I Can’t Explode

(Before I start, I have to tell you that ABE RYBEK made me write this post – not that he requested it, or anything, it’s just that he commented on another of my posts, “Abe Rybek Hugged Me,” and his sweet words reminded me that it is always worth it to make the effort to get the posts out of my head and into the blog so Abe, thank you!)

One of the consistent joys of teaching English as a Foreign Language is the wonderful mis-speaks you get the privilege of enjoying. Just recently, a new student of mine, a Chinese boy in 9th grade, said earnestly, “I know what it means, but I can’t explode.”

I can’t explode, either. I can’t explode when I hear that the n-word has reared its ugly head at our town’s middle school, being used as a weapon by white students against the students of color who are bussed in from the city to enjoy a “better” education out here in the burbs. I can’t explode when Seth tells me that students watching the girls basketball game at his and Owen’s* high school started saying, “Terry* plays like a dyke!” about a girl who was Owen’s best friend in 2nd grade.** I can’t explode when my UU church shows some very discriminatory colors in a recent action involving the forced resignation of a beloved staff member, rendering the church environment unsafe for minorities in one fell swoop. I can’t explode when a colleague and I go to the local youth counseling center to gather information about starting a queer youth support effort in town and the 3 staff members let us know that they have no resources for queer and questioning youth and are actually looking to the two of us as the experts (they have paying jobs as counselors; we’re volunteering our time and energy).

Much to their dismay, the boys did not have a snow day last week, only a two-hour delay. To be nice, I gave them a ride so they could linger just a little longer at home. On the way back, I saw John*, a boy in Owen’s grade, whose mother once cornered Tex when they were both chaperoning a 2nd grade field trip, to tell her she thought her son was probably gay. I stopped and asked if he would like a ride down the hill in a warm car, and he did. We chatted, me asking him about his singing group, him being the darling polite lad that he is. When he thanked me for the ride, I said, “It was my pleasure,” and readers, truer words have never been spoken. Me and Tex have had that child’s back since that bus ride Tex took with his mom way back when, and not just him, but Terry, and so many more.

See? I can’t explode. Our kids are out there.


*Not their real names, in case you were wondering.

**Seth gave them what for, he says. Way not to be a bystander, eldest son!