When I was in Junior High School, I had my share of what I would call Pathetic Teachers. These were the noble ones who wanted to get inside our sniveling little heads and then would want us to look at what they pulled out. And we, of course, from the lofty pedestals of 15-year old superiority, mocked their terrible sincerity.
There was one teacher – she taught English and thoughtfulness, I think – who gave us an assignment that I remember to this day.
We were to bring to class an Object. That Object would be a representation of ourselves, a metaphor to place inside an unmarked box. We would turn in that box and in turn each Object would be help up for discussion, to see if we could identify the owner. We had such subtle reasoning, and all.
I had brought a piece of glass – unsentimentally found in the dirt perhaps, or on the floor of the bus. All I know was that my effort was minimal. I didn't think I was transparent, or sharp, or meant to be handled with care. I just knew that it would excite comment.
I don't remember the dialogue that followed. But I had hoodwinked my poor, earnest teacher quite successfully.
I have recently begun to wonder what I would put in that box now.
Something, perhaps, to show that I would leave a good-looking corpse:
A shell from the beach: full of sand, still wet from the ocean, to show how I would never be far from my parents:
A scrap of lace – a useless decoration:
Or perhaps I would leave the box empty. Not as a protest against a foolish chore, but as an explanation: that no one is so simple that their definition could reside within a single enclosure; that their complexity lasts for miles…well beyond a box's mere barriers.