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Unterberg Poetry Center

First Session

Why am I here?  Because I’m miserable.  I hate my wife, my job, my students, I hate my principal, I’m fat – look, it’s simple, I hate my life.

No, I’m not thinking of jumping in front of a subway, but if someone pushed me I might say thank you.

I don’t know how to fix it.  I’m twenty-seven – a failure.  Adrianna, my wife, she earns three times as much as me.  My principal says I can be a better teacher. 

My wife comes home late and I think she’s having an affair.

Why?  I told you, she doesn’t come home until late.  Yes, it could be her job, but I have instincts.  I don’t believe her.  The truth?  If I was her, I would wonder what the hell I was doing with me.   If I were she.  

I teach English.  Better put – I try to teach English.  These kids get into high school without knowing the difference between there and their, they don’t know which two is two.  They don’t give a shit.  I’m supposed to prepare them for the SATs but they sit there, yawning or eyes closed just waiting for the class to be over.  My principal says I don’t engage them.  Engage them with what – Siddhartha?  Great Expectations?  Do you know who Kendrick Lamar is?   If his lyrics weren’t so vulgar, we could study them – that might – might – engage them. 

You know who suggested that?  My wife the lawyer.  She’s into rap.  I’m just the jerk who likes Mozart.

Thank you, I don’t need them, I just got a little choked up.

Second Session

Ok, so I took your advice and I asked Adrianna. 

You know what she said?  No, are you?  

So we got into a really heavy discussion about how we feel, and you’re right – we’re mirrors.   I think she doesn’t like me, and she thinks I don’t like her.  She didn’t understand how frustrated I am with my job and I had no idea she was going crazy with hers.  We actually had sex for the first time in months. 

So, yes, it’s better.  The air got cleared up.  That’s progress.  She wants me to go on a diet – she says she’ll go on it with me, but she doesn’t need a diet.  I said maybe I could just eat less.  She thinks that’s worth a try, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Then she said maybe I don’t want to be a teacher, maybe I should go back to school.   She said I could study law and then we could open an office together.

Yeah, not the best idea.

Fifth Session

So I asked my principal to give me a specific suggestion.  And she actually did.  I told them write at least two pages on what was the nicest thing anyone ever did for you.  It could be as simple as giving you a cough drop – but I said you have to describe exactly what it was, how you felt about it then, and how you feel about it now.  They started writing it in class, and damn if it wasn’t quiet and they were all writing away.  At the end of class, I said homework was: finish it and bring it in tomorrow.   And they did.  It was amazing.   Usually it’s a total drag correcting papers – this time it was really a joy.  I was so happy to be doing it.

So, yes, I do feel better about my ability as a teacher.  And I thanked the principal for the suggestion and asked her for more.  Plus I’ve lost eight pounds. 

Ninth Session

So, I think this student is cutting herself. Mikelah.  A really smart girl. She came up after class to ask for a book recommendation and while she was digging in her backpack for her notebook I saw her arms and there were all these thin little scabs and some newer lines. 

No, I didn’t.  I just recommended Animal House

Because I didn’t know what to do.  I’m pretty sure that’s what they were – cutting marks – but maybe they’re not, and it’s not like she was asking for help, she was just asking for a book.  But I’m a Mandated Reporter – I’m supposed to report anything even if I’m not sure. They say it’s anonymous but that’s bullshit, it never is and what if everyone finds out I’m the reporter. 

Sure, I could tell my principal but she’ll ask if I’m sure and I’m not.  She doesn’t want anything that might blemish the school’s reputation. 

In love with Mikelah?  Come on.  She’s a beautiful young lady, but my god she’s fifteen years old.  I suck as a human being, but I don’t suck that bad.

I thought I’d ask Adrianna what she would do.  But maybe that’s a bad idea…

Thirteenth Session  

I think Adrianna and I are going to split up.  No, I’m not unhappy about it.  I don’t know if we love each other – maybe we do.  But she says I don’t turn her on anymore, that I haven’t for months.  And it isn’t fun for me either, having sex with someone who’s always judging.   She says I should’ve reported Mikelah’s cutting.  I think Adrianna’s representing scum – people who are ruining our planet and sucking the life out of everyone who isn’t the one percent…She says I’m a whiner and I don’t step up. 

Angry.  It makes me feel really angry.

My life sucks.  I suck.  This is pointless, talking to you. 

Maybe I should start cutting.

Judith Lichtendorf is widowed, lives in Manhattan, has one son, one daughter-in-law, four step daughters and a grandson and granddaughter, all of them perfect.