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“Jamie, is this a male or a female student?” I asked, pointing at the picture on my roster.
She looked at me over her glasses and said, “Does it make a difference?”
“Not for grades. No. But, for putting students in groups and referring to their work, you know? Things like that happen in class. I’ll need to use third person pronouns—he, she, him, her—and I won’t know which one to use.”
She sighed, looked at the picture and said, “Aryn’s unsure of her gender.”
“‘Her.’ Got it. Thanks, Jamie.” I left the counseling center.
I taught mostly the juniors, but I had one section of English 12C—what my fellow English teachers called “Supersenior English.” It was the class no one wanted. I had all the Superseniors—the students who failed to earn enough English credits to graduate during four years of high school and needed to come back for a semester or two.
Our school district is an affluent one: lots of money and highly involved parents. At a previous teaching gig, nine times out of ten, when a student failed to graduate, they were pretty much gone, never saw them again. They maybe ended up in some GED program down the road. But here, most kids end up coming back for the Supersenior classes. 18, 19 years old, and they come back. Strange place.
My roster for English-12C included Aryn Hunter McGrath.
When she walked into the classroom, I looked for signs of femaleness. Aryn had a boy’s short hair, buzzed around her neck and ears. Yet, her mahogany brown hair was, perhaps, styled in a way that suggested a feminine attentiveness. Aryn didn’t wear make up, but she didn’t need to. It was a youthful and blemish-free face, with big brown, almost black, eyes. The shape was definitely not masculine.
Yet, Aryn had a man’s bearing. She crossed her legs like a man—foot on the knee—stuck her hands into her jean pockets like a man, and strutted like a man. She looked at things the way some men do—like there is dominance or ownership in what they see. There was a kind of rugged confidence and carelessness about Aryn’s demeanor. She didn’t give a fuck who thought what.
If there were breasts, I couldn’t see them, nor if there were hips. Aryn was straight as a board and skinny. She was on the taller side for a female, about five-seven. Unlike many of her female classmates, she didn’t wear tight clothes to look hot; she wore loose jeans and tee shirts for comfort.
Like with every new class, I asked the students to fill out a little index card. The usual contact information went on it, but I always asked them to write in some information that told me a little bit about them—what activities they were involved in, hobbies, where they worked, a favorite book, song, show or film.
Aryn’s card looked like it was written by a boy—it had a guy’s shitty, chicken-scratch handwriting. She wrote that she was looking for a job, and she wrote down that her favorite film was Heat. Next to it, she wrote, “I love movies.”
One of the things I really believe in as a teacher and a coach, a thing I really go out of my way to do, is to show an interest in my students’ interests. I’ll go to the restaurant where they work. For my underclass students, I’ll see them at their performances or games. I’ll watch their favorite show, listen to the song they really like, or rent their favorite movie and watch it. Then, I’ll try to have conversation with them about it. These were the kinds of things that built good relationships with the students, and that, to me, was the essential ingredient to both a comfortable classroom and student learning.
Meanwhile, I took notice of Aryn—I had a bit more curiosity about her than the others; she was unique, a mystery. She usually only hung out in the halls with girls, but not the way other girls hang out with girls. The female students Aryn spent time with interacted with her like she was a boy—almost like they flirted with her.
Her flock of female followers consisted mostly of the ones who didn’t conform—the ones way into Japanese animation, the ones whose bodies didn’t quite meet society’s expectations, the moody ones who dyed their hair bizarre colors, the ones with extra piercings. These suburban high school misfits orbited Aryn in the halls.
I only rarely saw her converse with a male student. In fact, for the first several weeks of class, she would never look at me when she answered one of my questions. She didn’t volunteer; I called on her. When she responded, she would look at her desk or at another student.
I spoke with Aryn’s previous English teacher about her.
She told me Aryn had hated her. My colleague said, “I didn’t cut her any slack, and Aryn just quit on me.”
“What’s her deal? The look, the clothes, the girls. Do you know?” I asked.
My colleague looked at me strangely and said, “Isn’t it obvious?”
“She’s a lesbian. I’ve heard other students talking about her.”
“Huh,” I said, “Is she—does she want to become a guy or something?”
