Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ms. Dolores

We Rule the School - Belle & Sebastian

There was little talk of anything besides budget cuts in the teachers’ lounge. It was all contract renewals, and pay decreases and slashed programs. It was all reassurance and proving indispensability and Save the Music. It was all there was, and it got to all.

There was little talk of anything besides a party at Maddie Jenning’s house in Ms. Dolores’s last period senior English class. It was all who was coming and don’t tell too many people; as they all told everyone. It was all who was a narc, who was a drunk, who was a druggie, who was a slut, who was hot, who was too straight-laced.

Ms. Dolores didn’t know when all the adults got so scared and all the kids stopped caring. She didn’t know when she stopped feeling anything either. It all made her so miserable.

She looked at the motivational posters lining her classroom; images of animals in precarious positions with wispy words of encouragement attempting to tie it all together. She could no longer understand why a previous incarnation of herself would believe that was the thing to put on a wall. Those posters never have any meaning to anyone who could actually benefit from their message.

It wasn’t like she was trying to listen, but she couldn’t help hearing. The kids didn’t care who heard. She would have been terrified to have had a teacher even think that she had had a sip of alcohol or had kissed a boy. It made no sense how they could talk about it so openly.

Her eyes turned from the blue-grey sky outside the window to the blue-grey carpet of the school. She continued to gaze at the carpet and wondered at what a marvel school carpet is. Endless things get tracked on it, gum gets rubbed into it, the whole spectrum of liquid substances gets spilled on it throughout the years, and yet it always looked the same. She filed with her eyes through all the carpet she could see and could find no visible stains.

Then she looked at the kids and thought of all the terrible things they did to one another and to themselves. She thought of how they looked at their parents the next morning like nothing had happened. She thought of how they would then go and start their homework like nothing had happened. There were only very, very few who didn’t and Ms. Dolores didn’t really care who they were. She couldn’t even tell the good kids from the bad anymore. Some of her best and beloved students, she had found out, were just the same. There were no visible signs from which she could sort them, so in her mind they were all the same.

Ms. Dolores didn’t know when she stopped trying to impact kids’ lives. She couldn’t rummage through it all to find the point where teaching became about an excuse to get out of her house and not about preparing the future of our world. Why were there so many apple figurines on her desk? She felt so pathetic.

Her students were supposed to be transforming an excerpt of Macbeth into contemporary vernacular. They weren’t and she didn’t care. She did not care. Oh, it was all too much. She couldn’t take it. Everything seemed so loud. The fluorescent light felt like sandpaper on her eyes. Everything seemed too much. It was all too much. It was too much and it wasn’t stopping. Everyone around her was getting more afraid or more careless and it wasn’t stopping. It was terrible. She hated it. She didn’t care, but she hated it. Too much, too much, too much.

“Hey everyone! Let’s call it a day. Just head out and don’t tell Mr. Loften. Consider it an early graduation gift,” Ms. Dolores called out suddenly. It was against school policy, but she didn’t care. She did not care.

The students were quiet for the first time that day; unsure of how serious she was.

“I mean it, class is over. Have a good weekend. I won’t tell anyone this happened, if you don’t. See you later.”

The students left and Ms. Dolores spent the rest of the day taking down every stupid poster and apple shaped statuette in her room.

With fifteen minutes left she snuck down to the teachers’ lounge and grabbed an assortment of drinks from the fridge including Mr. Grigson’s wine that he hid in a grape juice bottle; ignoring all labels of ownership on the cartons, jugs, cans, and bottles. She then headed back to her classroom and proceeded to pour out the liquids on the carpet in her room. There was coke, then 2% milk, then whole milk, then soy milk, then the wine, then some actual grape juice, then some V8, and then her own coffee. In her mind she felt like some witch throwing all sorts of potions into a cauldron so she could cast a spell. She watched it form a dark, damp continent on the floor that soon began shrinking like it was the victim of global warming as it evaporated into a memory.

