Mr. Hartman Was Weighing Me Down


by Myles Zavelo

Why are you looking at me like that? How dare you? Can I tell you something? I’m going to tell you something. I’m going to shout and sing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my situation. About how my brain associates the sound of laughter with the very worst things. About how these horrible emotions start boiling. About how I learned to settle down with my destiny. How tragedy is a wimpy state of mind. How homicide really didn’t break me – and that’s funny because it’s true and it’s true because it’s funny and now the sky is bleeding! So troubling!

I noticed you stopped looking at me like that.

I am always noticing too much.

I have another headache.

My school: an atrocious motherfreaking warzone. I get mercilessly laughed at. I get laughed at for being different. I get laughed at for being a virgin. I get laughed at for being bad at sports: soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. I especially get laughed at when I say the wrong answer in class. My school: a toxic learning environment. I’m fearing that irreversible damage has been done. I’ll always be afraid of making mistakes now. I’ll always be that idiot loser who keeps on losing and losing and losing and losing and you get what I mean. For me, Monday to Friday is five death sentences, but have you noticed that I’ve kinda been walking around a certain word?

The word humiliation.

Do you understand what this word means?

For example: Troy suffered the humiliation of saying the wrong answer.

So, what the hell should I do? What should I do when they laugh at me? Should I stay silent? Or should I get super ferocious? But what does furious anger even look like? And how on earth do I get better at sports? Just how incompetent am I? Where in the Bible does it say that laughter is the best medicine? Why do I smell, taste, hear, and see things that are not present?

I constantly hear my name in the shower. I smell the ocean in elevators. Sitting alone at lunch, I taste fish, metal, and garbage. In the cafeteria, star athletes, teenage geniuses, and seventeen-year old girls drag themselves across my eyes, and I can’t help but think that I am completely alone. And I can’t help but think that just doing your thing is the hardest thing to do.

Also, I have the most terrible crush on my math teacher, Mrs. Hartman. She’s a real gorgeous beauty. She has taken me over completely. I cannot stress this possession enough. I want to hold her hand. I want to bond with her, jump up and down with her, swap spit with her, go on vacation with her. I want to hurt her husband, Mr. Hartman, who is weighing me down…

One spring day, Mrs. Hartman holds me back after class. Lunchtime is starting, but my stomach isn’t rumbling. To be honest, I’ve never really cared much for human food. I’ve never really cared much for the whole human experience. Mrs. Hartman’s face is serious, already unforgiving, but still she’s so beautiful. She’s wearing an orange peplum dress. She tells me that I’m failing trigonometry. She tells me that, next year, I’ll be repeating the class. I want to argue with her straight away. I mean: I could somehow convince her that she has made a mistake? My instinct is to tell her she’s wrong, but disagreement is unattractive, and she’s my crush. Instead, I smile, smile, smile. I say nothing. I am barely breathing. I am hovering over my seat. She has no idea how I feel. I think it would be pretty cool to be a superstar mathematician. If only I had my way. My stomach growls now. If only I could get Mr. Hartman alone. Just give me five minutes!

“Troy? Is there anything you want to say?” Her blue eyes look at my eyebrows.

“What’s – what’s, um, your favourite colour?” I ask back, shaking so very fiercely.

Now, I would only need about five minutes, truthfully.

An entire ocean of blood. And a much, much better life.

Guess you could say it’s disgraceful that I’m failing math, my favourite subject. And it makes me sad that Mrs. Hartman doesn’t put an end to the laughter. Guess we could all agree that a whole lot of loving never means a thing, that it’s a tragic world, that the sun doesn’t shine.

A long, long month later. No one is laughing anymore. The perfect crime still doesn’t exist, believe me. Nothing is ever that cheap. I hear no crazy hyenas. Where do all the perfect people roam? Mrs. Hartman, yet so heavenly, weeps behind me. I am staring down at my black leather shoes while the fat, wobbling judge sweats down at me. He clearly wants me to suffer, inside and out – but I really don’t feel like a bad person. No, I am not an evil person who makes ugliness! No, I am not a cowardly murderer! I am not David Berkowitz! I am not Pol Pot! No!

But, let’s be honest, I could’ve easily killed millions. I could’ve dominated the globe. There could’ve been streets and cities named after me. But I chose not to conquer. Is there something wrong with fighting for love? Do you think I should feel like a disgusting animal?

Rather, I feel like someone who, for once, didn’t make a mistake. I knew exactly what I was doing. I had it all planned. I had been stuck in a place that was not allowing me to grow. Mr. Hartman had no idea who I was. I didn’t plead insanity. No! Oh, my God! I am not that gross! Unlike some people, I am not interested in labeling whatever’s wrong with me. I also deserve every little bit of punishment. I will lick it all up. That knife was so heavy. My name is Troy.

About the Author

Myles Zavelo’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the following publications: Joyland Magazine, The Alaska Quarterly ReviewThe Southampton Review, New York Tyrant Magazine, Muumuu House, Maudlin House, The Harvard Advocate, Spectra Poets, Blue Arrangements, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere.


Chuck D: Winman Jr. High School Cafeteria, 2007 (CC)

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