I ever tell you about the dream I have of Mr. Golden’s 5th Grade classroom? It’s not much really. It’s just a dream.
There is something to it though. There is a meaning behind the dream but sometimes, it’s hard to put my finger on it.
For some reason, I find myself in the back of the classroom, which is empty.
The room looks exactly as I remember it. The walls are covered in 5th Grade artwork. There are pictures on the wall, letters of the alphabet, and rows of desks which in fairness, for the life of me, I cannot recall where I sat.
I only know I was there.
It is springtime in my dream. I see this as purgatory and I am caught in a midway point between realization and awareness.
The windows are opened slightly and tilted outward. A hinting breeze moves through the room to cause the papers on the adjacent wall to flow slowly, as if the movement is to symbolize something. But then again, this is a dream. Everything in a dream is symbolic.
The walls are mainly colored a muted shade of light tan. The floor is tiled in a shade of a maroon and brown checkerboard style. I can see Mr. Golden’s desk at the front of the room, which is covered with an “Inbox” and and “Outbox.” There are papers on his desk, books, and a desk calendar is centered in the middle of the desk with the pages of the monthly paper torn and tattered at the edges. There is a cup with pens and pencils and a 12” ruler. I can see this place all too clearly; even as I write to you about this. The room looks exactly as I remember.
But it’s empty.
There is no one else in the room but me and the spirit of the little boy I used to be.
As I notice the details of Mr. Golden’s desk and the unreadable, yellow writing on the chalkboard, I find myself moving forward, closer, and heading upwards, somehow coasting without walking towards the front of the classroom.
I am not sure why I am here. I know this is a school day. I know the class is somewhere. I can hear the sound of kids playing in the playground outside. They are outside and I am inside. Again, I realize this must be another symbol.
I suppose this class is one of the times when I realized my anxiety was too high for me to handle. I remember the anticipation of Mr. Golden’s 2-minute math tests which were to teach us our times-tables.
I hated those.
I failed every time.
In the dream, I am moving up towards the front of the class.
I can almost smell it.
Know what I mean?
I can almost smell that old familiar smell of ditto copies, which, for the younger generation; I am sure they’ve never smelled the smell of freshly copied ditto sheets. Of course not. This was the generation before technology became what it is. Everything now is digital and computerized.
This place classroom a trigger for me. No. 2 Pencils and standardized testing, remember? Iowa tests, we called them, and we had like say, 45 minutes to complete the exam.
The only problem is my reading comprehension was poor. I read slowly. I lacked the retention to understand the questions.
Rather than feel intimidated the questions, I just guessed. I rebelled. After a while, I just drew designs in my scan-tron sheet.
Those were the green answer sheets with the multiple choice answers, of A,B,C, or D, in which we were instructed to color in the appropriate bubble on the answer sheet.
I just colored in a design. Because fuck it.
What else Could I do?
Should I have told them I was stupid?
Should I have told them I can barely read? Should I have told them the truth and found myself in one of those “Special” classes with the other “Special” kids? Why would I do that?
Sure, I would get the help but then I would have to face more ridicule because I was . . . .”Special”
How the hell could I possibly answer a goddamn question with a weight like this on my shoulders?
Whenever I find myself overwhelmed or when the anxiety is high; I have this dream in slightly different versions.
I know where I am and why I am there.
In my dream, I am wondering if I am being punished. I am wondering if I did my life all wrong and now I have to go back and do it all over again.
No way, I say to myself.
I would never want to go through that again.
It’s funny though. These days I speak publicly. I have done presentations in schools and colleges. I have pitched school administrators. I have had educated conversations with, teachers, guidance counselors, and so on.
I think of those desks and how intimidating they were to me.
At the time the desks and that classroom was the biggest thing in the world to me.
I was intimidated by its size. In my dream; however, I realize that I am grown now. I see that the desks are small and I am much bigger now. I have outgrown my old self and maybe—
maybe it’s okay if I go outside to join the others . . .
So I can play too.