“As to that, I don’t know, casino oyna but she’s gay. That I know for sure.”
I asked her how she knew, and she told me a story about Aryn and some girl back in a junior high restroom.
I wasn’t sure how much stock I’d put in a middle school rumor. I thanked her and left.
I figured it was time to reach out to Aryn. I put a sticky note on her desk while I was lecturing about our personal narrative paper. I let her know that I was going to watch Heat that weekend. I was in the back of the classroom, yapping about types of narratives, and I watched her read the note. She turned around and looked at me. A first.
So, I watched the film. I really liked it: Pacino and the cops vs. De Niro and the robbers. It was great, and there was this riveting city shoot out, maybe one of the best I’d ever seen.
When I walked into the classroom on Monday, Aryn watched me. I gave her a thumbs up and nodded with a big smile. She smiled, too. Her big brown eyes shined, and she never looked so feminine as just then.
When the bell rang, I was sitting at my desk. Aryn came over.
“I loved it, Aryn. That robbery shoot out? Incredible. And so many storylines all woven together. It was deep. Rich.”
She nodded. “My favorite scene is where they fool the cops at the shipyard.”
“Yeah, that was pretty cool.”
“Think you’ll ever watch it again?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Will you do me a favor, then?” she asked.
She said, “When you watch it, look for the color blue—not just blue-blue, but ice blue, okay?”
Intrigued, I said, “Okay. Will do.”
She smiled again and walked out.
At the end of class the next day, I called her over to my desk. “Ice blue—it’s in darn near every shot.”
She nodded, grinning, “I know! Cool, right?”
“We’ll have to talk sometime about why you think the director did that.”
She hesitated and then said, “When’s your plan period?”
“I’ll swing by. I’m done after fourth.”
She walked into my empty classroom a few hours later, and we talked about the ice-blue of Heat. She pulled my stool over from behind the podium and sat on it across from my desk.
And it was weird—not our conversation, but how I felt while I was talking to her.
I felt warm.
I had trouble concentrating because of it. Hard to describe, it felt like the heat came from inside me—in my belly—and spread out from there to my limbs. It was like the feeling of hard liquor in my stomach, but without the taste or the throat burn. I even felt it in my groin.
I had never experienced anything like it, the warmth, just chatting with another person. And, I knew it was because of Aryn. Her presence, her voice was like a massage. It relaxed me completely. I wished the desk wasn’t there, wished she was closer to me. I never wanted her to quit talking or leave.
I had trouble responding to her questions, like there was a time delay of a second or two for me to grasp what she had just said..
And my whole body felt tingly warm.
When she left with a wave, the feeling vanished.
I looked up “pheromones” that night. I remembered reading about them when I was a lot younger, and the word just popped into my head after Aryn left. What I read convinced me of two things. First, pheromones influencing human behavior was speculative science, at best. Second, my body’s reaction to Aryn appeared to match perfectly with the article’s depiction of how animals sometimes responded to pheromones.
I didn’t know what to think of pheromones. Whatever the case, my body had reacted to hers, it was something I’d never before experienced, and I wanted to feel it again.
Aryn’s involvement in class improved dramatically after our conversation, and she looked me in the eyes when she answered questions. She actually volunteered sometimes.
I spent more time than usual near Aryn’s desk. It didn’t help me regain that warm sensation, but I did discover something else.
I was prepping the class for a trip to the library. There, the students were to select a book from a special section the librarian set up for me—all shorter biographies. While I was roaming the classroom, answering questions about the reading assignment, I came walking up Aryn’s row.
She had a fat binder—one I’d seen many times. The front cover was a trifold, and when Aryn opened it across her desk, the inside, hidden page fell open in front of me. She hastily scooped it up and refolded it, but not before I caught a fleeting glimpse.
The page was loaded with pictures. I don’t know exactly what I saw, but it looked like a collage of pictures of her and others in various places. I saw a lot of skin.
I noted it without an overt reaction and continued.
But, during the library visit a few days later, once I’d escorted everyone up, I zipped back to my classroom and took a look. I felt guilty about it, but I couldn’t forget about that warm tingling slot oyna feeling. Aryn intrigued me.
