Let’s call him Mr. Noel, he runs the discipline at my school. Being head of discipline consists of running around telling students to tuck their shirts in, pull their pants up, get the correct belt on, walk in a straight line, finish eating lunch in the twenty minute window and walk on the right side of the hallway. All of these duties offer little excitement. The one I did not mention was his intermittent appearance at bag check.
Mr. Noel is a large man, an ex-prison guard and would be a solid match for any NFL linebacker. He wears tiny glasses. There are many creases in his forehead which direct the viewer’s eyes down to the small and intense dark eyes buried in his head.
Recently the administration decided that snack food would become outlawed.
“This school ain’t your nasty house. You can’t just leave your trash laying around, uh-uh.” To quote one of the authority figures responsible for the implementation of this new policy.
No one argued.
The outlaw is enforced mostly when students enter the school during bag searches. Backpacks are checked in the large gym that holds a stage, a full size basketball court and ten rows of bleachers rising into the air like the steps of some Aztec pyramid. The student trudge into the gym at 7am through the dormant concession area coated in bus exhaust. Their hair is plastered to their head, flat ironed, braided, extended or sometimes “just hangin’”. Snacks are their currency and the prospect of having to smuggle them in only increases value.
Amidst the stream of the well dressed and sleepy eyed entered a student large with child. She passed through the line with little inspection and muttered her good mornings.
Mr. Noel stopped her and opened her bag. Three large bags of chips came out. They fell to the table with a fat smack and were quickly ushered into the trash can.
All other traffic through the bag check area halted. Students turned to watch Mr. Noel. Even the bleacher gossip halted as he retrieved the final item from the bag: a single travel sized tube of Oreos.
“You don’t need these cookies,” Mr. Noel said. He locked eyes with the pregnant student who was only making sounds like uh, oh, and wha – these sounds were cut off as Mr. Noel begun to crush her cookies in his Texas sized hand. He crumbled them as if he were crumbling her dreams or cheese for his favorite pasta dish, his eyes never leaving hers. Laughter seized the other students as the joy spread across Mr. Noel’s face. The other bag checkers did their best to bite their tongues, but his saying “You don’t need these cookies,” echoed in their heads, along with the ferocity of his eye contact and created a gale of schadenfreude induced laughter.
The force of his crushing caused the pack to pop open. At that point he discarded the cookies on the table. Thwap.
“You can go,” he said.
The pregnant student scurried out to catch breakfast across the breezeway. Mr. Noel resumed his bag checking duties and remained present on campus Friday. This week he has not been seen. While there’s probably a fair reason for his absence I can’t help but imagining that these events are connected.
It turns out however that he was absent for Jury Duty, which sounded like the most wonderful paid vacation to all the teachers who had the gall to ask about his absence.
When I related this story to an impromptu TFA lunch in at my landlord’s house my landlord’s daughter said, “How could she be pregnant if she’s not married?”