I sighed, looked at and in my change purse again. How much change can I use before I look poor? I wondered. Who cares? It’s not like I’ll return to this or any other Starbuck’s for the remainder of the summer. Maybe I have more money in the fall or maybe the falling leaves just kick my brain into some heightened level of excitement –
And suddenly my thoughts stopped, because I felt hot breath on the back of my neck. “Guess who?” a voice was asking, and I was pulling in my shoulders and jumping forward before I actually understood someone had been hugging me from behind. “Lola!” laughed Aviva, behind me, all teeth on display again, “Why are you so uptight?” I rubbed my shoulders, shivered a little. “Oh, hi, Aviva, hi,” I said, not knowing what to say – whatever the right thing to say was, it probably wasn’t ‘hi’.
“She’s my child’s teacher,” she waved at the barista, who was looking at both of us with extreme apprehension.
This was supposed to be the highlight of my day, I thought, and now all I want is to run screaming from this place.
“I just love bunnies,” Trixie cooed, squinting at the cage from across the room. She’d mistaken the guinea pig for a rabbit. “It’s, ah, mm,” I didn’t really know how to inform her it was a guinea pig. “I love them when they’re little, so little, so soft, so sweet . . . and then they grow up,” she said with a frown. Running her fingers through her long straight hair, she sighed and continued. “It’s so saaaad . . . they become these useless lumps of furry flesh, you know? Might as well just kill them then you know.” She laughed. I pressed my lips together. This was a joke, right? Or – a test?
“Oh Lola you’re right, I’m being too practical, aren’t I?” She laughed again (it’s a deep laugh, enough so to engender idle talk of perhaps-Trixie-is-a-transvestite).
“Can you think of a better name for this trenchcoat?” Lizzy’s mom asked me. I don’t know if she is a good person or not, but she has a charming manner. Enough so not to feel degraded by providing words on demand. “A better word than coat?”
“No, I mean I think it’s tacky but my mom wants me to wear large florals so, well,” she belted it over her tiny waist, “here we are.” I looked at it carefully. “I honestly don’t think that it’s tacky,” I told her “I think it’s vibrant.” She smiled, widely, and looked down at herself. “It is vibrant, isn’t it?”
“Where are you going, Miss Lola?” Clary asked me when I stood up. “The bathroom, Clary,” I answered, wondering why it should interest him so much. Usually I get up, sit down, walk around – without incident. “Are you going to be gone a long time?”
“I hope not.”
“Can I watch you in the bathroom?” Amelia gasped. Should I give the ‘he’s a little kid and doesn’t mean anything by it speech’? I wondered. Nah, guess not.
“No, Clary, you can’t watch other people in the bathroom. It’s private time.”
“Are you gonna be back for lunch?” At this point I wanted to see what his mind was working at so intently. “Of course. Nobody takes that long in the bathroom.”
“Mommy does,” he said, looking down. “She goes in the bathroom with her phone and then I have to go to bed.”
I should probably not even say anything about this. Skeletor will only eat me alive and replenish her youth. Or something.
“Amelia is such a great teacher,” Mary told the director. “Her idea for the paper-bag costumes was really cute. I loved it! I would never have thought that it worked but it did! You can really tell the difference when you have a real teacher with a proper education and training, right?”
The director smiled. “Actually, that was Lola’s idea. Wasn’t it great though?” Mary looked at me. “You? You thought of that?” I nodded. “Yep, I just thought that – ”
“Well when you are young you have all kinds of crazy ideas and sometimes they work out.” She said, then turning to Carl announced “Mommy is so tired! I bet Carl is tired too and wants to go home right away. Let’s go home and see daddy!” She left with a quick wave.
“What was that?” asked the director. I sighed. “I don’t know.”
“I think she doesn’t like you.” I looked around. The room was empty and the stacks of paper fluttered in intervals from the ceiling fan. Maybe nobody does – not as a teacher.
Skeletor looked at the note she’d received a minute before from her son’s teacher. She’d taken it like she took all other notes, with a loud “Yeah I know,” that left teachers mystified – was there even a chance she knew? Or could one really live like that?
Some mornings she says hello to me in the most cheerful way but most she chooses to ignore me. This was a normal morning, so I was playing with a frayed thread on my sweater. “What does this even say?!” she said loudly. “Look at this font. Who uses a font like this?!” she exhaled forcefully and handed the note to her son. “Read this to mommy because mommy cannot possibly read that absurd font!” At this point I should note that her son, Clary, is the younger of two children, and although his sister is in elementary school and can read, Clary is three.
He bit his lip and started pulling on his hair nervously. “Oh wait,” she said, looking down at him, “you’re not the one that can read. Shit. I’m just going to take this home.”