Broadly, the pictures on the inside of Aryn’s trifold binder surprised me—Aryn was much more outgoing than I thought. There was a certain spirited irreverence about her. There was one picture of her, much younger, skateboarding downtown with friends. That was illegal. Another showed Aryn with her arm around a very old, smiling nun. Aryn was showing the “rock on” hand gesture and had her tongue stuck out. There was one of those amusement park roller coaster snapshots. Alone of the foursome, Aryn’s face was frozen in a screaming smile; the rest of the passengers looked terrified.
There were many other pictures, but three truly surprised me. The first was a picture of Aryn and a friend in someone’s bedroom, mooning the photographer. The second was an above shot of Aryn in a bikini top playing cards. She was hiding her cards with her hand and looking up at the photographer with a confident, winning expression on her face. The last photograph was a side shot of her and another girl, kissing in their panties and tee-shirts.
The big takeaway from those three pictures was the stunning fact that Aryn had a really nice body. She hid it well in loose jeans and tee shirts. I would never have guessed that she had cleavage—real cleavage—but that second photograph—the one with the card game—showed it. I would never have guessed that Aryn had curves. The side shot of her kissing the girl demonstrated how her ass rolled out of the top of her thigh in a wonderful curve. The mooning picture gave me a view of an ass that men drool over: round and fleshy, but small and creamy-smooth.
But it was the kissing picture that stunned me the most, and not because of the kiss or because of who she was kissing. It was something hanging off a chair, partially cut off by the edge of the picture. I didn’t know for certain, but my first thought upon noticing it and my last thought upon reflection, was that it was a white strap-on dildo. I would not have bet my life—sometimes we see what we want to believe—but I would have bet $50 on it.
For a fleeting moment, I considered photocopying those pictures, but I returned her binder and her desk back to normal.
Aryn sometimes came by during my plan period. I surreptitiously scanned her body to find signs of what I’d seen in those pictures, but I couldn’t see anything. We talked movies, and she hung out for five or ten minutes. The buzzing warmth returned. I looked forward to those minutes like a smoker to break time.
One day, she came in holding hands with some female student. Aryn had a big smile, announcing that she’d got a job.
“Where?” I asked.
“The Aperture Theater.”
“Is that the art theater, the new one downtown?”
I said, “That’s awesome, Aryn. Nice going.” I’d read about the Aperture in the paper. They’d renovated an old single-screen joint in the downtown area. It would show independent first runs and classic films, mostly.
“It’s only part time, though,” Aryn said.
“It’s a job, and it’s a cool job, so who cares? When do you start?”
“This week. I’ll work Thursday through Saturday.”
“Selling tickets and helping with closing—clean up and stuff.”
I nodded. “Cool. Congratulations. I’ll have to check it out sometime.”
The other girl never said a word, and the two left together, hand in hand.
As it happened, the Aperture was going to run The Godfather, one of my all time favorites, the following Thursday night. As it was fall and football season, Thursday nights were good for me. Practices were short in preparation for the Friday night games. On the morning of the showing, I mentioned to Aryn that I was going to go.
She asked if the movie was any good.
I pretended to look affronted. “Best gangster film of all time,” I announced.
That night, before I left, I scrutinized myself in the mirror. I was kind of a beast. I was an inch or two shy of six feet tall, but I weighed almost 225 pounds. I worked out every day with weights and I jogged, but I wasn’t cut or defined or anything. I had big, lumpy muscles, and they were almost all covered in curly reddish hair. If I had to keep my face clean shaven, I’d have to do it twice a day. Instead, I just used clippers to maintain a perpetual quarter-inch beard. My ex-wife often called me a “hairy slab of man.”
She and I met in college, both of us in education. She started in secondary, transferred to middle, and graduated out of elementary. We got married, and we both found teaching jobs. She lasted two years and quit. Then, she divorced me. I don’t think she liked it that I was good at teaching and that she sucked. She hated that I was gone all the time in the fall for football season. We had no kids.
I dated a little, but mostly I hit the local bars, and every now and then, took some woman home for a night. There was no ambivalence from them about my body. Women either loved it or hated canlı casino siteleri it.
I had one woman leave my house after I took off my shirt. We were in my bedroom. She looked me up and down, cursed, grabbed her things, and walked out. That one hurt a little. I had others that made up for it, though, virtually attacking me once I undressed.
