One day, just before the bell rang, my 8th grade English teacher asked me to stay after class. A murmur ran through the class: “Oooh….” Of course, everyone was wondering what had happened, what I had done.

In those two or three anxious minutes, I ran over every conceivable way I might have sinned against God or man in the past week. 

My classmates filtered out of the door. I took a deep breath and packed up my books. Here we go.

She met me at the door, put a hand on one of my shoulders, and said, “Austin, I’m glad you have a good heart because with the mind that you have, you could do some terrible things.”

Why would you ever tell an eighth grade boy that?

“Austin, you have the makings of an supervillain. Ever heard of Lex Luthor? Well, he’s got nothing on you. Congratulations on your epic depravity. By the way, you need a costume, either black leather or custom-tailored three-piece suits.”

How do you respond when someone says something like that?

“Thanks. I’m glad too. I don’t want to be evil, I want to be good!”

This came from the woman who often lost our tests. The woman who, when we read Flowers for Algernon, also entitled Charlie, brought Rorschach inkblot cards to class and asked different people in class what they say: a butterfly, a boy riding a horse, a four-leaf clover. She saved the best for last, polling the audience again. Somebody saw two fairies clapping hands. After a pregnant pause, she conferred this wisdom on us: “If you saw a vagina, you may have been sexually molested as a child.”

Wow. That’s the first time I’ve heard a grown woman say the word vagina.

The word introduced a palpable tension to the room. We all looked around at each other, trying to act cool and nonchalant while trying to pinpoint the people who looked ill-at-ease. All of us probably looked like the opossum in the garbage can with light in his eyes—feeling exposed but not sure what we’d done wrong.

This was the same woman who claimed to have an incisive gaze into my soul.

Sure. Next stop…world domination. Look out, Voldemort, there’s a new kid in town. He wears plaid Abercrombie & Fitch shirts and he writes poetry in private and he gets bad sunburns.

Boo! I just killed a planet in another galaxy. But now I want to play ping-pong and then maybe go to the basketball game tonight. Do you think Lauren’s cute?

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