AP of Guidance: De Los Reyes
‘And I mean it would probably help to like get a picture of this guy in your head. I mean imagine a guy four foot ten with three hairs left on his scalp and a diamond stud earring and spit at the corners of his mouth. Plus add you know this constant need to touch the person he’s talking to and the fact that he calls Fridays ease-it-in Fridays when he’d come to school wearing slippers saying just ease the weekend in baby, ease it in, with such joy it was almost you know scary, plus this like smirk-faced stroll he’d do through the hallways peeping in from one classroom to the next presumably looking for some student but I’d see him spend whole periods that way. Plus if you ever made the mistake of asking him on come-down Mondays how he’d spent the weekend he’d just turn those knobby eyes at you and say just how I love to baby leaving you feeling sort of queasy but also sort of compelled to ask well how’s that Mr Reyes and then he’d smile creepily and say staying up until sunrise watching movies with this look on his face that made you really not want to know just what kind of movies he watched.
‘Plus he lets freshmen change in his office after baseball practice. I mean, he waits outside of the batting cage with a towel.
‘So anyway one day as I was, well, as I was counting steps to Pokorny’s class don’t ask he just sort of materialized and I walked straight into him. He was wearing wrinkled khakis and a button down with sweated pits and a paisley tie with the thin end hanging way past the thick part plus his slippers, bunnies, yes, no, but no I remember what he wore because he was encroaching on what my teacher Ms Henderson had taught me was called my, well, her personal space, lecturing me in front of the whole class with the overhead’s light bisecting her head that her mouth worked in shadow going on and on about these invisible spacesuits of air we wore, gesturing to demonstrate hers and pointing at mine but me thinking the whole time all we’d done was brush arms she could’ve just asked me to move my chair jeez. But so anyway Reyes was like looking at me with these you know ravenous eyes and he’d somehow maneuvered himself beside me and put one hand on the small of my back and the other, well with the other he was massaging my bicep when he started asking me how’re you enjoying Equality ***** and all I could do was just stand there thinking how my spacesuit was running out of air.
‘But so anyway I started to like get this real pit in my stomach and so I told him it’s okay I guess even though what I was really thinking was that it’s like being burned alive and what I was really trying to do was wriggle out of his hold but it was like we were having two parallel conversations, one with our mouths and the other with our actions neither of us was acknowledging and then he goes well it’ll get better just give it time, school that is, just give it more time and I felt one of his fingers on my back tracing small circles.
‘And so then he was like it can’t be that bad and I could feel his fingers petting like individual muscles while his other hand kneaded my arm working its way down to my wrist and I was standing there a little taller than him even looking without meaning to at his nose hairs and smelling a breath way beyond coffee some sort of a graveyard for coffee grounds, more of death than espresso as I stood there just sort of disbelieving what was happening in the middle of the hallway in the middle of the day as the hand on my back climbed until I felt a fingertip on my neck, yes skin-on-skin, and then it, a finger, as he was saying how proud they were and what an honor it was to have a student with such a high IQ what was it again? 147, asking that while on this other level we were having this gruesome battle of a conversation I was in the process of losing as I felt it, his finger, above the collar of my favorite shirt Wile E. Coyote: Super Genius just sort of you know circling skin-on-skin while his other hand clamped around my wrist and thank God it was long sleeve you know? The shirt. Except that then as a fear built inside me I’d really only known a few times before—you know night terrors and whatnot don’t ask—he said to me, he said, you must be hot in that, yes really as I was enveloped in this you know maelstrom of bad breath praying to Ms Henderson for his own divine revelation in re personal space except that I was standing then in what I can only describe now as a hug.
