I will readily admit I didn’t love her at
first. She was boisterous and meretricious and irritating. She spent every
class period discussing the whereabouts of her newest boy-toy and updating us
on the “endlessly intriguing” social endeavors of today’s most undeserving pop
stars. Being that English was my favorite subject and I was rather advanced in
the particular area I expected more from my honors
English teacher. But let me tell you, Ms. Mann? She exceeded every expectation
I had. She was more than the ditzy fake-blonde she made herself out to be.
However, this is not your typical “don’t judge a book by its cover” storyline.
There’s a bit more to it than that…
I suppose there’s no better place to start than the beginning, and that brings us back to the first day of school, freshman year. I was sitting in my creative writing classroom vigorously typing away about my eventful day, as per the first assignment, when she walked in. I assumed it was an off period for her. She scanned the classroom looking for a familiar face. Most of the kids enrolled in creative writing were juniors and seniors that had her as their honors English teacher when they were sophomores. I think I might have been the only freshman in the class. Her eyes landed on me.
“Who are you? Have I had you before? Or maybe a sibling, a sister?”
“Hi. No, I’m the oldest of my siblings.”
“You have a very kind face. What’s your name?”
And with that she walked right back out of the classroom.
She was the most fascinating human being I had met thus far. She spoke with such fluidity yet far too quickly and her intermittent ideas bounced off the walls around us before you had a change to digest what she was saying. But I never took her for a good English teacher. She seemed far too scatter-brained and distracted.
The following summer when I received my sophomore schedule I was speechless to discover my honors English teacher was none other than Ms. Mann. Being the overachieving student that I was, I e-mailed her immediately after to express my excitement for the coming year, assuming she would remember our encounter. I never received a reply.
When I walked in on the first day I expected a whirlwind of recognition and apology, but I got no such thing. Ms. Mann took attendance and began her synopsis ramble. By the end of the class the only information that I had picked up was that we were reading three books I had already completed on my own, and Ms. Mann’s first name is Chiara.
I was disappointed as I left the classroom. I had this feeling that she was the person to remember you. But alas, she never did bring up that encounter. It was as if it had never happened.
However, over the course of the next four months, she became my favorite person on the planet. Her hyperverbal psycobabble was endlessly entertaining and I felt as though I was learning more about English than I ever had before. One day she even singled me out in the midst of class to compliment my amazing performance in her class this year, something she never did.
The next day, however, when I walking into the classroom a substitute had taken Ms. Mann’s place. He remained in the classroom for over a month and it was clear he didn’t know anything about English. Not only were we butchering classics I had already tackled mercilessly, we were writing long assignments about the themes and motifs we failingly attempted to discuss in class. Not to mention, he dressed like an 80 year old man and smelled of rotting flesh. The month droned on and became two months, and still, there was no word from Ms. Mann.
About a week later, we received a letter. The letter was addressed to us, the 4th period English class of Ms. Chiara Mann, and was not sent to the school office but rather directly to the classroom. I was not even sure how this was possible.
The letter read:
I’m sorry for my absence. I am feeling terribly under the weather. Be sure to do your work and pay attention! I’m always listening! Good luck my little prodigies. XO.
It was the most unusual letter to receive from a teacher. I know Ms. Mann well enough to know that she would not write an informal letter to her students and use such phrases as “my little prodigies.” Nor would she close the letter with an X and an O. Nor could she be legally absent for two months for feeling “under the weather.” It simply didn’t add up.
The next day when I arrived on campus there was a slew of police cars and ambulances. I pushed my way through the crowd so I could hear what was happening.
“Never had this happen before.”
“Who would have thought?”
“Complaints about a dead body and from a school none the less…”
“How did the teachers let it get this bad? I mean the damn building reeks of rotting flesh.”
Immediately my mind went to the horrible scent of my new substitute. However, what if it was simply the room and not the person…or rather a different person?
I shoved my way back through the crowd and around to the back entrance of the school. I was the only one inside. It was vacant and desolate and unusual.
I was sure to be quiet as I neared the classroom. The smell had intensified and it filled the whole north wing of the building. It was undeniably the scent of something rotting.
I slowly pushed open the classroom door, closing my nose for good measure. I headed to the closet in the back of the room—the only part of the room that was hidden away from the rest.
I pulled the closet door back and out came the disheveled rotting body of Ms. Chiara Mann.
I screamed. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know how else to react. I screamed and I screamed and I hollered and I yelled because my feet were bricks and I was unmoving and if I was going to remain in the classroom staring at the deceased Ms. Mann I was going to scream.
All of a sudden I felt the ground give out under me and I lost my firm stance. I found myself on the ground and I most definitely blacked-out. However, I was woken quickly by the intense stampede of footsteps in the hall.
Thank god, I had thought, the cops are here. This will all be over soon.
But boy was I wrong.
I large crowd of men dressed in black outfits ran in—unfazed by the body or my presence. They grabbed Ms. Mann and shoveled her into a burlap sack. Next, the tallest of the men hoisted me onto his shoulders and carried me out along with Ms. Mann.
The next series of events gets fuzzier each time I recall it. I can remember being questioned for days on end. I remember lights in my face, I remember being poked and prodded and tested. I remember always being in the same dark room. I remember the constant drip of the faucet on the other half of the room, however, I never remember drinking any. Then I remember being ushered into a new room—a white room. A closed off, boarded up empty white room.
That’s where I am now. A white room. And I know nothing more.