I Learned Something in Every Class


Before handing back a chemistry exam, my white-haired, kindly teacher said if he sat a monkey down with a crayon, he’d expect it to get 25% of the answers right. I got a 24.

Near the end of the year he asked if I’d learned anything in chemistry. “Yes,” I said, “I don’t want to be a chemist.”

Strangely, my mind for fiction had already made an alternate use of my chemistry teacher: I’d put him in a black clerical robe and made him pastor of a liberal protestant church I attended in my mind. The real me was mired in fundamentalism and looking for a gentler, more mythical escape than going to my present pastor and saying, “We all know our theology is ridiculous, right?” Even a high-schooler couldn’t help seeing that an all-knowing, all-powerful God who sends people to an eternal concentration camp called Hell because they aren’t “saved” makes Hitler look not so bad.

By midway through college, sex, grass, and liquor would replace religion, although for spells I’d disdain liquor as the drug of an older generation; then there’d be a party, and the next morning I’d be driving the porcelain bus. Ah, maybe my chemistry teacher saw some primal truth about me.

Photo from http://www.monkeys-animals-gifs.com/


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