Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why Nick Bottom, You Are... Translated!

This past week the rain has fallen like Buicks and Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs from a foreboding and ominous sky and the students are constantly tracking their muddy filthy disgusting feet across my neatly swept floor. I stand at the entrance of my little class room and plead with them to stomp and shake and dry their feet upon the mat, upon the newspaper, upon the towel, upon the old ripped t-shirts I’ve laid out for them but it makes no difference… they just look at me and groan.
“Oh! He’s talking again! Why is he always talking?”
“I can’t even listen!”
“Won’t he ever shut up?”
“He’s so motorcycle.” They rev with their hands to resemble my sputtering lips.
And so I order them to take off their shoes and leave them with the umbrellas outside. Now they throw a fit.
“I’m not taking off my shoes!”
“You can’t make me!”
“Why you say such stupid things?”
I explain that it takes me almost an hour to clean the class every day. That I tell them not to bring food but they secretly eat and leave garbage containers of half-eaten scraps in the desks, and on the floor, and stuffed into the cupboards. I tell them I’ve been cleaning this classroom so diligently, that I’ve killed rats and snakes in here, that I am trying to make this classroom a home.
They roll their eyes, “Ok. Ok. Ok. Ok.”
“He’s so mean.”
“What a bully.”
“He's such an ass.”
I listen to them curse me in Chinese. There’s nothing I can do. I wait until class is finished and reach for a broom.
During the break time the boys get together and hump. They lay their faces in each other’s crotches to nozzle and hold hands and spank their bottoms and grab each other between the legs. They slide hands into each other’s shorts and blow into each other’s ears and sometimes even kiss.
I have tried everything to dissuade it.
I ask them to stop. Set clear guidelines for behavior. Make consequences for rule breaking. Force them to separate. Go to the administration. Call parents. Even write letters home. I council the boys. Sometimes even shame them. But in the end, it’s an epidemic. Nearly one-hundred percent of the boys practice this form of heavy gay-petting in class almost every chance they get. If I turn to write something on the board they touch each other. If I go to help a student, they get out of their seat and wander the room. I find them sitting in the lap of another boy, hips rocking, their hands in each other’s pants.
The Taiwan teachers never stop it. They don’t even bother to address it. Today at my window two boys were hugging each other so violently in a wrestling fervor. They would not separate, but instead grappled and thrusted and banged their crotches into each other. I finally got them to stop but turned around and another couple of boys were heading around the corner hands in each other’s pants.
I went into my classroom and closed the door. I gave up. I simply gave up.
I stand in front of class and motion for the students to be quiet. It takes a few moments but they all settle down. I smile. I look them one after the other. I don’t speak. I let the silence create a vacuum, a stillness that ever so slowly begins to fill the cracks of the room. A deafening, low hum of silent vibration. There is a method to this, a wisdom, and I wait.
It is raining outside. A driving, pouring, onslaught of rain like a mechanism. I open the door and watch it crush the earth in rising puddles and flooding sewers and pelting ponds. The rain is so loud it overcomes the silence and the students submit so quickly it’s painful.
“Teacher, can we play our cell phones?”
“Teacher, can’t we sleep?”
“Teacher, do you even know how difficult our life is? We have tests every day and cram schools at night and everyone gives us homework?”
I look at this boy, his name is Robert and he just turned sixteen. His uniform is worn threadbare like an old pair of pajamas, brown with holes in the knees, rising above his ankles like he’s grown seven inches over the last four years. I want to tell him this is the easiest time of his life, that it only gets harder from here, that he needs to be more responsible, tougher…for crying out loud, you’re a sixteen year old boy wearing pajamas to school?”
But I just stare at him and let the pounding rain speak.
During Midsummer Night rehearsal we finally get to practice the lovers in the forest. Helena is in the middle of a human tug-of-war between Lysander and Demetrius. I chose the actress to play Helena because she has this unmatched maturity and eyes that look a thousand years old. I pull the two boys next to her and they both look like they’re going to faint.
“You have to put your hands on her. Right on her wrists.”
Both boys recoil and refuse.
“Take your hands and hold her here, touch her here.”
They boy completely refuse, shaking their heads no.
“Listen, she’s not going to bite you. You’re actors. We all understand this.”
The boys are shaking with fear. I feel their body heat. Their shoulders soaked in sweat. I grab them by the arms and pull them closer.
“You must touch her. It’s ok. Lysander, you hold this wrist. Demetrius, you take the other.”
They jerk their arms away in disgust. Helena is staring at me, deeply into me as if she has left her body. I try again, prying the balled up fists of the two boys open and grasping them onto Helena’s wrists.
“See, you didn’t die. Now you pull this way and you pull that.”
The boys are frozen. They cannot move. A musty smell wafts from one boys underarms and I fear the emitting of a bodily fluid. I stand back to direct the scene, to motion for Hermia, Helena’s best friend to come in and say her lines, but the two boys have separated, their arms are crossed in tantrums. Suddenly the bell rings and they are gone. Now I am alone in the room with the mud covered floor and the torrential rain and the loud boys in the hallway wrestling and splashing one another and laughing and I sit down at my desk and wait for the buses to leave.

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