The Math Teacher's House

I thought about my math teacher for the first time in a thousand years. To no surprise, it came by way of a dream. Though he didn’t make a physical appearance, I was well aware I was in his space. It was a trivial thing; something about lost homework or not being dressed decently, but it is rare that the contents of dreams affect the dreamer. It’s what happens well after waking that takes the most definitive toll.

He was a short man, well past fifty, with a round face and rounder glasses. I don’t remember what class I had him for or what grade I was in, so he exists as a displaced apparition.

The byproducts of the dream dissolve into memory.

Now I remember that boy the math teacher knew.

He had spoken about him in class once, that’s all I really know. I don’t know the color of his hair or the complexion of his skin. I don’t know upon which grounds he walked or the hidden places he had been. What I do know is the math teacher whose space I’ve dreamt adopted him. He took him into his home at the request of his wife, knowing all too well they were exiting middle age. Couldn’t they concede to a pair of lap dogs divided by the flicker of a fire? Surely, they could. But the recognition of age tends to fade when older folks start getting strange ideas about voids that need filling.

Now, some say there are children who are born angry. Others say it’s something that swells over time. At any rate, based upon the math teacher’s description, this boy must have been the sum of both. He was part earthquake, part typhoon, a damaged child from a damaged place. But the math teacher and his wife still had that void, so they disregarded the turbulence and tried loved him just the same. And I suppose they really did love him, if I recall correctly the inflection of the math teacher’s voice. But the boy was too strong for them. Too brazen, too angry, too strong. They even had to attend classes on how to restrain him properly, how to pin him down without pain or malice when his tantrums flared up. Regardless, deep in the backwaters of their hearts, they knew that if they multiplied the sum of their affections, they could certainly cool the caustics of that cursed boy’s heart. That’s about the time all the fires started—the fires and dead dogs.

They had to take him back, of course. They were too old and too tired, so they took him back. But I’m sure they kept a piece of him. That’s what I’d like to think, anyway. An arm or a leg or the gentle curve of a little spine as it lies harmless on the floor, quietly insinuating it possessed the power to tie the room together all along. Or maybe a crop of eyelashes or the sleeping folds of a tiny belly and waist, infinitely charming enough to reinforce the belief that people do change.

Tessellations of memory weave into something new. Something that doesn’t require the smell of smoke or tufts of bloody fur. Something altogether perfect, like seeing rain kiss a mountain in rearview.

 

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