Symphony 119


“Please, Neil. Don’t tease me. I’ve never been in love before and this is all very serious to me. I’ve been lying here for the last half hour with a knot in my stomach, ever since you told me about Fiona.”

He brushed his hand across her cheek and cupped it behind her neck. Her dark, loose hair engulfed his face as he drew her down for a kiss. “Carmen,” he said, “I am completely serious when I say that I love you. You have no reason to be jealous of Fiona or any other person. If I tease you, it is only because I have such confidence in us that I think the teasing will not hurt. If it hurts, I will stop right now.”

She slid her fingernails across his ribs. His skin jumped, and she smiled as she slid her hand behind him and drew him closer. “No,” she said, “I don’t want you to go all serious on me. Just tell me about you and Fiona so I don’t have to worry.”

“Fiona had me over for a bite.”

“You rat!” She punched his shoulder; but she also smiled.

“That’s better.” Neil told her the whole short story of his only “date” with Fiona.

“There was a spark. I’d be the last to deny it. But it was only a physical thing brought on because I was lonely and she was —  is — a good looking woman. Nothing came of it, and I am glad. And not just because you were waiting to sweep me off my feet. Even if you hadn’t been there, Fiona and I would have been a disaster together. We would have fought every day until we finally hated each other. I think we both knew that from the start.”

Carmen nestled close to him and said, “Good. Fiona is an old friend. I’m glad I won’t have to scratch her eyes out.”

# # #

Nothing in school happens by itself, nor does any part of the story of a class proceed in a straight line. Any class is a mixture of children of various abilities and various needs. There are the few favored ones whose parents balance praise and responsibility; who demand excellence without overpowering their children. They become the achievers. They move smoothly through their days and years, with praise and rewards. They leave school with good feelings toward education, and go on to become doctors or lawyers — or teachers.

Then there is the other minority, whose parents are abusive or irrational because of drugs or alcohol, or for no apparent reason. Or who simply do not care. Those children drop out early. By the sixth grade, they are gone. Their bodies remain in class — the law requires that much — but in essence, they are gone. When they finally drop out of high school, it will be a relief to them and to their teachers.

Most of the children are somewhere in between those extremes. Some of them lack courage. Some of them are brash.  Many of them are desperate for love. Some of them are surfeit, unchallenged, and listless from too much unearned praise.

All of them together are like the instruments in an orchestra, or like the parts of a symphony. A symphony in a minor key. Soft and slow, or bold and brassy by turns; rising to brief crescendos and dropping back to pianissimo weeks of calm. Dissonance resolving into consonance, flaring up again, resolving again —  all under the conductor’s watchful eye.

Sometimes Neil thought of them that way. more Monday


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