Dear English Teacher: I’m not going to address you formally and space twice before I begin with an indent and double check the date at the top because my life doesn’t revolve around Fridays anymore and I don’t always know exactly where I stand in the week, especially in relation to the 9-5 world or the lunch period classes you undoubtedly still teach.
I don’t double space anymore because you don’t need the room. I’m going to repeat myself for effect once in awhile and maybe break some rules in the process and between you and me I used to go for an even spattering of red marks throughout and I loved how you’d circle a line and pull an arrow to my one-inch margin to explain the problem and maybe you were right on a technicality but I wanted art and one ink-stained paper with color corrections could be as beautiful as one good run on sentence.
And sometimes I’m going to start a sentence with and. Or Fragments. I love them. I’ll put periods where there should be commas and commas where there should be periods because it’s my paper goddammit and I control the speed and some things need to stop, not pause. Especially if I’m coming to the end of a point.
I love the green underlines in a word document. They tell me I’ve got a rhythm I wasn’t taught. I love the red alerts when I say cunt. I think if I break everything up and tell you to. Stop. Right. Here. Your bones might hurt and you’ll tell me I’m not a beat poet so clean up the act.
Sometimes you returned papers that were still clean and formal and uncorrected and you’d make eye contact when you handed them to me as if we’d reached a secret truce and I felt cheated because nothing was perfect and if you hadn’t caught my mistakes then one of us was a sell out. Sometimes I’d write five paragraphs– an introduction, a middle with three supporting points in smooth transition and a conclusion that rounded it off nicely before repeating my first sentence in so many words and I’d wish you’d let me do better but I wanted the A because I’d gone above and beyond for the D+ the time before. You wanted what was board approved, not convictions, so I wrote a paper in favor of pro-life and didn’t believe a word of it but got a perfect score.
I read Faulkner in 7th grade and he fucked me up, man. He went for pages without punctuation and before I knew it I had my first C on a progress report. You want to talk about loving a southern dead man? I was in too deep. And black women. I loved the black women. Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison made me heartsick and I don’t mean to shatter your world but nothing made me hate school like Chaucer. You wanted precise and sometimes I made your skin crawl when I put texture in a sound and didn’t I know it but synesthesia is actually a condition. It’s an aberration and we had a boilerplate to fill.
I liked how your face would turn. The tugs at your mouth and the color change. You assigned a book report on an autobiography and I told you Sydney Poitier tried to fuck a chicken at thirteen behind a beaten down shack but he couldn’t get it in. You wanted something on mythology and I read the Old Testament. You supported the library’s selection of parent-approved books so I left V.C. Andrews on your desk and went to Borders instead. You told me you’d take my last paper late if I just rewrote it so here it is.