El Zócalo - Beirut

While she was walking out for the day she stopped in a hall. This hall contained the trophy case and all the monuments to the athletic accomplishments the Lafayette High School Tigers had bested others for down through the years. She had stopped at the very last portion of the trophy case, containing the very oldest awards. Ignoring the prizes and focusing on her reflection struggling through the glass, she then looked at the trophies and plaques and felt like the only thing she had in common with them was age. She studied her reflection through the trophies.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had paid so much attention to her appearance; to the cartoonish features, made even more cartoonish by her thick glasses, and her triangle-shaped hair that had never done anything she had wanted it to, and how she couldn’t tell if her hair was brown or gray. She looked at her clothes which gave the impression that she got her style cues from dolls rather than mannequins. She looked at how you couldn’t tell if she were 40 or 65. She was almost 50. She tried to make herself feel something, but she didn’t. She stared a little while longer, switching her focus like a camera back and forth between the trophies and her reflection. Then she left.

Pam Berry - The Shins

She left and went home. At home she laid on her couch, bed, living room floor, dining room floor, bedroom floor and her backyard lawn. And she stared. Occasionally she thought too.

Three hours later she went to cook herself dinner with the motivation that she’d feel worse if she didn’t. Then she sat down in front of the TV, with a TV tray, with food she prepared based off a recipe from the local afternoon news. When she turned on the television, she tried to figure out when she had started watching TV more than reading books. She never thought she’d be such a person.

Then she thought of never. She thought of all the nevers in her life; all the things she’d never done. She’d never done anything really bad. Bad being anything her Sunday school teacher wouldn’t have approved of. So many nevers. Too many nevers. She lived in a kind of Neverland too, but it was not a happy one. Her Neverland was her Sunday school class. She remembered the stale air of that class where the perfume of everyone’s mother dropping them off hung in the air and crowded you like too many throw pillows on a bed. She remembered the orange carpeting of that room too. That carpet had that same stain-repellent property as her classroom’s carpet.


ouo - Andrew Bird

The idea came to her quite beautifully like two birds bringing an enchanted dress to an animated princess or like a cartoon stork dropping a baby off to a mother. When it came, it was there. She entertained it minimally. Soon her keys were turning the car’s engine over and she was driving. On her way over to her destination she followed every traffic law she was aware of: full stops, hundreds of feet of blinkers, a mile below the speed limit.

Shine Blockas - Big Boi (Feat. Gucci Mane)

The bass came to her first as it always does. Then the cars; too many for a typical residential house. Then a smashed bottle in the road, then the distinctive sound of a ratio pitting a high amount of people to a low amount of space. Then she parked. Then she pulled out her keys from the ignition. Then she opened her door, locked it, closed it, pulled the handle to make sure it was locked. Then she walked towards Maddie Jennings’ house.

Then the six patches of sidewalk, then the three stairs, then a “Wipe Yer’ Paws” welcome mat, then a hand rotating a doorknob, then Ms. Dolores entered the Jennings’ household without a ring of the doorbell or a knock; like she owned the place. Then past the eyes hopping onto her, the gasps she thought she heard, the pointing fingers in her periphery, the music volume that stayed the same, the volume of talking that lowered, the thoughts about what was happening that she could only imagine, and only the kids on hallucinogens thought everything was normal; then straight to the kitchen, then to the kitchen island where a play city of alcohol looked to be arranged: a refrigerator pack of beer apartment complex, liquor bottle skyscrapers of various heights, a 30 pack arena, a pyramid monument of empty beer cans, solo cups throughout the scene like a franchised restaurant, a bottle 6-pack factory. Then the only thing she knew to say in such a situation,

“What does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?”

Then a symphony of stares; Ms. Dolores for the first time looked up and around. Running through those in front of her with her eyes and then turning and seeing those looking on from other rooms; stares. Completing the rotation she came around to where she was. Then she saw the silence that was with the stares. They stayed. Then finally a voice that had been deliberating on speaking for a minute, waiting to see what someone else would do, spoke up, like the brave soul who is the first to go up to the crash-landed UFO,

“Is this some kind of bust?” It was Kellen Reeves. A senior, she had given him a B on a short paper he did on Rupert Brooke last week. She looked at him confused. “What are you doing here? Are trying to get us in trouble or something?”

“No, I just want a drink.”

“Ms. Dolores?”

“Just give me something to drink.”

“Why are you here Ms. Dolores?”

