I wait with anticipation.
When she finally does, I’m going to submit an article to elephant journal. I’ll change the picture of my author bio to one of me sitting beside a pool of water and a powdery blue sky, legs intertwined in lotus pose, at peace.
The article will be about forgiveness, but not until she’s dead.
Until then, I’ll have to wait, contented to Google her name, and whisper through my teeth, “bitch.”
I know she’s out there right now. Fat ass ensconced in a sagging chair, probably made of shag in the back of a dark prefab, yard nothing but sticks and dust. Once, her hair was thick and cut to look like a rugby helmet, jowls big and slack like a pit bull as she leaned, big bosomed over her desk.
My most vivid childhood memories are pictures of a Caucasian Jesus with a jaw chiseled like Tony Robbins, girls wearing plaid skirts rolled up to just above the middle of their thighs, and that desk.
She liked to take her students out in the hall and whisper things:
“No Mr. Carpenter, this is my special medicine.”
“Actually, they’re real.”
“Unless you do what I say Mr. Carpenter, the world will eat you alive.”
There are friends and family members I won’t speak to until they’re dead. At the funeral, people who know about our strained relationship will feel bad for me, wipe their eyes and talk about how strong and brave I am for coming at all.
Maybe I’ll stand and say a few words?
Sometimes I sit by the window, listen to sad music and imagine the beautiful tragedy of life: that when the time is right, and my fourth grade teacher is a rotting corpse in the ground, I will let out one long cathartic sigh, light will peek through the clouds, and it will be over.
No more anger. No more resentment.
No more whatever-the-fuck-ever it is that I’m still carrying around with me.
Recently I had a dream about her.
She was floating in the dark, helmet-hair blowing back behind her ears, her face turned up towards a light.
Images and voices floated by:
Her husband, a police interrogator who hooked me up to a polygraph once (not kidding), is sitting in the dark, drinking something silently.
Her son, who was arrested for bringing a grenade into school, screams something inaudible as he shuts a shadowy door.
I ask, “Is it okay? Can I forgive her now?”
She lands in front of me, thick legs stuffed into a plaid skirt, hem rolled up to just above the middle of her thighs.
She says, “If you don’t forgive me, I’ll never die. Get your shit together, Mr. Carpenter.”
James Carpenter is grateful to his many teachers for the gifts they’ve given him–most specifically to steal their best ideas and pass them off as his own. For their sake, he won’t list any names.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta