Lightning crashes just outside the room and the windows shake.
“Woh. That was a strong one.” Irreverent Student’s voice is loud yet steady, giving me the impression of a guy trying hard to prove he’s not scared.
A squeaky-voiced Hope speaks up, “When I was a kid, I used to say God was bowling whenever we had a thunder storm. I wish I was still a kid. Now it just scares me because I know what lightning can do.”
Sitting back in Teacher’s desk chair, I cross my legs. “I love thunder storms. They make me feel safe and secure, as long as I’m home and can curl up under a blanket.”
“Do you think he got caught in the storm?” Clever Clyde pipes up. “Hey, shouldn’t you get back to your desk?”
I shrug. My Teacher’s Assistant status offers me a few perks. I’m taking advantage of that. “I’ll get up when he gets here.”
Still obsessing, Irreverent can’t stop wondering why our teacher is late. “I thought he was like a mail man, you know, rain, sleet, snow, the works.”
Yeah, me, too. I’m not admitting that. Maybe there’s a lesson in this.
With the next flash of lightning, the lights zap off and we’re left in the dark. In the place of the light, a voice reaches out.
“Can you see me now?” Teacher’s disembodied voice calls out, almost at my elbow.
“No, sir. It’s too dark.” Irreverent speaks up. “So are we gonna have to cancel class?”
“Why would I do that?” Teacher says, his voice moving across the stage toward where his desk should be. “We can still have a lesson.”
He claps his hands and we hear the clap that usually accompanies his apparitions.
“We still can’t see, sir.” The annoyance in Irreverent’s voice is palpable.
“How about you, Writer. Can you see me?”
He puts me out there. This isn’t fair. Why does he think I’m different? Why does he make me out to be a fool when I can’t do what he thinks I can?
“No, sir. I can’t see you, either.”
Suddenly, a white feather falls through the air in front of me, as if dropped from the ceiling.
“Do you see that?” Teacher’s voice stage-whispers toward me.
“Yes. You threw a feather.”
“Then how come you still can’t see me?”
“Because the lights are off,” Irreverent says as if this should be obvious to Teacher.
Suddenly, the power in the room comes back on. The PC on Teacher’s desk hums. The printer powers up and spits out a test page. The fish tank at the back of the room whirs back on, the bubbles popping through the water.
But Teacher is nowhere to be found.
We exchange puzzled glances until, “What’s wrong?”
The voice comes from the exact spot where it had been before.
“We can’t see you, sir.”
“But I’m here. I’ve been here the entire time, my students. I heard Hope talking about bowling in Heaven and Writer talking about feeling safe under a blanket.” The voice disappears. “And I heard you compare me to a mailman” the voice reappears next to Irreverent, who jumps as if ready to attack an assailant.
“And the feather, sir?” I try to bring the conversation back to what I really want to know. “Where did the feather come from?”
Suddenly, the voice is at my elbow again. “Oh, dear Writer, the feather was a gift for you from your Beloved across the veil,” I hear what sounds like a squeak of a sneaker on the stage, then, “which is right here.”
“What are you talking about?” Irreverent flops back into his chair. “Of course it’s here, but we still can’t see through to the other side.”
“Oh, can you? It’s actually pretty easy.”
Irreverent starts to argue with Teacher, whose sneakers take him down the steps, but I can’t hear him. I’m preoccupied. The feather, which had fallen on the far side of the stage, has lifted up. My eyes follow it as it travels to the back of the classroom as if being held aloft by some invisible hand through a light gray mist. When it reaches the door to the gardens, the feather starts to move toward me, as if whoever is holding it is watching me.
Suddenly, the feather’s not alone. I see a faint hand holding the feather next to eyes that are a blue as rich as the Caribbean Ocean on a summer day. The eyes stir something in me, a memory, a longing. I’m not sure what.
In my trance, I step down from the stage and approach the face that is getting clearer. It is a face connected to a memory I have never lived.
Through the haze in my mind, I hear Teacher’s voice again. “It’s fine, Writer. You are excused. Ask him to show you around.”
And as I follow my Beloved to the world behind the mist that is the veil, I remember Teacher’s lesson from the other day. Now, I understand. When he was talking about a love that is true, he was talking about me.
Until next class, dear friends, I remain forever faithfully,
The Dragonfly’s Student