I sit in an empty classroom, the sunlight of the early morning rays coming through the blinds. It feels like an elementary classroom, cartoon characters looking down from the walls and the posters talking about things like math being “elemental” while showing pictures of volcanoes. Yet I am not in elementary school, I am my current age, but I feel as though I have a lifetime of experience behind me. Suddenly a man walks in and sits down on top of a desk in front of me, calmly brushing the dust of chalk away from his slacks. There is a kindness to his face, the sort that seems to instill a sense of quiet strength, like a great oak tree that cools you in the shade on a hot summer day. We sit silently for a while, feeling the look of his intense study seemingly cutting through every part of me. Finally, he speaks.
“Do you know why you’re here?” he asks, his voice deep but full of warmth.
“No sir, I do not.”
He smiles and pulls a file out of his bag on the desk behind him, placing it on the empty desk between us. I glance down and see my name written on the side. As far as what is inside, it was beyond me, but I somehow knew it wasn’t grades. The teacher sat looking at me with a kind and sort of waiting expression his face. I figured this was my cue to say something.
“I guess this is about my file,” I supposed with caution.
“You would correct sir. Now let’s examine what is in this file,” he began, thumbing through it while silently scanning it’s lines, occasionally murmuring to himself. It was a different murmur than I expected; it didn’t fill me with a sense of dread like being in the principle’s office did. It seemed more like healthy concern than anything, and I smiled thinking about this man who’d never met being concerned with my future.
“So what is in my file, Mr…?”
“Teacher, just call me Teacher.”
“Just Teacher. Is this like a Prince thing? Just one name?”
He smiled. “Oh I go by many names, but Teacher will work fine for now.”
“Gotcha. So what’s in this file? I have a feeling it’s more than grades.”
Teacher put the file in front of me. “See for yourself!” There was a sense of pride about him, like a father doting on his son. It wasn’t until I started examining the contents that I found his sense of fatherly pride to be completely misplaced. The file was horrible. Everything rotten I had ever done, said, or thought was inside, things in excruciating details, things I had downplayed for years to make myself look better, actions and desires I never thought I would be capable of, yet there they were in stark black and white. The initially thin file never ended, bottomless in it’s supply of misdeeds like Mary Poppin’s bag. It was completely overwhelming. Teacher’s eyes never left me, his expression seemingly understanding every single emotion I was feeling. Everything inside of me was screaming in horror at the grim reality of what I was: an utter disaster of a human being. Hot tears began to crawl down my face, stinging me in shame. I felt as though the eyes of the world were on me, instead raised up to see only Teacher looking at me intently.
“Why are you showing me this? Why? What are you trying to do?! What kind of sadistic crap is this?” I was screaming, my hands gripping the paper and crumbling it in my clinched fists. He never blinked. The tears were flowing and as they streamed down and met at my chin, then one of his hands grasped my fist and the other placed itself over the file to let the moisture puddle in his open palm. Letting go of my fist, he placed his free hand around my neck and pulled himself close and whispered softly in my ear.
“I’m showing you this so that you will understand.” His voice was almost like a breeze blowing through the trees. “I’m showing you because you need to see, because I want you to see.”
“Well, you didn’t finish the file.”
“Why would I want to finish it? I’m sure the rest is as encouraging a read as the previous pages.”
Through my tears I looked at the file. I could feel panic rising within me. “There are no more pages left. I’ve reached the end of the file.”
Teacher laughed. “Are you sure about that?”
I looked at the file again. All of the pages were gone, except for one. It was blank.
“What’s going on?”
“I took care of it.”
“What do you mean you took care of it?”
“You know what I mean. You just needed to be reminded of it.”
“I don’t understand.”
Teacher got off the desk and got on his knees in front of me, grasping my hands as his smile was surrounded by the creases in his five o’clock shadow. He loosened his tie as if to make himself speak more clearly, and his grip was firm on my hands.
“I took care of it because I love you. You’ve let the world tell you that you’re not important, that you’re inadequate, that you have nothing to offer. I showed you your file to grasp how much I love you.”
The tears were flowing again. “How does showing me what awful things I’ve done help me understand how much you love me?”
Teacher’s hands began to change, the sensory receptors in my hands firing in rapid succession, and I looked down to see two clean holes forming on his wrists at the bottom of his hands. He grabbed my forearms and I felt the strange circular sensation of the wounds against my skin. His face changed as well, becoming more rugged and wounded, as if he had endured many fistfights and scars. Underneath his collar and tie I could see faint ribbons of scars across his lower neck and shoulders. He seemed to pulse, like a vein pumping blood at a feverish pace to keep the body alive, and his eyes burned with an intense fire, piercing and soothing me all at the same time.
“I love you enough to take all of that,” he whispered, gesturing down towards the file, “and put it on me so that you will never have to be separated from me. From infinity past I had you on my brain, and when I crafted you my soul was lifted in joy and there has never been a moment where I didn’t love you. All this, the file, it’s a reminder that no matter what you’ve done, you are not without hope, because I am hope and life. I have offered you grace because you don’t deserve it, but I gave it all the same because I love you. You believe this, and you trust this, but you have fallen away from it, become distracted and disillusioned with the conflict I placed before you to draw you closer to me. You lost touch with what I gave you by giving myself for you. Sometimes you have to be reminded of that, and that is exactly what this is child, a reminder.” His voice felt as though I was swimming in the midst of it, crystal clear and yet enveloping.
“I don’t know what to say. I have so little to give… I’ve never had much to give. You know that.”
“I gave myself so that you may have much through me. I just want your all, even if it feels like hardly enough. I’ll give you the tools for everything else. Trust in me, and I will guide your path. Every step with me, no matter how small, fills me with joy.”
Teacher smiled at me and my insides felt as if wrapped in a warm coat. I knew who he was because he knew me, and the pangs of the first love that had felt faded from the worries of the world now flowed through me anew like a wildfire.