Monday, February 22, 2010


Mr. Martin was my high school typing teacher
At an all-boy Catholic school.
He was also the first man I ever loved.

Right after last period,
I’d stop by to see him before I left school.
It never occurred to me
That anybody else
Might think this strange.
I’d babble about nothing
While he wiped the writing
Off the chalk board, banged erasers,
Put the plastic cover
Over each machine.

I never wondered
What he thought of
My devotion. Everyone I knew,
My family included,
Treated me as if
The notion that I might have any feelings
Were unthinkable. I just expected him
To do the same. I never imagined
The pangs I felt
Showed in my eyes.

He wasn’t a big man.
His cheeks turned bluish
In the afternoon
From stubble whose replenishment
Impressed me. He wore his short black hair
Slicked down, smelled like
A cigarette, rolled back
His white shirt sleeves.
He’d often stand
And watch his students pound away
With forearms crossed
Over his chest. I never thought
He saw me watching him.
When he’d bark
Instructions at us,
It would always strike me
That he sounded like
A gangster on TV.

Of course, the other kids in class
Raised the first questions
In the cruelest way they could.
One asked him to say
That he would see me later
In the locker room,
And, thick head that he was,
He did, in front of all of them.
I felt as though
He’d slapped me. He could tell
Something was wrong,
But it took him awhile
To figure out exactly what.

When he got married,
I went through several reactions,
And they puzzled even me.
I could discuss them
With no one.
I felt like I was losing
My connection with him,
Though I’d still see him
Each day. I was hurt
He didn’t ask me to the wedding.
I wished I could show him
I was happy for him, though
That wasn’t quite the truth.
I felt like I should give him a present,
Though, thank God, I didn’t.

I had a girlfriend, too,
Though mine was a “beard,” as they say,
That I was using
To delude myself.
When she (wisely) broke it off with me,
I panicked. I even swore out loud
In front of Mr. Martin.
He objected to
My language – he’d already
Started distancing himself –
And told me not
To come to see him anymore.

I stayed home from school
The next day, claiming
That I was sick.
I was amazed
When the phone rang,
And it was him.

He asked why I wasn’t in school.
I repeated my lie.
He said, with anger,
“What about tomorrow,
And the next day,
And the next?”
I heard myself blurt out,
“I didn’t think you’d care”
And then he answered,
“Well, I do.”

I went back to school
The next day – though, from then on,
I’d only visit him
On rare occasions.
When our eyes met,
It was awkward.

I began to live my life
Outside of school – outside
Even my dreams.
I began to do things
I’d denied I even
Thought about.
I learned that love can hurt you
Even worse
When it’s expressed, even
Returned. Eventually, I left
High school
And home.

As for Mr. Martin,
I have no idea
If he’s still alive,
Although he gave me
My first evidence
That I was.

-- © 2010 by Jack Veasey

All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced or duplicated without the author's written permission.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff Jack. You write how you read, a talent I'm still working on.