcohol Consumption: I don’t think I have ever seen people who drink quite like Koreans drink. The Irish drink a lot and manage to hold their alcohol with extreme ease, and many other western people also indulge in alcohol consumption as if were some kind of archaic art form. Koreans do it a little differently. They drink in mass quantities like many others but don’t ever seem to get better at it. Unlike the Irish, Koreans cannot hold their alcohol very well, reminding me of an Olympic athlete who is constantly training but never improves. On any night of the week, you can find Koreans stumbling down alleys and side streets in drunken stupor or passed out in doorways as if relaxing in the world’s most comfortable bed. The lack of drinking laws in Korea was one of the better things that the country had to offer. You could drink a beer almost anywhere and no one would say much to you at all. It almost seemed as if society encouraged it. There is something totally comforting about being able to drink beer on the street, on the subways, in the buses, and in the taxi cabs. It was almost as if the term “public intoxication” was nonexistent in this wonderfully crazy land. Not to say that I support alcoholism, but an outsider can certainly benefit from living within a community that does.
Living in Korea was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life and, like anything in this world, had its good and bad factors. To me, cultural differences are refreshing; they sort of test us about different ideas of life to see how well they work or don’t work. They also tend to shake our own world up a bit, forcing us to question all the social norms we were born into or forced to obey. Korea has its own ways, just like America, England, or any other place in the world. In the end, I never managed to feel anything all good or all bad about any of it, only accept it and then try to find my own middle ground.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
After graduating, I applied for a job in the public school system as a substitute teacher. It was the perfect plan. I would take these people down by turning their children against them, convincing them to break their chains and take a stand against the middle class tyranny that was sweeping across this nation. I felt like I was unstoppable; I would soon liberate the children and bring about one of the greatest revolutions the world had ever seen.
January 17th, a Monday, was the first day of my plan. I had taken a substitute job for a science class at a local junior high; this would be the perfect place to start. Middle schools were never short on angst, and even the most well-behaved kids were just waiting to rebel. If movies about the sixties and inner city teachers had taught me anything, it was that kids were like a squadron of rag-tag misfits just waiting for a leader to transform them into the perfect army. A stand would soon be made and to quote the late, great Sam Cooke, "a change gonna come."
I could hear the noise from the hallway before I walked into the classroom. It was okay though; high energy could only mean a more productive plan. When I looked through the glass window on the door, I could only see a red-headed girl sitting on my desk and one kid with shaggy, dark hair beating a ruler against the wall. As I entered, there were several groups of three to four kids dispersed around the room and one kid sitting by himself in the back corner of the room, nonchalantly picking his nose.
"Could you guys do me a favor and take your seats?" I asked. Nobody moved.
"Take your seats, please?" I repeated. Everyone groaned as if I had just sentenced them to 25 years in prison.
"This is a joke," I heard one kid say. The shaggy kid at the front didn't move, just kept beating the wall with the ruler. I had to admit that I was rather impressed with this kid and could tell he was a natural-born revolutionary. Every good revolutionary has anger inside him but just needs to learn how to channel it. I lightly touched his shoulder.
"I'm gonna teach you how to channel this aggression," I said. "I believe that in the future you will do great things." He stared at me blankly, and I thought that quite possibly I had made my first connection. He nodded lightly, and I could tell that he needed to study me and try to figure out if what I had said was truly genuine. I slowly held up a balled fist in hopes of getting a brotherly fist bump. He didn't move. Tension was mounting, and I could feel the heavy gaze of every eye in the classroom. Suddenly I heard the slow and high-pitched sound of gas passing into the atmosphere and, without thinking twice, watched my first perspective student connection disappear as this little bastard wafted his fart directly into my face.
The class erupted into laughter before I had a chance to do anything but gag. As he slowly reurned to his seat, I had the hetero, yet inappropriate, urge to tackle him and hit him in the face several times, but that wouldn't prove beneficial. A good leader has to be patient, so I just pretended to laugh it off with everyone else.
"Okay, that's enough," I said, trying to calm everyone down. "That's enough."
"Like your murse," one girl exclaimed before all the noise could subside.
"My what?" I replied.
"Your gay man purse," she said, motioning to the book bag I held around my shoulder.
"It's actually called a messenger bag," I replied.
"Only gays and losers call it that." I wasn't real sure how to respond to this, so I didn't say anything at all; I just stared out at the class, hoping with everything I had that the noise would subside and the anger I was feeling would finally go away.
I glanced briefly at the lesson plans on the desk and then finally decided to bypass them and go straight into my own lessons. I pulled a stack of questionnaires out of my "messenger bag." I had written them last night on my computer and had planned to use them to gage in what areas I could properly utilize each person
"Would everyone fill this out and return it to me?" I asked.
"Is this for a grade?" said the murse girl.
"No," I replied. "I don't believe in grades; the middle class has been grading you for far too long ...."
The student in the corner cut me off. He was still picking his nose as he spoke.
"So, it's not for a grade?"
"Grades are the product of a white capitalist society ...."
"I don't get it."
"So, it is for a grade?" the murse girl followed.
Unable to control my anger any more, I snapped, "NO! It's not for a grade! Are you people that slow!?" The room quickly grew to a morbid hush. I stood for a second in awkward silence, staring out at thirteen blank faces. The kid in the corner still continued to pick his nose and then with no indication of shame, ate one of his boogers. I definitely had my work cut out for me. These kids would be a challenge, but with a good deal of work, I still felt I could strip off their blinders and lead them into the light.
