*names have been changed to protect anonymity
I could tell you about the English Teacher, but you know him already. The crease-faced, soft-smiled, low-voiced, shoulder-patting, eyes-lingering man who taught you how to feel things in the confines of his cement brick cell with a purple accent wall. He’s in his late forties or early fifties, and sometimes older, but he never tells you his age. His father forced him to play the trumpet, or the trombone or something, so he hates his father and the sound of the tuba and he wants to be a better father to you. He has a wife who makes more money than him, but she’s not at home a lot, and a daughter in the grade above you. He runs the yearbook club, manages student government with an iron fist, and coaches girls’ junior varsity volleyball as a consolation prize for girls’ varsity basketball. He takes attendance through a one-way mirror in the back of his classroom, and he is going to add you on Snapchat once you cross the threshold of his room for the last time.
He’s not someone you talk about, write about, think about at all. He’s a footnote in your therapy sessions. A widow hanging at the end of a left-justified list of types of men you despise: “teacher.” Forgoing a neat conclusion.
He follows me to Layla’s* Instagram DMs. She and I were sort of close in high school, the kind of friends who knew each other from journalism class, but also sometimes through the boys who lived in the neighborhood within walking distance from our school. She sends me a screenshot of a post from someone I don’t recognize. Two brown girls lean against the low-brick walls of my high school’s courtyard, the windows behind them slashed with bright paint. I think they’re seniors, but they don’t look much older than my sister. Wide glasses. Eyeliner, for the first time. Dresses, the kind that my friends’ moms would wear to temple.
The caption: “I’ll never forget the smirk on [his] face when he saw us slow dance.”
I feel rage. The homecoming theme is “Fantasy.”
Before I could actually read or write, I could lie about it. I sat cross-legged on the floor of my nursery with my chubby fingers wrapped around the edges of an illustrated book about the 101 Dalmatians. Beady eyes gliding over the text, I spoke each word. Memorized from the story my mother read to me dozens of times.
She figured if I could pretend, I had no excuse not to learn. In elementary school, I squeezed next to her on our couch and we traded thick stacks of double-spaced pages covered in my rudimentary markings in red pen—her first book. I read her first, her second, her third. Most unpublished. You’re my best editor, she told me as she folded prose into the pleats of my skin and kneaded poetry into the soles of my feet.
My grandmother says that I have my mother’s nose. A sloping, hooked beak that a piercing artist once told me was too asymmetrical for him to punch with a faux-gold stud. I do. Her thick hair, deep-set eyes, downward slanted lashes. Also her distaste for adverbs, affinity for commas, and sweeping, full sentences that look and feel like warm light sifting through rough fabric.
She’s always written about herself with ease. Too much ease—when I read her fantasy of a woman who leaves her husband and children in the middle of the night to live an uninhibited existence, my fork clatters harshly against my plate at dinner. I wade through self-reflection like the muddied banks of our backyard creek, cloaked in cryptic phrases and spurious language.
When my chest feels shot with ice from Layla’s message, I remember when he printed out one of his own essays and taped it at the front of our classroom, telling all of us to read it. I didn’t leave my seat.
When I write about him for the first time, I steel myself against the hulking authority-figure, personalized-book-selector, doting-father presence pressing against the edges of my mind, and I sink into the shameless prose of my first English teacher, my mother, who infused anaphora in my blood.
Were you right to come back? You’ll be sorry, Urania. Wasting a week’s vacation, when you never had time to visit all the cities, regions, countries you would have liked to see—the mountain ranges and snow-covered lakes of Alaska, for instance—returning to the island you swore you’d never set foot on again. A symptom of decline? The sentimentality of age? Curiosity, nothing more. To prove to yourself you can walk along the streets of this city that is no longer yours, travel through this foreign country and not have it provoke sadness, nostalgia, hatred, bitterness, rage in you.
– Mario Vargas Llosa, The Feast of the Goat (1936)
Palms hot from Layla’s message, I flip through my phone to find a contact that had slipped through the cracks in my mind, between the names of now-engaged high school classmates and hometown roads. I have to text my sister to make sure the number is still correct. Sol* was a year behind me in high school, a bit quiet, a bit careful. A silver ring glistened from their septum when they tried to pass me psychedelics for a friend at the high school club fair.
