Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This Pimp's For You

A love letter popped into my e-mail today. The love letter was from a former student of mine, a boy back in Buffalo. I didn't know who it was at first because he'd forgotten to write his name at the end of the letter--a bad start, huh?--but after a few investigatory minutes I had his identity.

His identity surprised me. If I were a betting woman, I would have put some serious money down on three other students--a few of my badass engineers--who would've been likely to write me a letter like that. But as I read the letter again, I knew it wasn't going to be any of them. The letter was too distant, too formal. If it had been one of my former engineering students, they would've written something like, Remember that time we accidentally tore down the blinds in our classroom? Wasn't that great? or Are you still going to take us all out when we're 21? or Remember that time I put my head down on your desk and told you all about my horrible weekend working at Wegmans? You went down the hall and bought me a candy bar at the vending machine.

There would've been a million strange and personal details any of those students could have peppered into their letters, but this one had none of that. So when I finally found out who it was all I could say was, "Huh. Really? Huh."

I wouldn't have guessed it. Never, ever, ever. This kid was cute, well-dressed, mannered, attentive. He was one of those students who kind of coasted around the middle B range over the course of the semester--he never really seemed to improve. We met for two ten minute conferences--once in the middle of the semester, once at the end. In class, he participated but not in the frantic, desperate-to-earn-my-love way the engineers participated, what with their arm waving, their sly remarks, their jokes, and their competition (I wrote the best paper, Jess! and No, I did! and Are you kidding? I did!). He was a presence, but a quiet one. And today he was a surprise.

I've had a crush on a couple teachers over the years, most notably being, of course, Mr. Weaver. Our graduating class had the good fortune of having English with Mr. Weaver twice over the course of our stay in school--once in eighth grade and again in twelfth. He was the best English teacher and the best man in the world. When I was thirteen years old, there was nothing I wanted to do more than grow up and marry Mr. Weaver. Several years later, when he was my teacher again, there was nothing I wanted to do more than grow up and marry Mr. Weaver. I wanted to spend lazy Sunday afternoons with him in our den, curled up next to a fire and reading great literature. Most of my friends thought that was really gross.

Still, that didn't stop me from doing everything in my power to become Mr. Weaver's pet. I wanted him to know me, to remember me, to think I was great. I wanted to be his protege. I wanted to impress him and please him. I wanted him to think, This girl is a great writer!

I just kind of thought that's the way it would be with everyone. I just assumed that once you develop a crush on a teacher, you want to show off for them any way you can, and the easiest way to do that would be to attract their attention in the classroom, to become brilliant in their subject matter. If you had a thing for the biology instructor, you'd tattoo complex Punett squares all over your forearms. If you liked the looks of the math teacher, you'd learn to solve proofs in your sleep.

But maybe that's just what I would do.

It's not what this student did.

In his online profile--which is what I used to determine who he was, since he'd forgotten to sign his love letter--I found some illuminating information. He identified himself as a tru ball playa 4 real, a single man who hadn't found the one he could settle wit, so he was takin the pimp game by storm!!

If it was me, and if I was about to confess in an e-mail that I'd had a real thing for my English teacher, I would be real careful about the things that English teacher could've seen. If this had been me writing an e-mail to Mr. Weaver, I would've been sure to erase any profile information that destroyed the English language, and I would've buffered it with all sorts of false claims--like that I loved basketball and Mark Twain as much as he did (only one of which is true).

Still, I've got to admire this former student's brashness. It was a very sweet letter when you get right down to it, and I would be lying if I said it didn't sort of make my day. He said he wanted to know what I felt, if I'd ever thought about it, too. He said he'd wanted to tell me about his feelings during the semester we had together, but he didn't want get in trouble. He said, Write me back--a hopeful closing that half breaks my heart because, really, what can I say? Of course, I don't think I need to worry too much. After all, until he finds the right girl, he'll be busy taking the pimp game by storm. I'm just flattered he stopped for a moment along the way to think sweetly about me.

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