The Night Class

by Amanda Patterson

Teachers dread it. They wake up sweating in the middle of the night, drenched with the horror of it. Only once you’ve experienced it, can you understand it.

You stand in front of that sea of blank faces. You see ten or twelve parasites – glassy eyed with an attentiveness that sucks the life out of you. You blink and look again. Yes, they are adults. Post grads mostly in their twenties and they’re here to learn a new skill. From you. Lucky you! You try again.

“What do you think of this?” Your eyes are wide, your voice is bright.
And you wait.
Silence screams.
It’s only 30 minutes into the workshop.
“Come on. Anybody?”
You check. They are breathing. And staring. In desperation, you point and smile your toothpaste smile.
“Justin?”
He shifts. The eyes swivel towards him. You exhale. He’s thinking. His hand brushes his jaw and you know something good must be coming.
“It’s good,” he says.
A vacuum cleaner named despair sucks the air around you.
“Why?”
You know you shouldn’t ask but hey, they’re paying you.
“I’m not sure,” he says.

You’re sure that you can astral travel as you disassociate and watch yourself swim through custard for another 90 minutes. You remember what you say each time you start a new class – Writers Write. Now, you wish that they’d speak. Even argue, disagree but give something back.

So you decide to punish them. They’re going to do more exercises than any night class in the history of mankind. You smile, smug with solutions. You rattle off the requirements. You’re sure you’ll need to repeat it again. At least five minutes worth but no. They get it in one. You slump back in your squeaky pinstripe chair. You kick the leg. You’ve always hated it.

You turn to the sponges and stare. Justin taps furiously on his laptop. Camilla grips her pen and winces as words flap through her brain and splatter on her page. Heather whittles words into the grain of the paper with a ferocity that frightens your stomach into a knot. Greg stares upwards and twirls his exam pad beneath the ceiling fan of his hand. You want to ask him to do the darn exercise and stop daydreaming but when you look again, you see that he’s finished it already. Don’t they need time? They’re not human. You’re sure of it. Maybe you’re on candid camera. Maybe you’re on drugs. Maybe they’re aliens and you’re the experiment.

You need to breathe and you escape with an excuse. You tread heavily to the canteen and ask for a cappuccino – please. Your words are whisper-weary and the coffee lady smiles sympathetically. She’s seen it all. You clasp the caffeine and straighten your spine. You can do it.

You develop new teaching techniques. You ask questions and answer them yourself. You split them into groups. But it’s hideous. In pairs they’re stronger than ever and you have to withstand the barrage alone.
You want to ask, “Why are you here? You’re paying good money to ask me these questions.” You’d like to send them to the hell you’re in. You write with them as they do exercises and surprise, surprise, you write of murder and torture and cold city morgues.

And they smile as they leave. That’s what you can’t understand. They enjoy it! They really do. And they’re good students. They produce the quality of writing that the fun class never does.

But the effect on your body is startling. You ache and your head pounds. You can barely make it home and your significant other doesn’t understand. You sigh. Neither did you until tonight.

And in the morning when you analyse it, you harden. You’ve adapted and you know that nothing else can harm you again. You’re a tough cookie – you’ve survived the dreaded dead zone. You’ve lived to tell the tale.

And one day you know that one of these people will succeed in spectacular fashion. In fact, they’ll do it long before the funny bunnies ever do. You’ll nod and smile when you see one of their bestsellers on the shelves, remembering them fondly.

You’ll say, “I knew Justin. In fact, I taught him.”

Yes indeed.
You taught him well.
Your name is there – dedicated to…

Amanda Patterson

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