Near the end of the summer, I grabbed ramen with them and my sister, newly graduated from high school. They sat on one side of the booth, and we sipped satiny broth and traded where-are-they-now stories about prolific high school delinquents.
I can’t remember who mentioned him first, but a shiver shook Sol through their skin.
During the pandemic, Sol was one of the only kids who went to school in person, one of the only kids in his classroom. He teased them, coaxed them with breakfast, poked and prodded their brain for familial trauma, juicy exploits, gossip about his other students. A few weeks later, when they heaved in the vice principal’s office, weak and shuddering with tears, he received a warning. They returned to school the next day, and he barricaded himself in the office adjacent to his classroom. He spoke across the room: “Am I far enough away? Are you comfortable yet?”
Sol’s story always sticks in my mind because they did more than I ever could. More than anyone ever did, maybe. Which is why, after Layla’s found Instagram post sends jolts up my spine, I text them.
“Hey! Weird question…”
They respond within a minute. “Yes.”
And another name.
Our call is brief, about half an hour, but it lasts days. They’ve been doing okay, they say, considering. A pause, then we’re tripping over each other to speak. They spew fire: how he singles out a few girls to be his “favorites,” how he works subtly, chipping away at your self-worth, independence, and resolve, how he suffocates you with innuendos, how he pries open your skull with impressionist art and Schrodinger’s cat and stuffs his wanting fingers inside.
I’m going to do something, I tell Sol. I’m going to get him fired.
“You’re not the first person to try.”
When they were in high school, there were two documents, lists of names paired with experiences that ran a few pages long. They compiled one with their friends, other girls who ducked their heads when they passed his classroom and fended off remarks in the halls, but the second document was a bit older, created by a girl who graduated in 2017. I knew about a third, furiously transcribed by an ex-boyfriend of mine in the back of our journalism class—we guessed that there was probably one every two years or so.
I taste Sol’s fury through the phone. We make a shortlist of girls to send our document to. Almost everyone had a story, whether they told it softly in the music hallway or loudly, raucous in the cafeteria. First, we write our own in clean bulleted lines.
When I begin to reconstruct that last year of high school, I revisit the essay I wrote during my creative nonfiction writing class last fall. The one that Max Apple, my 80-year-old firecracker professor, read with narrowed eyes. The one that the SDT girl said tasted familiar. The one that spanned three double-spaced pages and felt like I had splayed out naked on the cold, dark table in Room 202 of the Kelly Writers House and asked my classmates to count my moles. I called it “The English Teacher.”
Max Apple’s favorite line from “The English Teacher” is something I find unremarkable, something he underlined twice in red pen and read aloud in a deliberate voice.
“I become a fiction-writer, spinning vague details from my life into stories that he cannot use against me.”
In the spring of 2020, The English Teacher assigned a 20-page personal essay. The topic was mutable: anything the writer could imagine, as long as it told him something about you, something he couldn’t parse from the daily personal journals that he graded and spit back out at you lined with blue ink.
I wove innocent falsehoods throughout mine: the number of siblings my mother had, the ways my sisters spoke (although he would know soon enough), the thoughts that knocked around my head. To write was to bare baby-pink flesh, stomach exposed under the blacklights.
My writing from senior year was bound tight by mostly-true mock-trial tryout anecdotes and amateur musings about the handful of self-important philosophers who intro-ed our morning classes. I stuffed the first few years of college with clean-cut journalistic prose, 2,000 words on Georgia elections, 3,000 words for the school paper. I plucked any strings of my consciousness from the fabric of my professional writing like my mother picked grey hairs from her head. Until Max Apple’s Introduction to Nonfiction Writing class, then an experimental writing course cluttered with MFAs who presented computer-generated flesh booklets, then half-poems for the weekly workshop my friend dragged me to on Tuesdays.
Indulging my curiosity for long-past assignments, I dive into my abandoned Google Drive. It’s bursting at the seams—15.32 GB of 15 GB used. Nestled among college essay drafts, deplorable fanfiction, and an undoubtedly-high-school-Model-UN-related document titled “fucking killer openings,” is our AP Literature first semester final exam.
A list of 27 prompts, ten of which we chose to answer. We wrote six responses at home, four in class. Five hundred words each. Our class wrote some of the questions, I think. He decided what made the final cut.
Number 7: “On the very first week of school, ______ challenged the way we perceive ourselves with a simple question: Who do you think you are?”
