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  • Ms. Greer
  • Elena Graceffa (bio)

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[End Page 170]

The school where Kyle and Meg taught was a ’70s-era brick-and-concrete sprawl, the work of an architect who, the students took a perverse satisfaction in discovering, had made his name designing penitentiaries. It had four floors and fourteen stairwells, but Kyle and Meg’s particular cubicles opened onto the same communal office, which meant they shared a fridge and a microwave and the usual banalities. She regarded his lunchtime runs and fist bumps for students who attended office hours with a mixture of envy and skepticism. She thought he was like a commercial for something, though she couldn’t say what. When the students swooned over him—boys and [End Page 171] girls alike; or rather, the girls first and therefore also the boys, all of them equally, ridiculously awestruck—it made her slightly nauseated, not least because she didn’t think that he would have used the correct adjective for her gastric state, although he taught English. It made her feel old, resenting the carelessness with which adolescents bestowed their affections.

Most of the time, though, she didn’t think of him.

But then one afternoon he came upon her while she was watching, intently and unnoticed, two students from her calculus class build toward a first kiss. The couple sat in the angular shade of the school building on the playing field that abutted the teachers’ lot. The boy—his name was Victor—was stroking the tender inside of the girl’s forearm. Her name was Dorothea, although everyone, and eventually Meg, too, called her Door, which she spelled with two o’s at the tops of her quizzes. Meg understood, even without hearing what they said, that the gesture had begun as a game; and she thought she caught the moment when it changed into something else.

Normally, Meg didn’t like it when her kids coupled off. It was less problematic in the honors classes, but even there it tended to upset the climate of bonhomie she’d worked hard to cultivate. All of a sudden when she assigned new groups, there’d be an extra-tense hush before she read the names, followed by strains of disappointed mewling as they took their new seats. But it was worse if she happened to seat them together before she knew (and she always knew just a beat too late). The couple turned unhelpfully shy in front of one another, and the poor other pair in the group suffered through a bad double date for the rest of the term. It meant, on the whole, more drama and less hope of collaborative problem solving.

But this couple was different. She’d been rooting for them. He was nerdy and talented. Meg had once been to his piano recital—he’d invited her, and she’d gone at the last minute, against her better judgment, because she’d felt the dullness of a blank Sunday afternoon pressing down on her—and it had been scary how good he was. Good wasn’t even the word. Professional almost, except for the absence of a visceral undercurrent in the music she assumed he would relax into with age. This, while also being, if not exactly handsome, tall and generally well groomed. And the best student she’d ever taught. Although, for all those reasons, never her favorite. He didn’t need her. It was the argument she’d heard the likes of Kyle make about the honors classes, that anyone could teach them, the implication being that the best kids more or less [End Page 172] taught themselves. Which wasn’t even remotely true. Except in the case of Victor, perhaps it was; his brilliance spilled off him in careless heaps everywhere he turned.

Door, on the other hand, was troubled and a dancer. She was an object of sympathy and allure with her impossibly long legs and sad eyes rimmed with liner. Meg had never seen her dance, but she’d initialed dismissal slips, and you could tell anyway from how there was nothing extraneous in her body...


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