December 20, 2020 by The Citron Review
Crack the classroom windows, even though the air is freezing. Prop the door to get that science-approved cross ventilation. Gasp and sweat when students’ masks trickle down over noses. Your right ear pops its loop like champagne. You reel off-kilter and can feel a spotlight. Nope, that’s just the projector which is now blinding you, since you drifted into the light. Luckily, your ill-fitting glasses have smushed the nose bridge deeper into your face, so you can readjust the mask. Ask the students a question and immediately forget it. Your left ear loop pops off. Remove your glasses and reset while responding to the silent, wide-eyed stares. Rephrase what you desperately hope was your original question – maybe something about the second person point of view.
Are you dreaming of masks, too?
In my bad dreams, someone refuses to wear the mask. In the good dreams, no one can understand each other through their masks, but nobody gets sick. There’s a lot of blinking.
Everyday, I’m thankful for the way teachers and students adapt. I experience people’s best intentions to protect each other in the name of education. Since I teach reading and writing to non-native English speakers, I wonder how much time we’ve spent on 2020-era vocabulary. Together we are all trying to understand the tiny but timely details grabbing our attention. We’ve had so many discussions on mask layers, the chaotic weaving and efficacy of varied materials, racist immigration proposals, a presidential election and tense aftermath, and a Black Friday without mobs. Such conversations have resulted in a vocabulary of fear, resentment, and worry, but also of hope. Sure, the planet’s on fire is an idiom we can’t ignore, as is dumpster fire, but both of these allow me to teach putting out fires as a timely idiom, too.
Over this year, I’ve read submissions focused on living exuberantly in vivid language while ongoing tragedy whispers in the background. In our Winter Issue, for only a split second, we see fascism’s result for a man of peace (Edvige Guinta’s “Gigi La Pace”), rage in the kitchen (Talia Tucker’s “Yellowing Dresses”), or a fateful diagnosis while the wind blows along the open road (Dawn Terpstra’s The Reliability of Heat and Flowers”). In Sheila Dong’s “witness,” a simple snail carries a heavy weight. We cannot ignore the danger or grief or pain that’s present; it colors our understanding of each micro-moment.
Living with the gravity of these times might also make us appreciate escape, fantasy, and humor. Jessica Hudson’s The Big Book of Fairy Tale Jokes for Grown Up Girls delivers four riddles and a joke mixing liminal beauty with pop culture. Play along with us. We’ll learn to live in new ways. Though we are masked, we can still dream together.
The Citron Review