Number 17: “You have spent around 4,655 minutes with ______. You know his mannerisms. You know his techniques. You think you can preemptively guess his every move. But he knows that you cannot, indeed, do that. He is an unpredictable force to be reckoned with. Write a dramatic narrative of a day in the life of this student council sponsor/ yearbook leader/ volleyball ball getter/ bleacher putter upper/ thinks he’s the head of the school-er. Make allusions to the ‘isolationism vs. individualism’ questions from last unit.”
Number 23: “Throughout the school year, our teacher,______, has told us many tales about his childhood and adult life in order to evoke a certain emotional and mental response from us through our writing. He claims that some of his stories are falsified in order to evoke a response, and challenges us to determine which are true and which are false. Evaluate the reliability of your teacher and compare it to the reliability of a narrator in either Slaughterhouse Five, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, or Dracula. Use specific evidence from the text and your personal experiences with ______.”
They drip with narcissism, desperation, craven desire for the brain-stuff of 17-year-old yearbook girls. I did not choose to write numbers 7, 17, or 23.
So honeyed was he by the breezes of love on the eve of his autumn that he dared go out of the city after many years, he started up the old train painted with the colors of the flag again and went creeping and crawling about the ledges of his vast mournful realm, opening a path through orchid sprigs and Amazonian balsam apples, rousing monkeys, birds of paradise, jaguars sleeping on the tracks, even the glacial and deserted villages of his native barren uplands, where they waited for him at the station with hands playing mournful music, tolling death knells, displaying signs of welcome for the nameless patriot who sits at the right hand of the Holy Trinity, they recruited rustics from the back reaches who came down to meet the hidden power in the funereal shadows of the presidential coach, and those who managed to get close enough saw only the quivering lips, the palm of a hand with no origins which waved from the limbo of glory, while a member of the escort tried to get him away from the window, be careful, General, the nation needs you, but he would reply sleepily don’t worry, Colonel, these people love me…
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “The Autumn of the Patriarch” (1976)
The following Wednesday, as on every Wednesday, I arrive narrowly early for “The Dictator Novel.” It’s my first high-level English literature class since my senior year of high school. Our professor wears glasses, but chunky black ones, not the thin wire frames that sat on the bridge of his nose when he turned his gaze down towards mine. This English teacher rambles about the illusion of democracy and the racial, sexual, and socioeconomic dynamics of oppression, but I couldn’t tell you what instrument he played as a child or if he likes what I’m wearing that day. He encourages us to rotate bringing snacks for the class each week.
We’ve just finished Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat, a portrait of life under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. Vargas Llosa’s Trujillo is a slobbering, piss-baby who fronts stone-facedness and chokes the lifeblood out of the DR in a shrill voice. I close-read his sniveling scenes to construct my visage of the literary dictator.
The dictator, transcribed by Vargas Llosa, Díaz, García Márquez, Puig, Rushdie, is both a man and a child. He experiences fits of rage and moments of deathly calm. He is in as much control of his own will as he is his own people, which is either fully and completely or not at all. His dictatorial nature seeps into every part of his life. He is sexually dominant, usually a serial rapist, and disarmingly charming. He is brutal, doting, wildly unpredictable. It is an unimaginable honor and an irreversible death sentence to be loved by him.
Do you despise him? Do you hate him? Still? ‘Not anymore,’ she says aloud. You wouldn’t have come back if the rancor were still sizzling, the wound still bleeding, the deception still crushing her, poisoning her, the way it did in your youth, when studying and working became an obsessive defense against remembering. Back then you did hate him. With every atom of your being, with all the thought and feeling your body could hold… Do you feel avenged? ‘No.’
– Mario Vargas Llosa, The Feast of the Goat (2000)
A week later, I return home for fall break. Homecoming always eats up at least 40 minutes of therapy, when it’s time. We talk about the way my heart skips when I descend over the north Atlanta forest, eyes straining for the bare hump of Stone Mountain jutting out from the east, the gentle tremor of the MARTA gold line as it tears northward through infinite pavement, the sweet nostalgia that swells as I thunder down Bell Road, slick with multicolored leaves and rain.
On my first night home, I nestle into my childhood bed in a mountain of stuffed animals accumulated over a decade. My back presses against a tan teddy bear clutching a plush silver heart—a Valentine’s Day gift from my first high school boyfriend. After the freckled 9th grader presented it to me in the library, I didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day.
