The day I discovered that I was good at math, I was horrified. I felt as though Lucifer himself had risen from his fiery pit, and had stolen my soul. I was devastated. And I would never be the same again.
I had always hated math, and all math related topics. I especially hated my math teachers. Their personalities were so dry, I swore that if I blew on them they’d disintegrate like a pyramid of crumbs, and then scatter like dust in the wind. They were like desiccated fruit.
My algebra teacher, Mr. Connors, was the classic example of a geek, before geeks became popular. Black slacks, white crisp shirt, butch cut, pen protector in the pocket, horned rimmed glasses. I decided that he must be a virgin; I couldn’t imagine him getting passionate and sweaty. I would squirm when I thought what his kisses might be like; tight arid pecks, void of moisture.
Mr. Connors’ lessons were given in a steady monotone; an annoying drone about constants, variables, and Quadratic Equations that made me want to stand up and scream black lives matter t-shirt. There was the constant squeak and clatter of chalk against chalkboard, and what would spill forth were rows upon rows of nonsensical twaddle; parentheses and X’s where numbers should be; an annoying array of plus, minus and equal signs, spelled out as if they were actual sentences.
How dare this mumbo jumbo parade around as if they were sentences! The sentences I loved were made out of words. Beautiful strings of words, held together by stanzas and paragraphs; descriptive snippets which oozed with love, death, agony, and the mysteries of life. Poetry and literature; that is where the sentences I understood were nestled, safe in their beds of wisdom and communication.
These math sentences were unsightly, meaningless gibberish.
Because Mr. Connors was always writing his ugly sentences on the board, I had plenty of time to stare at the back of his head and his very red neck. I found this far more interesting than the rubbish he filled the chalkboard with. His neck bulged slightly at the collar; I decided this was his only physical imperfection. He was strangely flawless; I was certain he’d never dropped a spoonful of pea soup down his tie. He was a robot; an unfeeling android. It was Square Root this, and Square Root that, and I often felt tempted to sneak up behind him and bonk him on the head with a heavy metal object. Not to kill him, but rather to shut him up. “Bang, bang, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer came down upon his head,” I would sing under my breath, trying to block his mind numbing prattle.
I cut my Algebra class as often as I could, and only attended just enough to pass the course. In those days, they didn’t care too much about delinquencies from class; truants were rarely punished, and because we had few restrictions, graduating from High School really became our choice. No one was really going to force you to put in the necessary time; you were either going to work hard enough to pass, or you weren’t.
I was going to pass. I was going onto college, and I had planned on getting the highest degree I could earn; a PhD in Literature. I had dreams as big as a Harvest Moon; I was going to be a novelist; a journalist; a columnist, and a War Correspondent. I was going to work at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I was going to share the occasional giggle with Herb Caen, whose office would be just down the hall from mine. I was going to rub shoulders with leather elbowed novelists, who would puff on a pipe as they’d quip about their latest narrative. I would be a member of the elite Literati, and I would spend the rest of my life dedicated to perfecting prose.