It’s the first day of the semester and I’ve just
slogged through the syllabus. A student walks up
to my teaching station. “I can’t look at your face,”
she says. “I’m sorry?” I say. “Your face. When you talk,
it changes too much. It’s disturbing. I can’t really look at it.”
I’ve been conditioned for so long to please students
that I offer an accommodation. “I understand,” I say.
“Will looking at my face be a problem moving forward this semester?”
“Oh, no, you’re good,” she says. “I’ll figure out something.”
It doesn’t occur to me that what’s been said to me is
so audaciously unkind until she leaves. Another student
hands me their sports schedule. Outside, the sky is so blue
I put my sunglasses on and promise myself
to tell no one about this. I keep my face still.
Daniel Nester is the author most recently of Harsh Realm: My 1990s, a collection of poetry and prose poems coming soon from Indolent Books. He edits Pine Hills Review, the online literary journal of The College of Saint Rose, where he is also a professor of English.
image: MM Kaufman