‘And I swear it was like the school had emptied even though it was sixth period and I’d been on my way to give Ms Pokorny an assignment which was beginning to sog in my hand from the sweat plus his own dampening my shoulder as his arm curled round my neck so that his hand hung at my chest as he tried to sort of turn me towards him slowly but persistently against the force I was exerting in equal measure and his feet were starting to slowly step in when it became clear that what he was actually attempting to do was shuffle me towards his office only like maybe ten steps away with that polished plaque glinting de los Reyes AP of guidance and the baseball practice schedule taped beneath it, leading me towards it with a sort of implacable will like I think my feet were actually dragging and I imagine now that must’ve been what it’s like to die before your time except instead of a white light before me I had a door painted violet by the JV baseball team for extra credit if you can believe that because violet is his favorite color is why, reminds him of Spring, the all-in season as he calls it but so anyway as I found my feet moving of his volition what I remember too is like all these compliments he was showering me with, like the one battle was being lost by the other being won if that makes any sense, telling me how I was the best student the school’d ever had and could I tutor his 21-year-old nephew and could I do his de los Reyes’ own personal taxes if you can believe that, but the words like sort of inflating my ego and lubing my reluctant feet and easing my reluctant mind if you can believe that so that he was like beginning to win on both fronts, words and body, but like a third front was opening up, my mind, which was beginning to scream you know—no, NO! but my body was sort of going on regardless towards that violet door of death and I mean I could even feel myself well smiling despite a terror so thick I was drowning in it as he kept laying on these compliments like you’re better than all of us here and it’s really a wonder the work you’re doing here in school and you’ll be president one day ***** sort of smothering me at that point not just with the words but with the you know his body, like both of us operating under this weird like edict, this sort of channel of fate in which we found ourselves drifting towards that violet door which during certain times of the day looks like, well, gold plated, like when the only rays of sunlight the school gets cut across the hallway that door shines and in my memory well it was glowing. And I was heading there by something ordained and you know maybe even he was too, like we were both sort of acting outside of ourselves without real thought or intent and yes like saying words and moving our feet yes but like almost in the third you know? like sort of watching ourselves even though my mind was screaming so loud that later that day I had a migraine but it was still happening you know? like the door maybe only two more steps away and the sun like beginning to sort of angle upwards into a sliver and his breath by that point something I’d grown accustomed to, like of a piece with the moment in which we’d both found ourselves entangled if that makes any sense. No? Like within those few steps I’d developed some sort of Stolkholm Syndrome and was like you know identifying with him or at least some part of me was even though another part was having a heart attack. And like maybe he was feeling the same thing too, like I could feel him shaking and could hear his voice getting more excited as that door neared and I could even feel that hand on my neck starting to sweat as his compliments lowered in volume into a you know whisper, like he himself couldn’t believe what was happening there in the middle of the hallway in the middle of the day and maybe there was some part of his mind that was screaming oh no dear God what am I doing and what about the cameras but like him too moving perhaps with the same reluctance towards a door that to him signified God knows what and who cares to find out—no one—but it was like maybe from this very feeling of selflessness, as in he acted with no self but simply as an observer as I did too berating myself within but nearing regardless that last fletch of sun, that last toothpick, but like so maybe that very feeling of selflessness, of being a pawn to fate’s hand was something he just couldn’t handle, like he’d do whatever perversities struck his mind but only as an actor of his own accord but like maybe the thought or the feeling that he was just an object moved by the near infinite whatever that means by the near infinite forces of history immemorial, like if you think about it a certain way every moment prior to this had to be just the way it was for you to be just the way you are now which if you think about it that way, as sort of everything previous condensing into the singular point of you, now, makes it sort of a laugh to think that you can have any effect over anything, that you could ever do anything of your own will if all you are is the near infinite acting with immeasurable momentum upon you at this very moment I mean how could you have any say? how could you even move a fleck of dust if it wasn’t already predetermined you know? like, well, no but it doesn’t matter because he didn’t understand it either—because I’m sure of that. Because the guy can barely get through a whole sentence without having to laugh. Well from the stress of being listened to I guess but so anyway maybe he felt it you know? Like pushing me in, in, in pederastic preamble towards that violet door of well of unmitigated joy is what it must’ve symbolized to him, like to me it was death, the loss of whatever innocence I still retained despite the outrageous mountains of well pooorn I’d already consumed by then but to him you know maybe in that moment it was like towards some pure bliss to which he headed, heaven you understand? Like the moment was so incredible and so unbelievable that it must have been an unearthly happiness behind that wooden purple veil but so too must it have felt that he was moving without exertion, that he was watching himself and telling himself one thing and maybe doing another and yes amazed by what circumstances he’d created—leading me, a young you know well handsome boy towards his very own office—but horrified by the unabetted momentum with which it, the moment, moved, you know scuttling him towards heaven but not by his own will and well who wants that? Tickling the back of my neck and sending shivers down my spine all the way to my hand clenching that moist paper and him jittery with the excitement and well the premonition of what lay ahead but suddenly distraught by the feeling you understand? not the thought but the feeling that he wasn’t in control so that he himself had to exert his will somehow, had to dare to break that tenuous moment by, I swear, letting his hand slip past my wrist and onto my stomach if you can believe that as he led me by well insurmountable pressure in that penultimate step, the sun then gone and him breathing heavily and me seeing under the rim of my glasses his hand beginning to descend if you can believe that, descending in plain view of any that might happen to walk by and in plain view of two cameras not fifty feet on either side of us but his hand descending regardless as my own horror reached a level I’ve only ever felt that once, when I was goaded despite myself towards a fate I felt powerless to alter despite the mind deprecating the will and the body and seeing that hand descend those last inches to—well but you asked me that’s why, no but, well but, well but look you asked and well you asked I mean what kind of, well what kind of interview is this if you’re just going to sit there and judge me, if you’re just going to, well but you’re always just saying look do you want to hear it or not because I mean I can stop, I can just—’
Andrés Cruciani A former high school math teacher, I left math for writing and graduated from The New School’s MFA fiction program in 2013. My writing has appeared in The Green Mountains Review, University of Baltimore's Welter, Brooklyn Aikikai Journal, and is forthcoming in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Four Chambers and The Sand Hill Review.