My favorite math teacher in high school told me over and over: Don’t you ever dare become a teacher like me.
He didn’t just mean: don’t become a teacher like him. He meant: don’t become a teacher, like, period.
I didn’t listen to him, much to my own detriment.
Because a lot of the time he could be a real pain in the ass. He was always asking, But why? Why? Why? Why? But you’re not explaining why?
Why does two plus two equal four?
Why is the square of the hypotenuse equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides of a right triangle?
Shit like that.
Or things like how all curveballs are actually just optical illusions.
He never sneezed, he said, because he told himself never to sneeze.
Same with coughing. He smoked a pack a day between classes and never coughed.
He was an avowed atheist who equated god with alien cockroach overlords and flying spaghetti monsters.
The old holey ghost, he liked to joke. God of the Holey-in-One of Golfers.
He was kind of a superhero or evil genius.
In retrospect, I refuse to choose.
The year after I graduated to go to school to become a high school teacher, he dropped dead in the middle of Pre-Calc. He was lecturing on imaginary numbers.
Imaginary number. Imaginary numbers. Brain aneurysm.
His last words: But why?
I don’t actually know what his last words were or if he was lecturing about imaginary numbers. But I’d like to think he was. I hated imaginary numbers.
Imaginary numbers is why I never took calculus. Why I quit wanting to teach math (like him). I like to imagine that imaginary numbers prompted the first sneeze of his life. Which then prompted that coughing fit, the seizing, the rolling around and choking on his own tongue.
But why? Cough cough, sneeze, seize seize garble garble.
His brain couldn’t take the explosion of all that phlegm and telekinesis at one time.
I’m an English teacher now, if you didn’t pick up on that. I have allergies. I can sneeze on command, can sneeze up to eighteen sneezes at a time. Sometimes after a sneezing fit in class, I tell my students my sneezing is all an optical illusion, a figment of their imagination. I like to screw with their heads whenever I can.
I never could hit a curveball to save my life. As far as I’m concerned they don’t exist.
Like imaginary numbers.
And brain aneurysms.
And spaghetti monsters.