“Why are you here? I’m here to party.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Why is this so hard?” she asked to no one in the room. “Just give me something to drink.”

“Are we going to get in trouble?”

“I won’t tell anyone this happened, if you don’t.” Then Kellen, who was already wearing several drinks on his flush face, concurring with Ms. Dolores’ observations, which were based on depictions of alcohol consumption in the visual media she had seen over the years along with two unpleasant experiences at bar and grilles, that he was slightly inebriated; smiled and said,


And he stepped forward and handed her his solo cup.

“Drink up.”

And she did, and he cheered, and then everyone else cheered. Then he turned around and shouted,

“Who wants to take a shot with Senora Dolores?” And more cheers. She wondered if this was what it felt like to have the crowd roar for you as an athlete. “Slut number 1, number 2, and number 3,” Kellen said pointing to a trio of girls, “You ladies are up to bat first.”

The girls came and surrounded Ms. Dolores as Kellen collected supplies. She knew all three girls. They were Adrienne Montiff, Dani Laswell, Jess Burges. She thought of how she didn’t like Adrienne’s parents when she met them at Parent-Teacher conferences, how Dani used too many commas in her writing, how Jess always volunteered to read in class. She didn’t say anything to them, and they mostly just giggled.

“Alright, here we are,” said Kellen like a waiter as he set five shot glasses down on the kitchen isle. On the glasses were the Statue of Liberty, a coat of arms, a logo from a furniture company, the Palms Casino, and a Christmas Tree. Kellen sloppily flung a clear liquid into them and they all grabbed them. Ms. Dolores took the last one left on the right. Then he handed out solo cups with a substance already in them.

“So I'm guessing this is your first shot ever, right?” asked Kellen and Ms. Dolores nodded. He laughed and then said, “So here’s what you’re going to do. We’re going to count to three and then we’re going to dump the glasses back. Don’t try to smell it or anything or taste it. Just put it back and swallow it as fast as you can. Then right after, drink that chaser. It’s orange juice. Ready?” he asked her. “I’m so excited for this,” he remarked to the others. Smiling big he said, “’K, together…oh, wait, wait, wait…this is a special occasion so I should make a toast. To Ms. D’s first shot ever and hopefully the last thing she remembers tonight.” More guttural noises and high pitched squeals from around her. “’K, everyone…”


And the first course went down. It wrenched her throat and made he want to writhe, but she had resolved not to cough or choke. She scrambled and drank up the second course of drink. People were cheering for her again. She drank more of her chaser till there was none left.

“And while you’re still coherent,” Kellen took her aside, “I’m going give you some basic ground rules. Number one, no matter what door, if it’s closed, knock, and um…yeah I can’t really think of anymore, but uh…I’ll tell you more later, but yeah just you know have fun… oh yeah and if the cops come, you book it through that door,” he pointed to the door near them that lead from the kitchen to the backyard, “and hop the fence and keep running. And if you’re worried about hopping the fence, trust me tonight you’ll be able to make it over the fence.

“Alright Ms. D, I’m calling you Ms. D tonight by the way, stick with me and I’ll show you how to party. Everything’s pretty chill right now, but we’ll get it crunk soon.” She just stared at him.

He sat her on a kitchen stool and a small crowd environed her. Kellen and some of his friends, Brayden Dobsen, who still didn’t understand the difference between their and there and they’re, and Denny Hartman, who would always draw a heart and then write “man” when putting his name on papers, started to play bartender.

Laughing Gas - Neon Indian

And she sat on her stool, and one by one drinks were brought out to her.

She felt like she was in an automatic car wash and each drink she quaffed was like a different part of the cycle. Some were pleasant like a spurt of foam or a buffing; they made her feel good and giggling at nothing but the feeling inside her. Others were odious, like a hard spray, and she felt off-kilter and uncomfortable. After swallowing she felt like she was waking up from a new dream with each drink; good or bad. Every one was like a new wave crashing over her, doing it’s assigned purpose on the way to making her good and drunk. These drinks were usually accompanied by titles, explanations, and stories her ears only swallowed partial sound bites of: “…my dad taught me…,” “…so good with Monster…,” “…naked at Waffle House…,” “…Lindsay Lohan water…,” “…so drunk, but won ten games straight...,” “…you’ll want a coke chaser…”

Emerging from the initial bombardment of alcohol, she said she needed a break. Ms. Dolores had no idea what she had put into her body or what amount.

