Giovanna Coppola

[FICTION] The Teacher

All you can do is laugh and sit there and spoon the coffee grounds out of the bottom of your cup with your pinkie. You look at him and you smile and sometimes you just look at him and notice the lines under his eyes like the cross-hatched lines on the side of your left hand. But you don’t say anything, you don’t think anything, it’s as if insides and outsides are together. You walk on the street, bumping shoulders, pushing into each other, laughing. And maybe if you had a bit to drink or maybe if you had more days like this in a row, you’d be holding hands, grabbing hands because the desire is there. You want something to happen, but you wait and relax. Maybe the difference, this time, is that you can wait. Maybe because you’re only waiting for one moment. Or maybe you’re just waiting for the moment later. Or maybe not, maybe you’re just used to waiting and having nothing happen, and maybe you’re afraid of pushing harder because that’s made a mess before.


Now you’re standing close at that newsstand reading the same article on the front page about a stabbing in a piazza just like in A Room with a View. You stare at the picture of the dead man, blood all over him, and you’re trying to read the words, but he is so warm beside you. You feel him scratch with his fingers the top of your head and you turn and walk away. Then you look at him. You both smile, knock into each other and he tells you that you feel hot, you’re a hot woman, and it is hot outside, but you don’t feel anything. He gives you a cigarette and laughs at the way you smoke it and you punch him in the arm because you’re kind of embarrassed, but not really because it’s nice that someone notices, and also why not just take it sometimes?


At the moment when you say to yourself that you’re going to stop talking, stop telling him things, he tells you something. About raising horses and getting hit and not being understood by his family and living with his brother and living with respect but nothing else. And in those five minutes, you sit there with your eyes blank, not knowing, not saying, falling without a place to fall to. Then suddenly things are normal, more normal than before. And at the train station, laughing and shoving and looking at the timetables, for a second you think that something is happening in this country, something that never happened before, but only for a minute you think because that falls away, too.


You kiss each cheek and the first one you don’t think. You let it happen to you and then the other you press a little and let your lips graze it so gently. You feel something. Then he walks you to the train and you say a quick goodbye and get on.


Giovanna Coppola is a writer and poet based in London. Her work has recently appeared in JSTOR Daily and The Stockholm Review of Literature. She is currently writing a long prose poem about a stinking nun.


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