By Jillian Schedneck
I realize that my thong is peeking out of my pants. As she rifled through the box of pencils, Alejandra must have also been watching my backside as I bent over Todd’s desk, pondering the thin line of flower-print elastic that clings to my waistline. I nod solemnly, mentally adding another dress code violation to my long list of teaching errors. But then she looks at me conspiratorially, as if this is a secret we share. Her head is cocked; her lovely brown complexion lifts into something close to a smile. She is no longer a manipulative ten year old who pouts when she wants permission to draw hearts on the chalkboard or be excused to the lavatory for the third time in an hour. In a moment, Alejandra has become a young woman learning how to manage the intimate details of our gender.
I turn back to Todd. He has dutifully added the e, but his composition—five sentences describing his home—is riddled with errors. I ignore them, focus on the correct word, and smile. He grins back at me, but there is something about his expression, the penetrating, hooded brown eyes, that tells me he knows I’m overlooking his other mistakes. Guilt ripples through me, coils in my chest. He’s experienced this kind of neglect before and forgives me all the same.
Jillian Schedneck recently graduated from West Virginia University's MFA program in creative nonfiction. Her work has been published in The Common Review, Alligator Juniper and the Summerset Review, among others. She currently teaches in the English program at Abu Dhabi University.
Photo by Dinty W. Moore