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I rub the tough calluses on the tips of my fingers together. They haven’t healed, but I do it anyway, because otherwise I’d have to give Alan my full attention.
It feels like the last time I sat in a guidance counselor’s office was just a few days ago. Probably because it was.
“Should I even ask if you filled it out?” Alan says.
“You know better,” I remark.
“Dude, you gotta work with me here,” he insists.
I rub my index finger into my thumb.
It’s always been hard for Alan to exert his authority over us, partly because he’s barely four years older than the seniors. The other reason is that he actually cares about us.
Teachers are supposed to hate our guts and want us in a ditch. In his attempt to be a good teacher, he honestly became a pretty bad one.
“Fourteen chord charts. Three lyric sheets. About 20 loop tracks,” I complain. “Where in hell would I find time to fill out a behavioral inventory form?”
Alan picks up a report from his cluttered desk.
“Student super-glued dozens of origami penises on the noses of fallen soldiers in the History of Patriotism exhibit,” Alan reads. “Seems you had time for that.”
I keep my eyes on my bruised fingers.
“Those were confederate soldiers, Alan,” I defend. “They should change the name to the History of Racism exhibit if they really.”
“Stop,” Alan barks.
I look up at him.
He sighs apologetically, because he can tell I’m a little surprised by his tone.
“That’s not your call,” he explains angrily. “You can’t go around tearing things down to make a point.”
“Alan, it's freakin’ paper wieners for crying out loud.” I’m raising my voice now.
“You vandalized that exhibit!”
“Why are you giving me hell over this?” I yell. “You said you called me here to help me!”
“And that’s the problem, Reese,” he spits. “You don’t consider this something that’s helping you.”
I throw up my hands in surrender.
“I’ll fill out the damn inventory.”
“The darn inventory,” I bite.
Alan stares at me and shakes his head.
He reaches into his drawer and pulls out a fresh copy of the form he’s been making kids take. It’s supposed to determine if we’re at high risk of “psychosocial maladjustment.”
I take the form from him and read through a few of the questions.
I wait for some of the tension to pass.
“You’re a full blown shrink now?” I mutter.
“Not yet,” he sighs. “But if I knew taking an internship would mean coming here and counseling you, I would’ve waited tables instead.”
I laugh a little.
Alan cracks a smile, then looks down at me fiddling with the callouses.
“What’s wrong with your fingers?”
“That origami, man...”
“Guitar,” I relent. “I’ve been practicing for hours every night for my set at the Tap this weekend.”
“How long is it?” asks Alan.
“Man, you serious?” Alan’s eyebrows draw together in concern. “You learn three hours of music a week for this place?”
“More hours, more money.” I say it confidently, but Alan knows the exhaustion is starting to settle in.
I press my hands against my temples.
“I told you, I just need to raise enough money to fly to Nashville,” I manage. “Huge music scene. I’ve got a buddy with a pull out couch there.”
“Are you giving up hope on the New York program?”
I roll my eyes and sit back in my chair.
“Deadline’s in two months, Alan,” I whine. “I can never learn enough fancy classical broadway crap to even make it past the first audition.”
“So instead you’re going to move across the country?” Alan prods. “Doesn’t sound like the Reese I know.”
“You don’t know the first thing about me.”
Alan picks up another piece of paper.
“Student is dismissive,” he reads. “Does not take criticism in classes, skips detention...”
Alan collects his papers together and starts clearing his cluttered desk.
“Apply for the program, Reese.”
I squeeze my middle finger and thumb together. It hurts, but I keep squeezing.
I think fixating on the bruises make me more confident that something I do has an effect, like I’m not shooting into the void.