Last Christmas

Dimpy’s classes were less about education, she realized, and more about expression and entertainment. She’d invented the notion of Spatial Studies, a course designed to fill the gaps between student’s thoughts, without really knowing what it was. As a result, her students didn’t treat their studies seriously and never did their homework. Explaining why they hadn’t done their homework had in fact become a source of pride. It was entirely her fault.

“Steven, did you do homework?” she asked a boy who was looking even more vacant than usual.

He looked at her suddenly and said, “How do you know my name?”

It had taken a few weeks to get everyone’s names, but she knew them now. Why was he acting so surprised? “Because you come to my classes, and we’ve spoken many times.”

He looked angry. “No, I don’t. This is the first time I’ve come to your class.”

“Steven, this is the fifth class. We’re half way through the first term, and…”

Tom interrupted, saying, “Miss Kashi, can I…”

“Not now, Tom. Please wait a minute. I’m not finished yet with Steven.” She didn’t want to drop the conversation; she wanted to understand what he meant. “Don’t you remember your classmates’ excuses about not doing their homework – Tom’s fat cousin, Simone’s repo man, and Asma’s death? Surely you do?”

“No Miss Kashi, I don’t recall anything from before this class, just celebrating Christmas with my family. It was sooo nice. Mom cooked goose stuffed with walnuts and oranges, and dad let us have a sip of red wine; he said that’s what French people do. We played silly games like hide and seek and charades, and read out tongue-twisters, and… ”

Dimpy interrupted, “But it’s September now. That was nine months ago.”

“Was it? It seems like it was only a few days ago. It was soo nice, Miss Kashi. Are you sure this isn’t the first class of the course? Maybe you taught me in a different class last year, and you’re getting mixed up. That’s it! Didn’t you take one math class when Mr. Thompson was way?”

“No I didn’t, Steven. I think you’re…” A note appeared on the desk before her. How it had got there, she couldn’t say. Tom caught her eye and raised his eyebrows; he nodded towards the note. She opened and read it.

It said, “Miss Kashi, please leave Steven alone. His parents split up last week. He can’t handle it. I think he’s gone back to his family’s last happy memory, of Christmas last year, and blocked everything else out.”

Dimpy nodded and refolded the note. There was no point in asking Steven if he’d done Spatial Studies homework. He’d done practice.

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