Our English teacher dresses like me: Wool skirts. Mohair pullovers. Sling-back flats. Seamless pantyhose, nude. Her skirts are mini, but no one makes her kneel in the hall to see if her hem touches the floor.
She’s the only teacher who makes me feel like a real person. The others haven’t bothered to learn my name. Another thing: She uses a blue pencil for corrections on our papers, never red, and doesn’t call on us unless our hand is raised.
She keeps a jar of molasses on her desk. A guy in class said he saw her in the cafeteria pouring it over fried potatoes like Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird.
She passes a bag of pork rinds when we read Lord of the Flies.
She tells us about Humbert Humbert and his secrets and sins, and tells us to check out Lolita from the city library.
I read it on my own, finish all three-hundred-thirty-six pages under my comforter with a flashlight.
…strangling in snot-soaked sheets.
The next day she gives everyone in class a notebook and calls them free journals. I wish mine had a built-in lock like my diary. Our homework for the semester is to fill the pages with free writing.
I love the word free: Free-and-easy. Free spirit. Free love.
Only her freedom has rules: Pens. No pencils. No erasers. No ink eradicator. Once we put pen to paper we’re suppose to write nonstop for twenty minutes, smearing our bloody thoughts and feelings across all those clean white pages.
Freedom, I write, isn’t free if strings are attached, even if it is a homework assignment.
I tell my brain to shut up.
I’m writing without thinking about commas or periods or spelling or being neat or worrying about anyone else reading how much I hate the creep next door and that I don’t care if he was drunk because that isn’t an excuse for cramming his tongue down my throat which is as perverted as Humbert Humbert who acts all smart and superior but is super sickening and besides I know my neighbor would’ve done more if I hadn’t pushed him off me and I almost barf every time the doorbell rings and I can’t get that disgusting booze taste out of my mouth no matter how many times I brush my tongue with Gleem and I hope his tongue got sliced on my braces and I think writing like this makes me feel a little bit better because it’s like throwing up when there’s something rotten inside so tomorrow I’m going to keep writing and the next day until more of this sick feeling gushes out and away and maybe I’ll write a thank you note to my teacher because she gave us journals and promised not to read them…