Ms. Castillo was a petite woman in her twenties, fresh out of college with a degree in Liberal Arts, plying her trade. She had long brown hair that draped straight down to her lower back. She had big round eyes, a small hook nose and a smile that could comfort even the rowdiest third grade bastard. Her voice was soft spoken and her gestures to the class were small and gentle. Most of my classmates, including myself, were the same height as her, even at eight years of age. She was kind and treated all of her students with care and respect; however, I didn’t feel a maternal attachment to her. I found her incredibly attractive. While the rest of the kids in my class where focused on the movement of the clock’s hour and minute hands, I was focused on the way Ms. Castillo placed hers on her hips and their movement. I had yet to develop the emotional and hormonal infrastructure to fully process and explain what I was feeling. All that I knew was that she made me feel weird. Good weird.
I would fantasize that her and I were boyfriend and girlfriend and that we were holding hands in the school playground. Even though I had never kissed anybody–save the time I bucked teeth with a girl in the first grade after a crowd of our friends shoved us against each other in the playground–I knew that I wanted to kiss Ms. Castillo’s thin glossy lips. The concept of holding a woman was as alien to me as that of asking one to go out with me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with Ms. Castillo, but I knew that it involved things shown in movies my parents didn’t allow me to watch. Things that I knew were not permissible for her and I to do. It was the same feeling I got when my older cousins’ friends were sitting across from me. It was exciting. Dangerous. I felt alive. I didn’t know why I felt that way with her. It wasn’t logical. It was biological.
I had a faint idea of what Ms. Castillo might look like naked, as imagining her without clothes was most of my preoccupation during class. I had seen a couple of nude scenes in movies and pillaged through my dad’s weird porn stash, which included images of naked women riding horses, bending over in kitchens or lying on the beach spangled with sand and glitter. Ms. Castillo kind of looked like the girls in my dad’s magazines. You could say that we had a similar taste in women. I would never see my teacher riding a horse or lying on a bed of sand, so I made the most of the times she bent over to pick up something off the floor.
Everything seemed perfect until my dad caught a glimpse of her.
“I want to go talk to your sexy teacher,” my dad said in a serious tone. He didn’t care about my schooling. His only involvement began and ended with him dropping me off and picking me up from school. He never asked about what I did or learned there. He didn’t even know my teacher’s name. My dad was only a father by default; in name but not in practice.
“Why? I’m one of the top students in the class,” I assured him.
“No, I want to talk to her about us. About her and me.” He couldn’t hold a straight face. Its color was turning from light pink to bright red trying to hold back laughter. Darts of air started to spurt out of his mouth like a tea kettle ready to burst. Snorts were followed by light chuckles and neighs until he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He let out a deafening horselaugh, so hard that the car began to swerve.
“Hey, watch the road.” My warning only made him laugh harder. He was looking at me to draw more inspiration for his scorn.
“I just want to go say ‘hi’ to her.” He enjoyed using my feelings for my teacher like a blade buried in my skin, digging it deeper and twisting it with every tasteless joke. His advances made me want her even more. Love felt more alluring in the face of adversity and pointless if you came out of it emotionally unscathed. My dad was like a mama bird regurgitating decadent morsels of desire. Beak to beak. Man to man.
“Dude, just shut the fuck up and get the hell out of here,” I muttered as I looked out the window. His laughter was interrupted by a cough. He was choking on his own saliva.
“What did you say?” wiping tears with the palms of his hands. “Is that how you talk to your father?” He grabbed me by the back of the neck. “Who the hell do you think you are?” I knew that my dad was strong, but the pressure that he was applying to my neck was quickly crossing the threshold of tolerable. I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva.
“Alright,” I yelled.
“Alright, nothing,” he pushed me toward the passenger side window. “Get the fuck out!” I bolted out of the car.
The abuse was worth it. I didn’t want my dad to talk to my teacher because I felt embarrassed of him. I didn’t want Ms. Castillo to see what kind of a man my dad was. I thought of him as an anus. We all know that everybody has one, but nobody needs to see it. I only wanted my teacher to know of my dad’s existence, but never have to actually see him. My dad payed very little attention to his physical appearance. He had mastered the just-rolled-out-of-bed look a little too well. His face carried the grace of one who didn’t get enough sleep due to having fucked around all night long. His eyes were in a perpetual state of bloodshot. His hair stuck straight up on one side and was matted flat on the other. All of his clothes were a few sizes too big and came primarily from stuff he had rummaged from other people’s trash. I knew what a responsible adult was supposed to look like and my dad looked nothing like it.
The next year, Ms. Castillo left the school and went back to college to work on a law degree. It seemed like she’d rather work with adults that acted like children than with children themselves. I never heard from her again. My dad went back to not giving a shit about my education. And I went on to the fourth grade, taught by an elderly bearded man I grew to respect very much. No physical attraction whatsoever. The way it was meant to be.
Oseguera, J. L., Jr. (2017). Together in the Black Lodge [Painting]. stripSearchLA, Los Angeles.