I open an Incognito window and Google his full name, then “Georgia.” I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I found my high school cross country coach’s mugshot a few years ago through the same reliable methods.
I open a few links and do some cross-referencing, then settle on perusing StateRecords.org and TruthFinder.com. The Chicago Reader tells me that TruthFinder is “legit.” I plug in any minute identifying detail I can pluck from my brain.
I’m no stranger to internet stalking, but it’s much easier to track down someone who has a sprawling social media presence. His amounts to an Instagram and a Snapchat account that I’ve had blocked for three years. His Facebook is closed-lip smiles, oversaturated pictures, and a black-and-white cover photo of grinning clowns.
I scroll, and he’s posed at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A filter overlays a selfie. “Slytherin: Proud. Ambitious. Cunning.”
I dive into (hardly) darker corners of the internet. OpenPayRolls tells me that he made $76,500 in 2017. He told us that he donated most of his paycheck to the girls volleyball team and the yearbook—he didn’t need it because his wife made so much money. That same year, rumors circulated that they had been separated for months. TruthFinder fails me after half an hour of plugging in best-guesses and pausing to search their records. You need to pay to bypass the final step, and I rub my temples with defeat. I steal glances at my bedroom door, fingers poised to switch tabs. I think about him sitting in his house a few miles away.
StateRecords feels more legitimate, like something I might actually use if I were in the FBI. It teases me with his home value and address, which I could easily double-check—he often had female students house-sit when he went away on the weekends. I imagine them texting him that they’ve arrived when they park in his cul-de-sac and pocket their learners permits.
After twenty painstaking minutes of loading and reloading, divulging my credit card number for a free trial with StateRecords before they start charging me $4.95 a month, I access his file. It’s clean. He’s fifty years old, a year older than my parents, he has a few relatives that live near us, also completely clean. My stomach twists. As if there would have been something that would have gotten him fired from a public high school already.
My palm comes down hard on the top of my computer, slamming my disappointment between the screen and the keyboard.
The following week, I suffocate in The Dictator Novel. My feet haven’t touched the ground since fall break—I float through campus high on going to sleep at 7:30pm in my childhood bedroom, driving an hour and a half to visit my best friend from high school, and sandwiching my dog between my youngest sister and me in her bunk bed.
In class: Vargas Llosa’s graphic violation of a teenager by a sixty-year-old politico. We dissect it like a delicate organ, poking and prodding at lighting, language, dialogue, mood shifts. When he’s done with her, he breaks down in a pathetic, shuddering mound in the shadow of a prepubescent girl sprawled on silk sheets.
My mind dives into a vacuum, furiously swimming backwards through the infinite space of my head. The room careens into a panorama, walls warped to concavity, English-major lilt blurred to a dull hum. My hand scribbles indiscriminately on graph-lined paper. 5…4…3…2…1. Shaky, scattered lines along the bottom of my notes.
Gendered concepts of aesthetics— men = ends-oriented vs. women = means-oriented
I told my mother about him once, twice, a dozen times. Always carefully vague. Her forehead creased over chopped vegetables, lips pouted. “That’s terrible.” I told her not to let my sisters take his class, eschewing specifics. They could take college-level English, honors 12th grade English, AP Human Geography. She said they needed his class to get into college. That they could take it if they wanted to. When my sister became his teaching assistant, my mother congratulated her. Fear gripped my tongue.
Walls/boundaries—zoo cage, prison walls
His classroom was partitioned. A concrete block flanked with a wall-length whiteboard, four long foldable tables. He’s had his room so long that he replaced the regular lights with blacklights. My heart thrums fast when he turns them on. The other half of his classroom is a computer lab, also swallowed by black lights and cushy rolley chairs, new computers, Adobe Creative Cloud. A yearbook club first-class lounge. The front and back rooms are separated by a door with a thin glass window that’s covered from the inside. He takes attendance through the one-way mirror that runs the length of the divider wall.
Art/aesthetics vs. life, plot vs. beauty of stories
The first time I wrote about him, I was explicit. I laid out the stakes: he made suggestive comments to me. About my sex life, about my ex-boyfriend who was a student of his. About how he found me pretty, sexy. He told a friend of mine that she dressed like a stripper, another that she was too pretty to be in his class. He espoused twisted justifications for following his students on Instagram and Snapchat, to private message them and send photos back and forth. To a girl on my cross country team, he said, “turn around and bend over, and then we’ll see.”
