Vox Populi

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Megan Volpert: The Sophomores

1/The Sophomore is returning. He visits former teachers with his nine year old sister and introduces her to Teacher by saying, “That’s Teacher. She’s iconic.” The kid looks her over and nods once in silent agreement. Teacher is bursting with either laughter or tears, maybe both. She doesn’t ask if he found a church that’s more accepting. She can’t even properly recall his name at that moment, though she remembers where they sat when he admitted all the things that made him consider dying. She doesn’t know what the little sister might know about it. All she knows is that he survives.

2/Sophomore is fangirling out. He loves these boys in their three piece suits playing their instruments in an uncomplicated manner while harmonizing. They dance and smile wide and make life seem possible. The boy band gives him life and he makes Teacher a playlist as a holiday gift. Along with some vegan cookies, for which he includes the recipe. His dad got a good job in a smaller town. The day after he drops off Teacher’s roster he begins following her on social media, sitting in his new bedroom window with the volume turned low as he looks out over empty fields.

3/Sophomore is mortified. She arrived at her new locker to find Teacher chilling with her obviously much cooler baby sister and their mother. Teacher’s door is right next to the locker, so they will be neighbors for more than a thousand days. Mom says it’s fine for Teacher to take photos of her baby sister stuffed entirely into the open locker, smiling and doing jazz hands, which will probably get posted on social media. The photos don’t show that her baby sister is one of a pair of identical twins dressed identically. All Sophomore wanted for today was to start over.

4/Sophomore is apologizing. She is new, doesn’t know anything and didn’t listen. The school was practicing an active shooter drill. Teacher dutifully turned off the lights, covered the windows. When the handle jiggled, Sophomore opened the door. Three others next to her instantly hissed that Sophomore just got them all mass murdered. Some kids laughed, a few others quietly began sobbing a few minutes later when it sunk in. Teacher slowly and carefully did all the things that needed doing, then got in the car. But there was a road closure near the house, a small detour, and Teacher spent an entire hour unable to navigate home.

5/Sophomore is salivating. They were on the brink of snoozing melancholy in the corner when an office aid burst in to deliver a wide red box. Teacher has been together with her wife for as long as Sophomore has been alive. She still gets fancy treats from her wife at work, and most students beg for a share of the mouthwatering delicacies. Sophomore instead prays they will find someone who can love them so big for so long. Teacher’s marriage is their role model for relationship goals, even though they’re not gay or whatever.

Megan Volpert is the author of many books on popular culture, including two Lambda Literary Award finalists, a Georgia Author of the Year finalist and an American Library Association honoree. Her newest work is Boss Broad (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019). She has been teaching high school English in Atlanta for over a decade and was 2014 Teacher of the Year. She writes for PopMatters and has edited anthologies of philosophical essays on the music of Tom Petty and the television series RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Copyright 2019 Megan Volpert

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