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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Mr. & Mrs. D

saturday i went to the gym and ran two miles. i also did the full circuit of weights, spraying each machine down with the provided "disinfectant" each time. i had to. i smelled bad and didn't want to leave evidence of that.

but before the machines and before my smell, even, i happened to spot two former teachers of mine: Mr. and Mrs. D. i noticed him first. he looked virtually the same. she had aged a bit: put on a few pounds--still in the hips--and her salt and pepper hair was now fully grey. oddly enough, i became sandwiched between the two on the tradmill line. it was at least 40 mintues before i had the guts to say anything.

you see, i was a horrific student. i have lots of guilt wrapped up in my middle and high school years. in middle school, when i had this lovely couple, there was a group of us that just lived for the excitement of their reaction. in Mrs. D's class especially, we'd plan our attacks. on our way down the hall to English, we'd stop at lockers to grab our dogeared copies of The Pearl and set our time.

ok, 11: 20 it's bumper desks. pass it on.


tell everyone to start coughing at exactly 10:55.

or that time we had a sub and we pretended that the class prodigy (seriously--this kid's a doctor now) was illiterate. we were reading aloud round-robin and when it came to him, he stuttered beautifully, finally putting his head in his hands and sniffling in shame as we all laughed and pointed.

high school involved cutting class almost as often as attending it. one teacher in particular was really hurt my group's lack of attendance. a few years after graduation, we all found out that her daughter had been brutally murdered in her home. they still haven't found the killer. every few months or so i'll see my teacher in the newspaper and i just want to apologize for everything. for being rude, for being thoughtless, for somehow maybe letting her daughter die...

...but now i was thinking of 8th grade--her scowling face, her evil eye, her hands planted firmly on her hips so that each arm formed a stoic V that was supposed to emphasize her authority. so once Mrs. D dismounted her treadmill and wiped it down, and i saw her motion to the Mr. that she'd be waiting downstairs, did i think about talking. he didn't recognize me initially so i rattled off some names amidst labored breathing and watched as he began to recall with strained laughter. it was a pleasant conversation and i'd eyed his treadmill display to know that he only had about 3 minutes remaining of his workout. there wouldn't be an awkward conclusion that left us both standing side-by-side as we finished our runs or walks. so he made the pleasant goodbyes and as he grabbed his towel, i blurted--almost too late--oh, and please tell your wife I'm sorry for being such a horrible student. i really was so bad. i'm sorry.

he chuckled, glanced to the floor, and said he would.

a few minutes after he disappeared, she resurfaced in front of my treadmill with a sudden brilliance. she explained how lovely it was to see me, and her smile was a warm recollection of how i'd really felt about her as a teacher. i apologized again, trying to be sincere. she insisted that she had no recollection of me being as wretched as i professed. i was glad, but i almost didn't believe her. a very brief conversation followed. it summarized her and her husband's recent goings on. like their recent retirement after 33 years at the same school, their new job of trying to stay alive by working out at the gym (i didn't know if I should smile or wince--i smiled), and how they normally are out playing tennis with Mr. Stern on Saturdays so it was just so lovely that things worked out for us to meet up again this afternoon.

oh, Mr. Stern! I remember him for his Brooklyn accent!

she gave me a smirk and told me she'd let him know that.

when she left, I noticed that she had a slight limp. Her hairstyle was almost identical to the style she wore over ten years ago. But her smile was certainly brighter.

I turned the speed back up to 5.0 on my treadmill and begain to jog.


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