Either way, I hated my hairy-ass body. I never took my shirt off unless I absolutely had to.
I thought about these things because, even though I would never consciously admit it at the time, I was attracted to Aryn, and I wanted to look half decent at the theater.
It took about 30 minutes to get to the theater, and Aryn was running the ticket counter. She grinned when she saw me, and I bought one ticket from her.
Aryn’s manager stood behind her, and I thanked Aryn profusely for being so professional. I told her that it was the smoothest ticket purchase I’d ever experienced. She winked at me, and I went to the concessions.
I bought a Coke and watched the movie, sitting on the aisle about half way up a theater that seated maybe 150. About 15 others were in there, and I had the row to myself.
Aryn came in and sat beside me about 40 minutes into the film. I gave her a surprised look, and she explained to me that once the box office is locked up for the evening, she’s allowed to watch the movies. I brought her up to speed during one of the few relatively light scenes—Michael and Kay Christmas shopping. She couldn’t have come at a more exciting point, though: Luca Brasi getting garroted, the assassination attempt on the Don, the kidnapping of Tom Hagen.
Every minute or so, she’d ask about a character, but she caught on pretty quickly.
Then, she got to see the scene of all scenes: Michael in the restaurant with Solozzo and McCluskey. When Micheal reached behind the toilet for the gun, I felt Aryn’s fingers grasp my arm just below the wrist. When Michael came out of the bathroom, she gripped it tightly. And during the build up to Michael’s decision to shoot, her fingers clutched at me until I rotated my wrist around, and I held her hand.
Though my eyes were on the screen, I didn’t really watch. I was too absorbed by the feel of our skin together. It was her hand and her fingers, the warmth of them, the delicacy of her touch. Within seconds of contact, I had grown massively, uncomfortably erect.
My arms are lush with coarse, curly red hair. Feeling her little, soft hands embedded in that fur kick-started me. My heart pumped faster. The warmth of her touch spread through me. When we held hands, the feeling was that much stronger.
I got a hard on from holding hands? What the hell was I? Fifteen?
When the scene ended, she let go of me and whispered, “That was so intense.”
We shared the Coke and watched the rest. When the credits rolled, she told me she loved it. We talked about favorite scenes, and she thanked me for coming. At the end of the credits, she had to leave to help with final clean up and shut down. She surprised me by giving me a peck on the cheek.
Driving home, I couldn’t help but think that I’d just gone on a date with one of my students. That’s what it felt like.
I wondered about Aryn. It all could have been very innocent—her sitting beside me, holding onto me, her little kiss on the cheek. But, my instinct told me it wasn’t so chaste.
So, why in the hell was an 18 year old lesbian girl interested in a fuzzy brute like me? By appearances and in reality, I was as far from female as biologically possible. Even if Aryn was bisexual, that frail little underclass thing she was holding hands with in my classroom and I were polar opposites. Her being interested in both of us would be like someone asking for roses and beef jerky for Valentine’s Day.
Regardless, as she was a student and I was her teacher, I decided to back off.
Aryn continued to visit and talk about movies during my plan period, sometimes with her girlfriend, sometimes without. When Aryn came, I was polite and friendly, but I tried to look busy and move around the classroom—wipe off a desk here, fetch a folder there, clean the whiteboard, straighten the rows. I didn’t want to get drunk off her pheromones again, if that’s what it was.
Then came her narrative paper.
I’m not one of those English teachers who splatter red ink all over papers, hand them out, and move on. No. See, what I do is splatter red ink all over papers, hand them out, and then conference, during class time, with every student. I pull a chair around behind my desk, and side by side, we talk about the paper. I don’t put a grade on it until the end of the conference.
Aryn wrote a decent paper for me, and I loved and hated the idea that she was going to sit right beside me for our conference. I put her early on my list to get it out of the way.
When the time arrived, I popped in a breath mint and called her over. For about 30 seconds, I was effective. As we sat together, her left arm kept rubbing against my right. Then, that feeling, like being buzzed off a couple shots of vodka, again spread throughout me. It reduced me to flipping back and forth through the pages of her paper and mumbling about how good it was. And, I got a hard on.
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