My teacher told me to write from the heart. She praised my grammar, my diction in reading my work out loud, my correct sentence structure. But she said that wasn’t enough and she told me to “dig deeper”. I had no idea what that meant and I told her so.
She asked me to think about the most exciting experience I’d ever had. At age 14 I didn’t have much experience to draw from. In fact, I hated her for asking me. I sat up late the night before class, racking my brain for something, anything that might make an interesting poem. Apparently writing about landscapes wasn’t exciting enough for her. After what seemed like an eternity with no ideas that seemed interesting enough placate her I gave up and went to sleep cursing my composition teacher for suggesting I take the stupid creative writing course in the first place.
At class the next day my heart was pounding a mile a minute as she walked up to my desk and looked down at me. I told her I hadn’t come up with anything. To increase my embarrassment at my ineptitude she called me to the front of the class and invited them to help me brainstorm. It seemed like a purposeful excuse to torture me further and I found myself thinking homicidally.
“Come on now,” she teased, “everyone’s got something they’re passionate about. Class, help Martin think of something he’s passionate about.”
“What’s your favorite animal?”
“What’s the coolest vacation you’ve ever taken?”
“What’s your favorite food?”
“Do you play any sports?”
My classmates called out over and over, and I just wanted to crawl under my desk and hide.
“Now, now- one at a time,” my teacher asked. “Raise your hand if you have an idea.”
One hand shot up faster than anyone else’s and I knew who it was before even looking. Chelsey was the biggest ass kiss I’d ever met and she loved any excuse to play herself off as the perfect student.
“Well, I recently wrote a poem about my grandfather because he inspires me. Is there anyone in your life that inspires you?”
“Chelsey, thank you for that wonderful suggestion. Martin- is there anyone in your life that you find inspiring? Someone that’s accomplished something or lived through an interesting period in history?”
I thought about it. No one immediately jumped out. My head felt like it was on fire and I seriously thought there was a good chance I’d faint before actually coming up with anything. But then it occurred to me that of all the things an adolescent boy could do that might get them a bad reputation accompanied by a horribly insulting nick-name fainting had to be high on the list. So, I clenched my fists and tried to think of something, anything, other than the room of students starting at me.
“Uh, my uncle’s pretty cool, I guess,” I stammered.
“Ok, what is your uncle like? Or what does he do that inspires you?”
“He’s a pilot. He took me out on his plane once and he let me fly.”
“Cool,” came from one of the kids in the back. It made me feel a little better to know there was approval.
“Perfect!” my teacher exclaimed and jumped to write the word “Flying” on the board, her chalk almost slipping out of her hand. In all my schooling I’d never had another teacher that got so animated over using a blackboard.
“And what did that feel like? To fly a plane, how did it feel?”
Again, I thought. It had been really cool, though not the earth-shattering experience she seemed to be looking for. I didn’t really know what to say about it. “It’s ineffable,” I replied hoping that my vocabulary might make up for my lack of descriptive powers.
“Oh, come now, martin,” my teacher chastised me. “If that were true we wouldn’t have any great writers.”
I looked at her face and imagined what it might look like if her neck were replaced with a large pike. The thought made me smile.