Famous in a Small Town (Miranda Lambert)
"Well, sometimes love seems easy. Like...it's easy to love rain...and hawks. And it's easy to love wild plums...and the moon. But with people, seems like love's a hard thing to know. It gets all mixed up. I mean, you can love one person in one way and another person in another way. But how do you know you love the right one in every way?" –Billie Letts
Waking up Sunday morning was hard. I had to roll over once or twice before remembering what had gone on the day before. Running a hand through my hair left a greasy sheen on my palm.
"Ick," I mouthed, closing my eyes and burrowing back under the blanket. Let's see…
After getting furniture, Matt and I had gone back into San Leone. He gave me another run-through of the town, as if its three or four major arteries were too complicated for a city girl like me.
If you've never been to Texas, well, I'm sorry but you're missing out on a big chunk of American beauty. For being a teeny tiny town in west Texas, small enough that it wasn't even on Google maps (and that's saying something), San Leone was the epitome of America in my opinion. To live in a peaceful place where all the shops and businesses close by sundown, where global affairs go by unnoticed, and where being the homecoming queen is the biggest honor ever…
This was the unglorified American dream. This was where most of us had come from, and where most of us stayed. A couple 'lucky' ducks ventured out into the city, but it's different. When you live in the same community all your life, you tend to live longer and happier lives. I could see it on people's faces wherever we went. This was the place of love and kindness, something that television will never quite capture.
Matt and I had had a wonderful day together. We'd gone to a peewee football game in the afternoon, and for dinner ate hotdogs straight from a picnic going on in the park where the kids were playing. I wasn't too surprised that we ended up watching Football. I mean hello, this is Mr. America we're talking about. From the look on Matt's face at the end of the fourth quarter when the red team (it was red against blue I suppose, but they were all mixed up to me) pushed ahead to a victorious 7 to nothing, I could just tell. I could tell that this was what he was happiest doing, and where he was most happy.
He tried to explain to me the physics behind the game, and I let him talk, but mostly I was studying the way everyone acted at the game. It was interesting to see hoards of people gathered together, and for what? A dinky little league game? Clearly there had to be something exciting about it.
Dozens of families were there, all of them sitting or standing in the rickety old bleachers with us. Fathers shouted at their sons to play better, and mothers encouraged them to do their best. Siblings of all ages attended, some to actually watch, and others to mingle with their friends. I even saw a few of my students milling about, no doubt trying to find a way to ditch this and go raise hell on a Saturday night.
It seemed that everyone participated in this game, even if they weren't the ones playing. Everyone attended, if only because it was all there was to do on a warm August afternoon.
I wished I could feel like those people, with something that was tradition and normal for everyone to do. But I never will, and I know it. It's a hard thing to do, this shuffling back and forth from cities to towns and back again, repeat the process and mix some stops in between.
After the game we drove a little ways out to the local IGA and picked up some beer—well, beer for him and tequila for me. Then we headed out to the hilly area that surrounded San Leone and parked on top of a mesa of sorts. Matt got out with a six-pack and I got out with my tequila and we drank while the sun went down over west Texas.
I remembered talking with him, but what it was, I couldn't really recall. And now, lying on my couch drenched in blankets, I kind of wanted to know. My new furniture was supposed to arrive today, so I grappled until I found my phone and cursed. Who says teachers were early risers? It was half past noon!
And of course, about ten unread text messages from Ari waiting impatiently in the left handed corner of my phone's screen, the little envelope blinking red and white angrily. I needed to get back to her, but every time I did, it felt like maybe this was one of those things I shouldn't be giving her advice on.
Ari had started seeing this guy (kind of, she didn't really say so but this was blatant in my opinion) in New Hampshire, and now she was having trouble trying to keep away from bad habits. Bad habits as in: sleeping with a guy on the first date, getting drunk on the first date, and doing both of these to get emotionally get back at exes in her life.
Why would I be a bad candidate on giving her advice about this? Um, because I'd done all of that before, and it hadn't turned out well. In fact, doing any of those three usually didn't turn out well for me, but well…this was Ari. She happened to be a whole lot more in control of her emotions when she was in a relationship.
She didn't follow her boyfriends into danger, didn't get into more trouble, didn't sleep with their best friends, didn't try to physically injure them, didn't force them to move away during their last year of college, didn't lie to them on a daily basis, didn't get them into more trouble, didn't cheat on them…
Yeah, in our messed up world of college, booze, and hanging out, Ari was the more mature person when it came to relationships. I wasn't going to be able to give any real good advice to her.
I put the phone to my ear and tried calling her, but all I got out of that was my favorite message ever; "Hey I'm not here right now, which means you're not calling at the right time. Call me back at a better time and I'll get back to you."
"Hey Ari, it's me," I began. "Just getting back to you on your whole…situation. Um…whatever you do, just don't sleep with him, okay? I mean, not yet. And if you did already, well, don't do it again for a while! I know guys think that girls are easy if they put out on the first date but that doesn't have to be and you can change that! Anyway, get back to me when you get a chance."
I hung up and swiveled off the couch. The furniture people would be here soon. Better judgment told me to at least cram into a pair of jeans and a shirt before they arrived. I doubted anyone wanted to see a makeup smeared, greasy haired girl in yesterdays old clothes.
That's right, this girl doesn't wear pajamas. She wears what was on her back the day before…bet that was last thing you ever wanted to know about me.
Opening up my refrigerator, I groaned at the sorry sight of an orange juice carton and leftover pizza from a couple nights ago on the top shelf. One of these days I was going to have to go to the IGA for more than alcohol. Next to the fridge was a little notepad where I guess I'd written down the mover's time of arrival. They weren't supposed to be here until three, so I had a little time to myself.
