“We’re talking about monkeys,” Megan tells him, twisting in her seat and bouncing up and down. She acts differently when she sees David, more lively. All the students love him. I think this is why the principal hasn’t fired him yet.
David curls his arms and sticks his lower lip out, goes ooo ooo ooo and scratches his head, and the students all laugh.
“Can I help you with something?” I ask him.
“Do you all mind if I borrow your teacher for a minute or two?” David asks the class, smiling at them.
“We’re getting ready to watch a movie,” Ben says, sounding nervous. I haven’t shown the students a film in a few weeks, not since our unit on reptiles, and I can tell he’s afraid something might prevent me from doing so today.
“Maybe Ms. Stafford will turn the movie on before she comes out into the hall with me,” David tells him. “It will only take a minute.”
“All right,” I say, turning on the television and quickly lowering the volume as the static sound fills the room and the children clap their hands over their ears. “The film is called Primates in the Wild,” I tell them once I’ve adjusted the television and DVD player. “Do you remember what a habitat is?”
“It’s a place where something lives,” they shout, and I tell them to be sure to pay close attention to the film. They will write a report on what they’ve seen when it’s over. I dim the lights as I follow David into the hall.
“Listen,” he says once I’ve shut the door behind us, “I need your help.”
“What’s wrong?” I ask him. “Did you just leave your students by themselves in the classroom?”
“They’re at an assembly this afternoon, remember?” David says, “The DARE presentation. It lasts until the end of the day.” I nod.
“There’s something I want you to see,” he says, and opens the door to his classroom. The lights are off, and even with the sunlight coming through the blinds, it still seems dim.
“This place is like a bomb shelter,” I say as I follow David into the room. It’s dusty and smells faded, like he hasn’t bothered to clean in months.
Once we’re inside, he shuts the door behind us. He sits down at his desk and opens the left hand drawer, then pulls out a wrinkled piece of paper. He hands it to me. “I need you to tell me what I should do.” The paper is a letter from David’s ex-wife. I know it as soon as I start reading. Her handwriting is small and narrow, angular, like I imagine her face to be. She says things like “let the past be the past” and “water under the bridge,” and I know I wouldn’t like her if I ever met her. “She wants me to come to Colorado,” David says, leaning over my shoulder, “she thinks we could try to work things out.”
“I see that,” I say.
“Do you think I should go?” he asks, taking the letter from my hand and folding it over and over.
“Do you want to go?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I would get to see Arianna. She’s eleven now. I miss her.”
“And your wife?” I ask, watching his hands.
“Raquel. I don’t miss her as much,” he says, and he laughs a bit. “I’m kind of tired of being alone, though,” he says, and even though I don’t look up, I can tell he’s looking at me.
“It must be hard to be away from Arianna,” I say, “and even your wife.”
“It is,” he says. “You know, I’ve hoped something like this would happen for a long time. I used to imagine them coming back, Raquel saying she’d made a mistake, the whole bit. I thought about it all the time, even planned what I would say.”
“When would you leave?” I ask, looking up at him.
“After the end of the school year,” he says. “August, probably.” I nod.
“What do you think?” he asks.