When class ends, my professor shoots me an email: “Thank you for your great contributions this week.” I cradle his praise in my mind until our next meeting. They both close with their initials.
Gaddafi preferred to choose his victims directly. Events at schools and universities and political assemblies did double duty as predatory opportunities. The University of Tripoli was a favorite hunting ground, and Gaddafi had a replica of his home sex dungeon constructed on campus for instant gratification…A pat on the head by the leader was a signal to his security services to intervene. Selected by her school on such an occasion to give Gaddafi a bouquet of flowers, Soraya felt that touch: ‘And there my life ended.’
– Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (2020)
After a few weeks, Sol and my document sits empty. Our stories are flanked by white space, plus a poorly-edited screenshot of the post Layla sent me, for anonymity’s sake.
We receive a rehearsed chain of responses. Girls would talk, but it was a few years ago. They’re not sure they remember everything. They’re doing okay now, they don’t want to dredge this up. They still harbor the same frustration that burns in my chest, but they don’t want to be the first one to write their story. Let me know how it goes, they say.
It’s taken me three years of mulling over for me to type a single word, so I thank them and close my messages. Eight hundred miles away, a girl ducks her head to avoid his stare in a whitewashed hallway.
It’s been a few months, but I still struggle to find Jane’s* office through the faded yellow maze of rooms at the counseling office. She meets me in the lobby, a mask-shrouded smile creasing her eyes. Then takes off, loafered feet pounding grey carpet, weaving in between endless cubicles, and my heart labors to keep up.
The first time we met in person, I sat in the farthest corner of the room, facing her cluttered desk and the door. The chairs were so awkwardly positioned that it felt like the only right answer. A fake plant lurks in the corners of my vision when she turns another armchair to face me.
I’ve been ruminating on writing about The English Teacher for four months. Still, my hand hesitates over the call button when I pull up Sol’s contact, our cryptically-named testimony document sits mostly empty, and I stall to scratch a sloppy list of tasks into my planner: ask Sol about making an anonymous Instagram account, text the person in my English class who told me they know how to make an encrypted email, find my old English syllabus, reach out to more girls.
On a Tuesday in November, I skip class before therapy and lie about it. When I stumble into Jane’s room, she says that I got there so quickly. I shrug and say it was a fast walk. We sit in our corner chairs, stray ferns slicing our views of each other to pieces. She starts the same way she always does: “How are you?” An automatic response: “Okay.”
I’ve started journaling, picked up a new prescription, packed to go home. I’ve still been having nightmares. Jane says that my experiences are valid, that I have every right to feel that way, that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to. Pity is absent from her eyes, instead they dart from my foot tapping the ground in a quick rhythm to my clammy hands sandwiched in my lap. I remember the first time I made her laugh, the open-mouthed, small-eyes kind. Her chest heaved and voice echoed through the yellowing labyrinth.
When I tell her about him, she becomes rigid. Swollen eyes on me. Right hand wavering in dark absentminded ink. I say his full name, and it’s the first time I’ve ever said it. She writes it down.
“I’ll be right back.”
The impenetrable, yellow-cloaked, warmth-flooded, fern-walled space is violated by fluorescent hallway lights. I sit alone. Her clocks are silent, and they all face her during our sessions, out of my view. so I’m sucked into a timeless, shapeless hole. But I swear I can hear them ticking. The plastic plant’s leaves waver from the struggling AC. A dark sheet of plastic covers her computer screen. Blacklight.
Jane’s cardigan swishes around her calves when she steps back through the door frame. In quick breaths, she tells me that her supervisor said that she could report him to Child Protective Services. It’s anonymous, confidential. No Instagram account, no Google Docs testimony sheet, no email to the new principal, no legal action. I deflate in my seat, and Jane smiles through her mask.
We miss our meeting the next week—she’s feeling sick. The following week, I sit in my bed with my back pressed against a cushy grey pillow. Rain taps on my window, steady. My feet twitch under the blanket, and Jane flickers across my screen on BlueJeans.
“How are you doing?”
She looked into it more, she says. She’s a mandated reporter, but she doesn’t have to report what I told her two weeks ago through clenched teeth and nervous laughter. After all, he didn’t touch anyone.
“Do you still want me to say something?” she asks.
