So, I’m a teacher, as you may have noticed. And the idea of a high school teacher having a sexual relationship with one of the teen children who happens to be one of his or her students is deeply troubling to me, to say the least.
So how is it that I seem to be in the midst of writing a story cycle/novel that centers around precisely such a relationship?
No idea. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
And by the way, since some of you have asked: I’m not Ken. Really. And there is no Allison. Their story flowed out of another one that I’ve been working on. Just to be clear.
I woke up before 6:00 this morning and that question was burning through my head. I’ve written about Allison’s experience of the onset of their relationship — I’ve experienced having a crush on a teacher (as many of us have), so writing stories like “Thing of Beauty” and “Juliet Takes Off” wasn’t too much of a leap of the imagination. I could understand Allison and Young!Ken’s feelings pretty well.
But this morning as I grumbled myself awake I found myself wondering: What the hell must it have been like for Old!Ken, having this young girl fall in love with you, while you are clearly feeling very inappropriate things for her? That one was much further afield.
So I sat down and created a letter from Ken to Allison, written between “Juliet Takes Stage” and “Juliet Takes Off” — during Allison’s junior (11th grade) year. Don’t know if I’m going to use it in the finished piece, so I thought I’d share it here. (A word to the wise: this isn’t smut, though there’s a lot of sexual imagery. It’s a teacher on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Angsty, definitely.)
Dear Juliet (~1000 words)
I will never send you this letter.
I will never send you this letter for the same reason that I couldn’t put your actual name at the top, that I used such a stupid, stupid pseudonym: because, oh, my god, do I want you, and oh, my god, is that an awful, awful thing for me to say.
I have never in my life had a hard-on for a fucking sixteen-year-old girl. When I was in high school myself, I always had crushes on the older girls. I’ve always loved women. I love girls too, but not the way that I love you and I want to tear that feeling out of myself.
It hurts so much to watch you, to listen to you as you talk to me, to hear your voice go breathy and watch your nipples harden, and to know that you have no idea what it is that is happening to you, or what it is that you are doing to me.
You don’t know because you are sixteen, and you shouldn’t know. There are things that I find myself wanting to teach you, to say to you, to do to you, that would be so cruel.
You’ve just sat here on the edge of my desk, leaning forward, lips parted, talking about fucking Donne, your nipples poking there through yet another ‘sixties band shirt, just a foot from my face, and it took all of my laughable self-control not to turn to your best friend and say, “Jordan, lift Juliet’s skirt. Now lower her panties. Now kiss her cunt and get it good and wet….”
God help me. What do you think I’m thinking here as I try to listen to you, my crotch crammed beneath the desk to hide my shame? You probably think I’m as excited about Metaphysical poetry as you are — and I am, admittedly, but it’s not “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” that’s racing through my head. It’s the “Elegy”:
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland!
My Kingdom, safest when with one man manned.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I do. I want to man you. I want to claim you.
There’s a reason that it would be rape for me to act on my desire. You have no idea how you make me feel, and how could you? What’s a spouse of sixteen years mean to you? I married her before you were born. We fucked — two adults, playing grownup games — when you were still in diapers.
But when she died, you were there for me — always. My guardian angel. My Juliet. My temptress — only, no, not that: the temptation that I feel is all my own making. My desire for you is all a product of your compassion mixed with my own perverse, perverted, middle-aged horniness. You showed me kindness — so much kindness. Why is it that I want to repay that kindness by bending you over the front of the stage and taking you hard? What kind of thanks would that be?
Oh, Dana, what did you see in me? How did you know that I was ready for what you were giving? Because I was. I was overwhelmed by my own desire, then as now, but I had even less idea what it was. Still, you knew that what I needed was something that you could give me. Was something that wouldn’t be about anything other than sex, and learning how to please another human being even as I learned to take my own pleasure. How did you know that what you offered me was a gift and not defilement?
Juliet, you aren’t ready, I know that. Your absolute lack of self-consciousness or self-awareness when you lean close to me, or when you run your finger up the inside of your thigh while you’re watching Lexy and Lucas rehearsing that long almost-kiss between Darcy and Elizabeth, the way you squeal and blush when Jordan whispers dirty jokes in your ear…
I have been a teacher for all these years and have had beautiful girls — and more than a few boys — flirt with me, and flounce at me, Erica trying to show off her non-existent cleavage or Jessica trying to sit in my lap, or Jonathan putting his head on my shoulder: it has never been a temptation, as much as I am always aware of how wonderful and lovely they all are — even Erica, who I think I may punch if she tries to fuck with you in class one more time.
And so why is it that you sigh, and I go hard, and start wanting to shove my tongue down your throat and between your legs?
It’s more than losing her. It’s more than loneliness. It’s more than my age, or the fact that I haven’t touched a woman in so long, let alone fucked one.
It’s you. You, so beautiful. So sweet. So loving and kind.
I hated Lolita. I loved it too, because it’s fucking brilliant, but I hated it, because the title character is a total blank. The whole torrid love affair happens in Humbert Humbert’s sick brain, and Lolita goes along because she’s twelve and it seems like a fun idea.
So what does that make me?
Not someone who is offering you love. Not someone who is offering to initiate you, the way that I was lovingly initiated into all of the mysteries of love and sex and pleasure and desire.
I’m just a sick old fuck who’s got a boner for a young girl.
My nightmare is that at some point in your awakening — and I can see that it’s coming, next year or if I’m lucky the year after, when you’ve already left for college — you will decide to test the affect that you can have on me. You’ll press up against me or bend over to pick up a pencil you purposefully dropped or you’ll wait in the dressing rooms in just your bra and panties — all things that kids have done in the past — and you’ll think you know what you’re doing, but oh, god, you won’t have any idea, and where I was able to let those other kids know what a poor choice they were making without humiliating them, I don’t know that I’ll be able to control myself with you.
And so I’ll go lie in my big, empty bed and jack off night after night after night to thoughts of a beautiful, sweet sixteen-year-old girl giving herself to me in ways that no girl should ever have to. And I’ll hate myself for it, but if I am very, very lucky, you will never, never know.
Not your Romeo. More your sick, fucked up Friar Lawrence