"Why you bein' angry?" one kid asked.
"Why am I angry?" I corrected.
"The correct way to say that is 'Why am I angry.' "
The kid stared at me for several seconds before offering, "You be trippin'; I'm going to sleep." He then pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head and lowered his face into his arms that were folded over the top of his desk.
"This class is bullshit!" stated the murse girl, out of the blue. I ignored the statement even though technically I was supposed to write her a referral for using profanity.
"So, please, go ahead and fill these out and return them to me. After that, we will discuss the real reason I am here today."
"Do we have to do this?" asked the fart wafter.
"You don't have to do anything," I replied. "You should be able to govern yourself ...." Before I could finish, he ripped another fart.
"I want to smoke weeeeed all day," he stated loudly.
"Do you ever read?" I questioned. Suddenly the room got silent again, and everyone looked at me as if I had just slapped them in the face with a glove and challenged them to a duel.
"Reading's for pussies!" yelled a kid in the back. "Josh reads; don't you?" He continued, pointing to the nose picker.
"Shut up!" Josh screamed back as everyone began to laugh. The laughter began to slowly build, each second becoming louder and louder. My eyes were fixed on Josh, the booger-eater, who was unable to move, and I could see him growing increasingly angrier and angrier with every second. Finally, jumping to his feet, Josh charged at the other kid, knocking him out of his chair and onto the linoleum. He began to wail on this kid with flying fists, and as he did, the entire class erupted into blind chaos. The fart wafter picked up his chair and threw it across the room; the chair hit the fish tank, which exploded on impact. A chain reaction had started; kids began to pick up tables and heave them over. Josh continued to punch his oppressor, and the murse girl, through tears of joy, had written "vagina face" in permanent marker across the front of my messenger bag. It was like a retarded version of Do the Right Thing, started because one kid, who picks his nose and eats his boogers with no shame, was offended by someone accusing him of reading a book. It was, in all sincerity, one of the most depressing things I had ever witnessed.
Consumed by shock and rage, I ran into the center of the pile and pulled Josh away. His victim's face was now covered in blood and looked like something out of Rocky IV. Throwing an uppercut, Josh caught me on the bottom of the chin, and my teeth clicked together from the force. The murse girl jumped on my back and started clawing at my cheeks, but I shook her off and she fell into one of the turned-over lab tables. The rest of the class began to charge me and formed a lopsided pile that resulted with me being taken to my knees. With all my might, I began to raise my body, throwing my hands wildly in any attempt to free myself from the massive stack of riot that was over-taking me. Kicking and flailing around, I finally loosened myself from each tightly bound grip. With my feet finally beneath me, I squared up, ready for whichever one of these little monsters was going to attack next.
"I will kill every single one of you, mother fuckers!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. When I looked up with fists balled and ready to fight, I saw the principal and three other faculty members standing inside the doorway.
"Hey!" I exclaimed in a poor attempt to play off the recent events. No one said anything after that. It was one of those moments that surpassed awkward, garnishing a mush of empty stares that even hypothetical thought couldn't have figured on. Without trying to make a big scene, I slowly dropped my balled fists and exited with my head down in order to avoid any sort of shameful eye contact. My revolution had officially come undone.
The walk from the classroom to the principal's office seemed to take forever and reminded me of the end to the first Rambo movie. I could almost hear the Dan Hill song "It's a Long Road" playing in the back of my head. When we reached his office, the principal just sat and looked at me, continuously contorting his mouth in uncertainty. I told him my story, and, once again, he stared blankly at me before removing his glasses, throwing them on the desk, and giving out a frustrated sigh.
"Where do people like you come from?"
I wasn't sure what he meant by that question, so I sort of shrugged my shoulders and gave a clumsy smirk. He began to say something else but stopped himself just before and then finally waved his hand in a dismissive manner. Taking the hint, I slowly pulled my substitute badge from around my neck and lightly placed it on the edge of his desk. I silently got up and walked out of his office past a large group of faculty set up in gauntlet-like rows, throwing scowls and looks of disapproval at me like garbage or rotten eggs.
On my way out, I passed the nurse's office. Inside, sat the kid that Josh, the booger-eater, had beaten to a pulp. I stopped for a moment in the hallway, watching the nurse place another strip of gauze across a deep gash on his upper forehead. She taped the gauze tightly to his skin, rolled the rest back into a ball, and walked across the room to return it to the cabinet. I don't know what made me want to stay and watch this poor kid sit and bleed, but I couldn't help myself. He turned to the doorway where I stood, and our eyes locked.
His gaze never wavered, and he stared at me in such a steadfast manner that I almost expected his eyes to start glowing like some sort of mythical vampire. I could tell at that moment this kid was not beaten and, like some sort of immortal P. O. W. living off the fumes of hope, would carry on to fight another day. He slowly nodded his head as if to tell me that things were going to be okay. I lightly nodded back to tell him "yes, I know," and in mid-nod, a single tear fell from my eyes and onto the tile below. I quickly dried my face on my sleeve and slowly raised a balled fist into the air above the doorway; this revolution would go on. Without missing a beat, he cocked his head lightly and then gave me the finger.