Substitute (Part 2 of 2)

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 5 minutes and 39 seconds.

Selected tracks: Explosions in the Sky “Be Comfortable, Creature” and Lykke Li “Love Out of Lust”

The kids filed back into the classroom after recess. Mr. Garza plopped into a chair in the reading corner. Connie herded the kids over to the rug outstretched before the stoned substitute. If I wasn’t so emotionally sensitive to the Mary Jane, I might have considered asking Garza about his stash. Anything to cool my angst was a welcome idea.

“Now I’m going to recite to you a poem by a far out writer named Langston Hughes,” Garza announced. “This beautiful piece is called ‘April Rain Song’.” The kids shifted around on the rug, their energy from recess not yet expelled. “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk. The rain makes running pools in the gutter. The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night. And I love the rain.”

Mr. Allen’s class now lay still and silent, soothed by Mr. Garza’s lyrical recitation. All I wanted was to let the tears rain down for what I had lost, but they would not come. My stoicism relegated my healing process to the inside.

Garza continued to pique the kids’ imaginations by reading a chapter from Percy Jackson in which Mr. Allen had left off. With the students’ attentions parlayed, Connie prepared a lesson on atoms and static charges. In the middle of her preparation, a well dressed Asian woman in her late 50s entered the classroom. It was Connie’s professor, there to observe her teaching. She bore pearl earrings, a short bob of black hair, trim, stylish glasses, and mulato leather boots that anchored just below her knee caps. Post arrival and greeting, the professor clomped to the back corner of the room and set up shop. She carefully pulled a macbook from her tote and placed it on the desk before her.

Connie walked over to the reading corner and caught Garza’s eye. He finished the last paragraph he was on and handed the class back over to her. “You remember Monday when Mr. Allen rubbed balloons on your heads and your hairs stood on end?” Connie recalled. The class gave an ecstatic confirmation. “Well, we’re going to learn why that happened today.” The professor was now typing away robotically at her macbook.

At the kids’ desks were tiny marshmallows atop paper plates. Drawn on each marshmallow was one of three symbols: a negative sign, positive sign, or a zero. “Everything, everywhere is made out of something called an atom,” Connie explained. She stood at the bow of the classroom, beside a projected drawing of an atom and its charged particles. “You, me, this table, a dog, a lion, everything. We’re all made from tons of atoms so small we can’t even see them with just our eyes. And each atom has a couple things inside them. They’re called protons, neutrons, and electrons.”

Connie continued her lesson until the charges in atoms and the attractions between them were sufficiently explained. She then set the kids on an activity of building their own atoms with the marshmallows provided.

“What do two neutrons do again?” a student named George asked me. “They lay beside each other, side by side. They coincide, but they don’t stick together,” I answered. George proudly responded “And protons are attracted to electrons!” “Right,” I commended him. “And two protons or two electrons hate one another. They repel!” George had it right. “Does everything always have the same charge?” he asked. I pondered his questioned for a moment. “No. Not always. Some charges can change under certain circumstances. Luck of the draw sometimes. But that’s life.” George looked on at me confused. He was too young to fathom and accept all of this world’s complexities.