It’s Crowded in Here
Climbing the stairs to my second floor classroom at 7:00 AM had always been so invigorating. I used to be ready and eager to begin a new day often lugging several tote bags filled with manuals and papers up the stairs to second floor, gazing in amazement at the colorful bulletin boards that brightened the walls with children’s work. All the teachers had such clever ideas. We were a good team. I would open the double doors and turn left as always, wondering if my friend in the computer lab was in yet. Those days are over now.
I unlocked my door and switched on the lights, needing to open windows and place assignments on the board, but as I sat my things down, I noticed that my chair was missing. In its place was a bright orange stool with a cushioned seat.
“Oh, well,” I thought, “No biggie. Someone probably borrowed it.” I dropped my bundles beside my desk and hurriedly began busying myself. Finally it was time to sit and make a few last minute notes. After brushing off some bits of cracker and chalk dust, I sat on the worn stool and that's when it happened! That's when the entire classroom changed! Instantly the room felt crowded and there was a strange bluish light. I looked up to discover that I wasn’t alone. The student desks were occupied!
“OK. I must be dreaming,” I thought to myself, so I gave this eclectic crew of characters my full attention. There was a young child, a Native American, a bag lady, a nun in black garb, a tree-hugging hippie, an absent-minded professor, a prostitute and an analyst, along with a few others. “Good morning,” I said as though I had been expecting them. “This must be a Committee meeting?” (What made me say that? It just seemed right.)
A small girl in the front row who was wearing a cowgirl outfit, flipped back her hat and sat on top of her desk. “Have you lost something, Mrs. Walker?” she giggled, placing a hand over her smile, one tooth missing.
“Well, yes! My chair is missing. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?” I asked teasingly, drumming my fingernails on the desktop..
“No, I really don’t,” she fibbed. “But what I do want to know is, ’Where’s the party? Surely there’s a party around here someplace, with cake and music and games and prizes! I love prizes. I can sing, too, if you’d like.’ ”
“That’s enough, Dale Evans! Sit down and be quiet,” the nun said sternly. “Young ladies do not sit on top of their desks.” Even I was fearful of that voice. “And that gun and holster you’re wearing,” Sister continued, “is now mine. Give it.” Little Dale unhooked the belt and gave Sister her weapon. She longed to tell the stern woman that this wasn’t the way it was done in the movies, but she wisely chose to remain silent.
“Do you know why we’re here?” the bag lady spoke with such a kind voice.
“No,” I lied. I was beginning to realize that my classroom was filled with meez, with parts of the me whom I carry around inside. I’d been trying to ditch a few of them for years but I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I sat up straight and smiled at all of me.
“Now that you’re all here,” I began, “Who would like to speak first. I will give that person a feather and no one may interrupt them until they finish speaking. Then the feather may be passed on to someone else.”
The bag lady took the feather and began to talk, though with a shy, timid voice I could hardly hear. “What if we’re here to become who we are? To wake up and shake up and and make up the take-up.” Scratching her head, she continued, “What if we’re here through the ones we’ve been sent using energy spent who have given consent for the ride.”
“Now, Missy,” said Sr. Josephine, ”you know that a waterless well cannot ripple.”
“I know,” Bag Lady replied. “Yet the letting go so lightens the heart.”
Now I wasn’t going to correct Sr. Josephine even though she had spoken out of turn. Bag lady was still speaking in riddles as she passed the feather on to Professor, whose hand was raised. “Permeate, hesitate, escape the windowless waiting room whithering…….”
The professor, pushing up his wire-rimmed spectacles, hesitantly touched the feather by wrapping a tissue around it first to prevent germs. “Maggie, me Darling,” he grinned toward Bag Lady, “there’s much truth in what you say. The metronome of life is constantly in rhythm with the subtle flux of magnetic resonance, bursting forth in continual gaseous flame. The metronome controls it all; the flow of conscious awareness, the food production, the baby’s cry, the movement of currents, the solar plexus.”
“May I speak next,” interrupted the mother impatiently. The professor seemed to have made his point, or at least, she hoped he was finished. He never did know when to quit. “Thank you, Sir for bringing up the solar plexus. Our teacher here is struggling with issues related to her gut feelings, and that is, after all, why we’re here.”
“Of course,” the others agreed.
“We know about your diagnosis, Mrs. Walker- Jody- and we know you don’t want to quit teaching, but we also know that you have no choice. Instead of trying to hide your pain, you’ve got to speak to your principal, explain your predicament. I know you feel irreplaceable in this classroom, but let me reassure you, someone else can come in and take over, even in the middle of the semester, and the children will be fine, the parents will be fine. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
But I did feel ashamed. I had severe muscle pain, getting worse every day but I looked perfectly fine. I no longer could sleep, there was numbness and tingling in my extremities, and pressure points that when touched sent me into spasms, but the worst part was that my memory capacity was dwindling. They called it fibromyalgia. I hesitated to tell my principal because it would place a burden on her, one which she didn’t deserve. Finding a replacement in October would be difficult.
The mother archetype passed the feather to my Native American grandmother who solved everything. "Each of us is manifestation of Mother Earth - Father Sky. We seek to experience what it’s like to be human. You are more than you can ever know, more than an individual with a name and a heart beat. Let me give you a bit of advice, Jody.”
“Thank you, I would love that,” I said with great honor.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
“Oh, it’s Ruby,” I thought. I was hoping to get through this without hearing from the prostitute. She knows I’ve sold my soul on many occasions in the past; to keep the peace, to please others, to fit in, to keep people from knowing what a jerk I am. “Where is the jerk anyway?” She’s usually close by.
“OK, Ruby, I did fail to mention that I’m afraid the principal will think I’m making the whole thing up. I look normal enough. She and the faculty will think I’m such a wimp.” I said.
“Suck it up.”
“That’s enough out of you, Ruby!” scolded Sr. Josephine. “Grandmother still has the floor.”
The Native American then declared, with much pride, “Here’s what I recommend. Allow yourself this feeling of vulnerability. The universe has other plans for you now. You must be willing to allow whatever happens to happen. Welcome it with joy in your heart. Life is not about you. You are about Life. We are all part of human race but it's not a race at all and it has nothing to do with winning. It's really about getting up every time you fall and moving on with integrity. May your life/dance be for beauty.
Deep within, I understood. I slowly rose ignoring the muscle spasms. The orange stool vanished in a flash of rushing air, the third graders’ desks were empty again and I knew exactly what I had to do.
J. W. 10/06/15