finding a way

There’s a colleague of mine here, part of the first-year cohort (my cohort), that will slip into our classrooms ahead of time and write “After School Detention” on the chalkboard, and a brief set of classmate names below.

This has been annoying my other colleagues, in a “wtf?” sort of way. To me, it’s a thing he does… I acknowledge him, and move on.

Today I walked into one of my classrooms at a little after 8am — it’s my usual rhythm, maybe I’ll tell you more another time — and the list is back up on the board.

I know he’s around the building; he keeps a similar rhythm to mine for similar reasons. When I walked in this room, I’d noticed another classroom’s light was on. So either he’s kindly giving me the alone/focus time I crave, or he wants some for himself. Probably the former; “after school detention” gestures aside, he wants to care for and protect the world… which I’m a part of.

**

Today as I noticed the list, and my name on the list, I remembered a classmate of my B’s and his uncomfortable sixth-grade season.

When he, for inscrutable reasons, decided it would be funny to claim an undying affection for sheep. At every turn. In every cranny of conversation. With a thoroughness that only an 11-year-old, waving wildly to hold space in the world, can manage.

We shared a carpool that year. Even for the 30-minute drive it was a lot of sheep.

His carpool-mates — many of whom are still his friends, B included — rapidly tired of this. All their deflection strategies failed, however, and the sheep went on.

Long after the sheep (like other imaginary friends?) had faded — in fact, throughout high school — he was still known as Sheep Boy. Memories can be durable for things like that.

Later, perhaps in 10th grade (which is quite a time gap at that age), I heard him sigh that he wished he’d done that differently. Maybe he could have played it more lightly, or less often.

I’m pretty sure he couldn’t’ve, though. In that season, he wanted to claim space and become A Part of the yet-unknown whole. Distinctively.

**

Some of my classmates would like to confront my colleague, to tell him to quit. When asked, I’m at best lukewarm on the idea.

It’s not the connection method I would choose for him, sure.

And still this is the one he has, for now.

I can give him time. And friendship. Eventually we will be part of this particular whole.

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