Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Snow White and Mr. Laid Back

Anderson and I had just finished racing scooters and he lit a cigarette while we both waited for our daughters to come out. That's when I see the kid. He's new, from "Cali." Got this surfer twang to his speak. Sun bleached whites to his eyes, I can almost smell the surf on his skin. I like and dislike him almost immediately. "Yeah, I googled you," he says on the first day of class. "I know your game, teacher dude!"
Most days teaching in Taiwan are exactly the same. Kids come in, they are disinterested, they don't know anything outside their tiny island shore, eyes roll in collective waves, lunch is delivered in gray metal tins on the floor, even their sighs are passive aggressive. Then comes this kid. The new kid, like some shiny fizzy bottle of Coke dropped from heaven and, slapping everyone in the face.
Hunter thinks he's giving it to me straight, thinks we're talking man to man. "I read your blog," he flashes those picket fence whites. "You complain way too much." He leaps toward a low tree branch and does a pull up. "People step to me, I send them packing.  You should give it a try!" He does a deft flip and lands on his feet. "Save the drama for yo mama."
What Hunter doesn't know is that I read his file. His dad is an ex-marine with Taiwanese mom, sent him to our school when he stole a car and got probation. Now he's an island kid, a private school burnout, not a waster skaterboy, but an expat with nothing around him but dull puddy mush.
"That's right, huh... you're tough? You're hard?" I bait him a little. I've been looking through kids like this for years. Kids that are given everything and never told to work.  Trust fund morally bankrupt zombies, thrill seekers at other's expense... say and do anything without consequence... I know his type inside and out.
But then a glimpse of light... the very reason I continue to do this soul crushing mind numbing job day in and day out... Hunter pulls the rug out from under me. "You know, a lot of people back home are suffering. People losing everything, foreclosures, bankruptcy, suicides, living hand to mouth...You still have a job. That's something, right?"
Now who's looking through who?
That afternoon in class we were discussing human will. When does a person become ugly? Bent? Broken? When does even the most laid back and understanding among us become corrupt? Is it the first time your child comes home with a black eye from the playground and you realize you can't fight back for them? The first time a trusted friend betrays you? The first time you strive for something that is given to another for free? When exactly does someone become jaded? When is innocence completely and irreversibly lost... replaced by a blinding and building rage. I don't know where the thoughts came from... this girl was talking about Snow White, how when she ate the apple she was never the same.  That was Hunter's first day in class, sitting so confident in the back row grinning at me, not a care in the world.
As Hunter trotted off up the library steps he was replaced by Xian who came bounding down toward me. Such a sweet smile and little squeaking voice as we walked through the courtyard, telling me how she just liked holding my hand. "Is that a Fuji, daddy?" She asked. "Yep," was my reply, and then we walked home, passing the red fruit back and forth, laughing about the day, until it was gone.

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