This project is (partly) peppered with swearing and references to sex, so if that’s not your cup-of-tea, then please go in peace.
The Teachers Pt 2.
The white strips of fat had only just begun to grey in the heat of the pan when Devon’s phone rang. It was muffled and in a pocket somewhere. Handing Maggie the tongs, he honed in on his coat by the door. Because his coat was hanging almost, but not quite, upside down he had to fumble a bit to catch the call before it went to voicemail. Maggie noted, not for the first time, that Devon’s ringtone was a soft, gentle version of the first of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. She wondered how he even heard it sometimes, it was so delicate, but she had nonetheless grown fond of it over these last months in his company and kept meaning to ask him who was playing. She knew it was neither of Glenn Gould’s performances. She’d grown up with those in her bones. According to her mother, the version from right before Gould died was one of the first things that compelled Maggie to consciously connect her body to music.
“Not an easy thing to dance to my Magpie,” her mother had said to her once, “but you couldn’t help yourself.” In addition to the Gould, Maggie had also been very physically moved by the short animation about counting socks on Sesame Street. And, Bob Dylan. And, The Doors, Billie Holiday, and David Bowie too. But Bach and dancing socks came first.
“Hey Mum,” Devon said and paused to listen, “Yup, that about sums it up but how did you... Right, I had forgotten she was still doing some counselling... You tell Dad whatever you wish to tell him... Nope, haven’t discussed it with him either. He’s still up north, I think, and it just kind of all happened... You'll have to find more informed spies then I guess... Why do you want to know her name, Mum?” Maggie’s ears perked up as she turned the heat down a bit under the bacon, stirred and flipped a few pieces, moved a few more around, “... well, it’s Maggie but there was no coercion of any kind if that’s what you’re... Mum, I’ve gotta’ go... I’ve gotta’ go... Well, is there some version of this conversation where you don’t chasten me like an incompetent five-year-old?... Okay Mum, but one man’s ‘impulsive mess’ is another man’s righteous crusade...,” Maggie couldn’t help but smile, “I’m going to hang up now, Mum... No... No, we won’t know anything for a while I expect and... Hanging up now, Mum... Love you, Mum.”
Maggie could just see him around the kitchen corner. He tucked his phone back in his now-right-side-up coat and stood there, head down. His fingers massaged the space between his eyebrows. It was not the first time she had seen him in this stance but she could actually feel in the shape of his body how the weight of his family dynamics had layered on top of the weight of his hangover, the weight of the kids back at the school, the weight of lawyers and union reps and of possibly no longer having a job. The bacon sizzled and sputtered into the silence, the sound and energy of it calling to Maggie’s tired limbs and heavy skin.
“Another part of the memoir,” he said as he moved back toward the kitchen. Maggie drew her eyes to the pan and made adjustments to distribute and maximize browning, “that no one will believe for its utterly clichéd predictability.” He stopped talking, sipped from his mug of water by the stove, noticed her mug was empty and went to fill it for her. The sound of the running water met the sound of the bacon. She listened. The constant restlessness of her dancer-body released the vibrations of sizzle and sputter to instead meet the water in its flow and ripple and swirl. She waited to see if he would say more. He did.
“A father who rejects his queer son,” he returned her mug to her, “a father rejected by his straight son because he loves his queer brother. A mother stuck in the middle of it all just looking for someone to blame for her lousy marriage and terrible husband.” It was the most blunt he’d ever been about his family. So much had been insinuated that nothing he’d just said was a surprise to Maggie but little had been truly expressed. His delivery did surprise her a bit. More sharp than blunt, and full of real pain. It moved her and added another dimension to her understanding of him. She quietly studied him for a moment as he stared at the bacon and truly understood, in a way that settled inside her always-moving soul, why her closest friend had been begging her to jump his bones for the last few months.
“So,” she said, sensing that it might be best to let these sharper of his words, his increased openness, just sit between them for a while, “I have lured you into foolish rebellion with the perils of my Siren song have I?” He smiled.
“What can I say? Where I go, hapless and insufficiently fortified men will follow. It’s always been this way,” she said drily, “an endless trail of ruined souls creating drag in my wake – And don’t,” she raised the tongs up toward his face and looked at him, “explain to me how drag actually works. Or the details of what forms a wake. Or whatever it is that my clunky metaphor conjures for you scientifically.” She returned her eyes and the tongs to the pan to shift the bacon around some more, “not, at least, until I’ve eaten my share of this bacon and you’ve made me some of your overpriced coffee.” He smiled and snuck his hands into his pockets, his shoulders rising up toward his ears for a moment.
“I’m glad,” he said, “that I went on this righteous crusade with you. You. Not someone else who wouldn’t have...” He didn’t quite know how to finish the thought and stilled into an undeniably pregnant pause.
“You’re more of a Pied Piper than a Siren,” he said at last, “but in a good way. Like you will always use your powers to lead, to inspire, to move people... To at least try do what is right.” Her eyes, already in a general state of leakiness, loosed a few more tears.
“Dammit Devon,” she wiped at her wet face with the back of her sleeve, “okay... explain to me how drag works if you want.” Devon’s natural self-containment turned into a brief, sparkly laugh.
“We definitely need coffee then,” he said. She grinned. He turned his back to her to get the coffee out of cupboard behind them.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice lower and smaller than it had been, “for trusting me. You brought your clarity to my scattered. We nurtured something beautiful, I think, even if it didn’t really get a chance to grow.” She turned from the bacon and hooked a few of his fingers with her own, pulling one of his arms slightly beyond the line of his back as he reached for the coffee with his other. He squeezed her fingers, and stilled, but did not turn around to face her as his other hand found and grasped the coffee.
THOUGHTS ABOUT FICTION & FEEDBACK: My human child and my fiction babies are the softest parts of my soft underbelly. All I want is for them to find good ways to be out into the world. I am also, always, at least a little terrified when they do. My teenager gets to make a lot of his own decisions about this process. My fiction must always wait for me to do the legwork.
Parts of this particular project began in a political place, so in addition to more garden variety fears about writerly suckage, I wonder if I have – in any way – overstepped my cisgender, straight whiteness, and/or relative financial securities in a haze of myopic privilege. My underbelly is always afraid I will offend people.
BOTTOM LINE: I will delete hateful comments without compunction, but I welcome meaningful, educative feedback, ideas, suggestions, and dialogue. Best, S.