“Yeah. Could you do it anyway, please?”
There is no hard conclusion to our relationship, no explosive feat of journalism or victorious firing. It peters off—I stop answering emails, coming to synchronous class, writing at all.
– Mira Sydow, “The English Teacher” (2021)
The last day of The Dictator Novel tastes like onion rings and slow-death tree fruit. I missed last week’s class, so I fumble over a stale remark in the first fifteen minutes that echoes through my skull until we leave the classroom.
We read Herta Müller’s The Land of Green Plums, our first and only dictator novel written by a woman. Müller’s writing style is detached—I feel flush from her protagonist like my mind from my body when the room folds outwards like a hardback book. Her faceless male companions, only identified with red or black hair, drink factory meat blood and preach the revolution in hushed voices across scattered cities. Her life is immutable, in Romania, in Germany. She is a sexless being, a casual radical, a student, a girl.
Our professor asked us to write a list of ten themes from the course and bring them to discuss in class. My list is peppered with sex, radicals, and girls:
Sex as control
Father + daughter gothic
Uninhibited reach of the dictator
At the end of class, I scrawl another in the margins.
The student vs. the dictator
The English Student versus The English Teacher. My professor says that maybe the student is the epitome of freedom in a liberal democracy: free to consume and create knowledge, to wield their mind in critique of the state, to write until their hands are shot with the dull ache of pounding swift strokes into black keys. If the English Student is the most free, the English Teacher is the most dangerous. He drinks your thoughts, your feelings, your words. His approval is intimate, fear-inspiring, lovely.
Müller writes that the dictator is always dying. I wonder how this works. In Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat, the dictator shields his weakness from the people: failing bowels and a cloudy mind. However, Müller’s dictator fuels rumors of pneumonia and cancer, his cells swelling and consuming him from the inside out. Müller’s heroine is paralyzed in Romania, isolated by the hope that the dictator might die soon—just not soon enough.
Every year, rumors swirled that he was leaving our school. Sophomore year, I proudly proclaimed to the seniors that I wouldn’t have to take his class because he would be gone before I got that far. I told my sister the same. Junior year, I peered through his classroom window at the blacklights, still firmly affixed to the ceiling. Senior year, I read his name thinly printed on my schedule. First period.
He was always leaving, so he never left. Always dying, never dead. And conversations at the end of the English hall swallowed in darkness were interrupted with—“But he’s not going to be here anyway.” And his daughter graduated with the class above me. And he called me his favorite when he stood behind my chair at the front of his room. And bulleted documents gathered dust in school Google drives.
We looked for things that would set us apart because we read books. While we drew tiny distinctions, we stored all the sacks we had brought behind our doors, just like everyone else. But in our books we learned that those doors were no shelter. All we could open or slam or leave ajar were our own foreheads. And behind those were ourselves, with our mothers who sent us their illnesses in letters and our fathers who stashed their guilty consciences inside the damn stupid plants.
– Herta Müller, The Land of Green Plums (1993)
I’m not sure when—maybe in the stillness of my high-rise dorm room, the soft hum of dinner with my mother, or the echoing of laughter around a backyard fire—my words return in swarms. Back from a cold winter. They’re borne on swiftly typed journalism, on Max Apple’s deliberate words, on MFA students’ skin-books, on the backs of my friends who scream their poetry into plush red seats, on the etchings of the disheveled X-rated comic artist who entrances me in an interview, on Sol’s texts and Layla’s news clips, and the scribbles in the margins of my stickered notebook.
When I read now, the letters seep into my skin through pores flushed clean with thick tears and Coca-Cola from the vending machine outside of his classroom, surround the stilted prose of the past three years, and suffocate the impersonality, nonsensical metaphors, and layers of self-loathing. Each word wipes my mind of his fierce stare, sharp voice, thick fingers thumbing through my handwritten, lined pages.
Maybe he gets fired. I have a dream about it, alone on a Wednesday night. Maybe he retires, stroking his pet chinchilla, ever-popular among the yearbook girls, in a wheely chair in his home office at the edge of our town. Maybe he stands behind my youngest sister on the first day of her senior year and catches a glimpse of my glaring reflection in her satin hair. But maybe, I write him to death in five thousand words and they bore into his forehead and burn marks into his body, the leftovers slinking through the halls of my high school behind him in a trail of blood and ink.