Teacher In Amber

‘Some go and some stay behind; some never move at all.’ Girl In Amber by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The stars were aligned, yes. But they were dark stars.

I awoke, choking in the ink of the small hours, wanting nothing more than to be gone. Nights ago I had indeed tried to awaken myself with the crash of my softer than expected forehead against the of-course-closed French windows. Half-asleep and whirring, I had arisen from bed, gone into the living room, circled the coffee table like a downtempo mosquito and spun off towards the French windows, my escape foiled.

This night, the stars had locked into a pitch-black constellation of far darker import. Bathed in this black light, tonight, I bore a hell within me.

I heard a dog whining, limping, whimpering as if begging to be put down. I felt a tremor move the bed. But unlike the tremors that I’d experienced first-hand in Latin America, this one did not whoosh past me like a truck juddering past the bedroom window, no. This tremor began and ended with me. And the dog’s whining began and ended with me.

I shook all night and cried myself to a cathartic emptiness. I awoke feeling bruised and utterly shattered. That night, I had returned to a hellish place of which I’d long thought to have seen the last: I had suffered a panic attack.

A child of frustration, exhaustion and the desire to simply leave: a sense of being trapped; a sense of having computed every avenue of escape and finding yourself cornered, defeated and yet bursting with frantic tics – again, I had returned to a place of absolute panic. And now I am ashamed.

I had thought myself into this place of bitter reeking. Days spent agonising over preparation, assessment, policy formulation – those days drew into me. Evening after evening spent meeting with parents – those evenings drew deeply into me. Weekends spent generating displays, weekends attending school events, weekends supervising on school trips – these all drew again until I found I had written a story upon myself which I would do nought but read.

Every night.

And so I read what I had written upon my body every night: I would awaken in the ink of the small hours to read the lines and I would awaken again in the ink of the small hours to read (typical English teacher) between the lines, searching with feverish circularity for the evidence that would release me from my search. If I could find some pattern in this Voynichean script, unravel this enigma I had conjured for myself; if some grand system would only reveal itself and release me from this slow-motion fight; if only some well-done sum would miracle itself to me and release me from now nightly French window stymied flight.

This is the midnight hymn of a teacher in amber: too tired to move, too terrified to stand still; only flickering like a bulb in an open fridge in a too dark kitchen.

It hurts to write without hope, but it hurts more not to seek to push through despair. My long dark night has begun, but only so that it might end.

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