I ventured outside and grabbed the daily San Antonio Express out of the shrubs lining the driveway. Looks like the Rangers had lost last night. No big surprise there. I gathered the New York Times too but it would remain rolled up until later in the evening.
After a quick shower and new clothes, it seemed time to decide where my furniture would be going. I didn't really have a preference, but I knew the movers were going to want to know where to put stuff.
And the people who are handling your stuff are the people you want to please.
"All right, y'all are pathetic at History," I declared as I plopped a pile of papers on my desk. Monday morning hadn't been kind to my students or me. All my first class kids were practically brain-dead, and apparently they weren't even offended when I said they sucked at knowing the most basic of things. "I don't know who you had as teachers last year, but I'm not going to be treating y'all like babies. We're going to start all over with U.S. History and some of it's going to penetrate through your thick skulls by the time a couple of you are supposed to graduate."
"But Ms. Wilson," Darla piped up, always her classmate's savior, "this class isn't even required to graduate. If we fail we'll just go into remedial history."
"Well if you feel like failing a class, then by all means quit paying attention now," I retorted a little too harshly, sucking my breath in only moments afterwards. "Sorry. I didn't mean it like that. What I mean is, I know you guys can't be brain-dead, and I know y'all don't want to fail. You've all made it to be sophomores and juniors, so you've had to have learned something by now."
"Yeah, but we don't need this class," Chase reasoned, glancing at Darla. He'd done that a lot last week, leading me to believe that he was trying to impress her. Looking through the eyes of a teacher, I now saw how ridiculous I must've looked back in high school when I was trying to woo various boys. So ridiculous in fact that I'm not even going to give you a flashback. "So why can't you give us a break? Besides, if we don't do good then the school board will think you're not that great of a teacher."
"If that happens," I replied, sighing, "then I'll just head back to New York. They've got a failing school system up there. Surely somebody will be in need of a teacher there."
"Would you really want to go back there?" Jenny asked, unconsciously raising her hand like the good honor student she was. "When I told my parents you were from New York, they said you were probably glad to get out of that dirty place. They said when it snows it's all polluted, and that Central Park is full of muggers."
"Mmm yeah, that's true," I said, thinking that over. "But I'd still go back if they needed me. It's the only place that I've spent more than a year or two in and quite frankly, I wouldn't want to spend the last six years or so of my life anywhere else."
"But it's dirty!"
Thus started a hurricane of complaints and theories on New York. I waited it out, flipping through the teacher's version of our history textbook.
"Okay," I finally interrupted, "time to start the beginning of our year. Please open your textbooks to page 15. If you don't have your book, then I suggest you bring it soon. If you don't have it and don't feel like asking to share, then at least try to listen to the points I'm going to be talking about. If you read the book and don't listen to me, then you're not going to pass any of the tests because most of the time the book's wrong."
"Then why are we reading it?" some Goth kid in the back whose name I hadn't bothered to learn yet scoffed.
"Good question!" I answered cheerfully, holding up the 1980's version of America: A History of the Land of the Free. It was about 500 pages of dingy old pictures and dumbed down theories, and I seriously considered tossing it out the window of my old apartment when I'd read it over the summer. Truth be told, this was what we'd been reading out of when I'd been in high school. "We're reading the book because my teacher's guide says by Texas law that we have to. Therefore, we will be reading select sections out of it. If you don't want to read if, then by all means you're welcome to fail. Just don't bother me while you're busy doing so, please."
I was trying to stay on a plutonic level with these kids. I didn't want to be the teacher whom all her students came to for advice. That was stupid, and I didn't have good advice most of the time. Then again, I didn't want to be the teacher kids hated, either. That would put me in a bad position, and put me on a list for possible vandalism of my house. I just wanted to be the teacher who taught kids things, and then went on her way.
It was hard to be the mundane schoolteacher anymore, especially when people expected you to take an interest in your kids. No offense, but my students weren't that interesting. I was going to be entertained by their constantly rotating relationships, but that was about it. Bored already, I decided to forge ahead with my personally favorite subject in the entire world.
"All right, so who discovered America?" I asked, using this basic trick question to get started.
"Christopher Columbus," a couple kids answered in mundane unison.
If I haven't already mentioned this, I sort of have an issue with Mr. Cristóvão Colombo.
"Wrong!" I shouted aggressively and waving my hands, causing a couple of them to jump a little. I didn't want to scare them, but I had to get a couple bad ideas out of their heads first. "One of the biggest lies in your educational lifetime besides the civil war being about slavery will be that Mr. Columbus discovered the continent that you all call home. In truth, Vikings who'd been exiled for doing stupid crimes were the first to discover this continent. Unfortunately, they don't get the credit because they're felons.
"Okay actually I have no idea why they aren't given credit for this, but that's the general idea," I explained, getting a couple kids to at least smirk. Actually, I did know but this wasn't the point I was trying to make. "But the point is, Columbus basically bumped into America on accident. He discovered nothing. He kind of just wandered into Central America and claimed it for Spain, even though that didn't mean a darn thing to the indigenous people. In fact, they kind of didn't care that he was there until the Spanish started killing them off."
"So…why does it even matter?" Chase asked, flitting his eyes over to Darla real quick as if in approval of such a brilliant question. "It sounds like no one person discovered America, so why do we care?"
"It matters because for the past five hundred years," I explained in a serious tone, "you've all been duped into believing something that wasn't even true. This is an example of systematic corruption, and we—," I pointed at my class and then at myself, "—are going to learn about this all year long. And you guys are going to love it."
I kind of have to admit; the chorus of agitated groans from students is almost satisfying to hear. No wonder why all my teachers had tortured us kids year after year.