“Need some air Ms. D?” someone said.

“Yeah, air good,” is what she got out.

Outside a wind blew up and left an aftertaste of goose bumps on her arm. She grabbed the railing of the wooden deck to act as a paperweight. Kellen came up beside her, handing her some water.

“So how are we feeling?”

“Better by the moment,” Ms. Dolores said with candor. She was shaking off her first onslaught of fermented drink like a dog coming out of the water and was noticing how pleasant things seemed and how much she liked the gossamer tingly sensation surrounding and suppressed in her.

“Ready to go back in yet?”

“I was born ready,” she said laughing with gusto.

Inside again, she followed Kellen around with a cup of something else he told her to keep sipping on. They talked with people, and laughed. They danced, and laughed. They talked to some more people, and laughed some more. A carousel of faces, and words, and laughs, and movement and sips.

It came over her that she felt like she in a kids’ show. Everyone seemed so simple. There were the happy people she sat with on the couch who seemed to laugh and agree with whatever was said, and there was the mean kid, who had yelled and cursed at her for some sleight that she thought had to do with grades or something. She barely understood him though. There was the sad girl Ms. Dolores consoled in the kitchen. The girl cried and cried though Ms. Dolores never found out what for There was Kellen who seemed like the host taking her along this journey to meet all these magical creatures who inhabited this land.

And she felt like a kid too. She barely spoke the whole night, laughing was about it. She lacked the language to interject into the scene going on in front of her; unable to find words to act as couriers for her interior thoughts and condition. Everything seemed so phantasmagorical.

We Are Your Friends - Justice vs. Simian

The night then became like a Polaroid slide-show where details only later emerged with some patient and concerted effort for them to develop in her mind. Each snapshot with a short caption of anything she could remember. First there was Beer Pong with Kellen where the two of them won and so they carried her on their shoulders till she almost fell and so they attempted to crowd surf her instead. Sometime after that, someone turned on a strobe light for a few songs and she laughed as hard as if she were being tickled as she attempted to dance. A flat-billed baseball hat was put on her head at some point and then was later gone without her noticing its disappearance. Also, Adrienne and her, acting like there was an earthquake; grabbing the walls for supporting, and knocking down objects until Maddie Jennings got angry and told them to stop. “Hitch-hiking” with Brayden as the two of them scavenged around and downed any abandoned and half-empty containers they came across. Next, having to go to the bathroom and having to go back repeatedly. Then it was learning how to shotgun a beer and more shots with Jess and another girl, Candace Mason, who had very good handwriting.

Ms. Dolores noticed how sleepy she was getting and how dizzy she was getting. They told her not to close her eyes though. Kellen took her outside again where she closed her eyes and then started vomiting. Kellen took her down from the deck to the backyard where she was on all fours, vomiting more.

“You ok Ms. D?”

“Whew… think I’m ok now.” She did not feel as good as before, but she felt like the night was still young.

“You good to go back inside?”

“Yeah, want another drink.”

He held her hand to walk her back inside; chuckling to himself.

“Hey. Kelly. Whip me up some else…” said she to Kellen.

“Alrighty, what are you in the mood for Mizzzzzzzzzzz D.”

“No idea, have no idea what you’ve been giving me all night.”

“I’ll fix you up. Got just the potion, give me a sec.”

She grabbed the cup from him and started walking but there were now imaginary hands pulling her in different directions. She stumbled. She felt like a celebrity being grabbed at while walking through a crowd. She laughed at this and started forward again. The hands pulled at her again, and then the lights were turned out and then on again; off, and on again. It was then that she felt someone with an invisible rope tied to her abdomen pull her forward as the carpet neared. She brought down her drink as well as several more stray glasses, cups, and bottles near her as they spilled on the carpet with her.

The last bread crumb of thought she could recall before it all faded to black was thinking she was going to feel terrible in the morning. Ms. Dolores laid there and didn’t hear the cameras going off around her with their synthesized shutters.


In the morning when she woke up, she felt terrible. She actually had a new definition of terrible.

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