On Thursdays I go up to the high school and tutor writing for a couple hours. Sometimes no one wants to be tutored, so I get an old book off the dusty shelves and pretend to read until a decent amount of time has passed and I can leave.
This library is nothing like it was when I was in school. For one thing, computers attract the kids like something really attractive. Not that we ever opened a library book back then unless it was an encyclopedia or an anatomy book, but these kids wouldn’t even think of looking at a book.
One thing all these kids have in common is the perpetual use of the f-word: loudly, and repeatedly, and in every sentence at least once but preferably multiple times used as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, gerund, past perfect participle, and object of a preposition.
Another thing is their determination to reveal acres of skin. I saw one girl sitting at a table with a plumber’s crack as long as the San Andreas Fault. Back in the day this would have aroused considerable attention, but no one was gawking but me.
The noise level in the library is akin to being at a rock concert, only louder. No one whispers. The school has a boiler-type heater that keeps temperatures just shy of inferno, so the windows are usually open. Whenever people walk by, which is more often than you’d think, kids get up from the computers to go over and make fun of them, yelling things like, “you’re such a dork,” as loud as they can. The librarians are too deaf to notice.
Whenever someone does come over to be tutored, they’ll hand me a paper that their teacher has slashed and scrawled so many notes and corrections that you have to excavate down to find the original work. It’s an incoherent mess beyond repair, and yet I smile and give them lovely suggestions about how to improve the first couple of sentences before they jump up and go spit out the window at a passing dog.
In their absence, I write a little tiny, “ef you” at the bottom right corner of their papers. Not really, but wouldn’t that be cool? They’d get home and think it was from the teacher, which they’d probably think was far out or whatever they say these days. It might create a bond that would last through the school year. On the other hand, they might bring a knife and slash the effeing ef to teach her to effing ef with them, son of an effing ef. It’s hard to know with kids these days.