That block between my brain and mouth hasn’t been there for as long as I can remember. My Eleventh grade English teacher, Ms. Farley, weighed in at about 275 pounds and that was after a really good colonic. When I say good colonic, I mean a volunteer fire department assisted colonic. Ms. Farley was a bitch! Every day I would walk into the class and if I said something, anything, she would brush her hand at me and say “Ugh! Go away. Just go far away.” I would laugh and act as though it was cool that the mean teacher didn’t like me but it really hurt my feelings. I could take a joke but this wasn’t a joke. Someone who was supposed to encourage me, teach me and help me wanted nothing to do with me. That feeling was all too familiar.
She had this way of leaning on her wooden podium and rocking it forward. In my mind she did it because her poor ankles needed relief from the downward pressure that was otherwise known as her huge ass. I felt bad for the wood that made up that podium. I felt bad for the bottoms of her feet. I felt bad for the soles of her shoes, the mattress on her bed, the bar of soap that had to cruise around that body in the shower. I pretty much felt bad for everything that had to do with that woman’s life except for Ms. Farley herself.This lady had an obsession with a perfume that smelled as though someone had sprayed dollar store air freshener on a pair of wet sneakers, lit them on fire and put it out with cat urine. The odor would seep into our clothes and books and hair. It was horrible. Half the class would get headaches from the stench. The other half would be rubbing their eyes the whole time wondering if the Russians were invading and this was the gas that was going to disable us and lead to the eventual Soviet occupation of America (odd reference, I know, but the original Red Dawn movie was still pretty popular at the time).
Finally, on a nice day in May with only a week of school left, Alicia blurted out “God! I hate that perfume!” And the flood gates opened: “Me too!”; “It’s so strong!”; “I’m tired of headaches and breathing through my mouth!”; “Make it stop!”. Once the last complaint was let loose, silence fell on the class. Ms. Farley leaned forward on her podium. It creaked. We all wondered if this was the day it quit on her, said “Fuck you lady. I’m done.” and fractured into pieces sending her to the floor. No such luck. Her eyes got big. In what appeared to be slow motion she took a deep breath, raised her hand, opened her mouth and was about to let us have it. But, I beat her to it. In a casual tone and perfectly matter-of-fact, I stood up, started packing up my books and notepad, and said: “Of course it’s strong. She’s got a lot of surface area to cover. Take a look at her.” I walked to the front of the room and faced the class. “Haven’t you ever smelled a sweaty fat person? Seriously. This perfume is a gift from God. Big mammas always stink because their itty bitty alligator arms can’t reach far enough to wipe their own asses.” I turned to her. “Looks like you get your wish. I’m going away.” Her eyes were full of tears. I was almost sorry but then I remembered every time she was dismissive of me without a second thought. In perhaps the oddest act of defiance I have ever exhibited, I blew her a kiss before turning and walking out the door. I never looked back. My next stop was the principal’s office for a two hour wait and a suspension for the rest of the year.
Was it worth it? Without question, yes. I stood up for myself and like to think she knew why I did what I did. Unfortunately, my parents did not see it the same way. Among other things, I had to write an apology letter and mail it to the school. To this day, my parents still have no idea that the envelope was empty. There was no way I was apologizing then. Now, things are different. I look back on that moment with shame and regret. It is ironic how I would later fully appreciate that the insensitivity of others could be so devastating yet on that day I was no different then they. I apologize now, Ms. Farley. I am sorry. Nonetheless, your perfume fucking sucked.