TJ is special to me. Other teachers are horrified by his flaming, light-up-belt-sporting, jheri-curl-rocking, unabashed queerness, his faggy, inquisitive gaze, his refusal to believe civilian or mortal rules apply to him. But I secretly cherish his entitlement, the way he owns the hall when he sashays through it.
Mr. N couldn’t get through to him yesterday, and I happened to be in the room with him. The class was in chaos, but Mr. N was preoccupied with getting TJ to return to his seat. I marched up to TJ and stared him down.
“TJ,” I said with low, ominous gravity.
“Hi, Ms. Magnolia,” he sing-songed.
“TJ,” I repeated quietly. Pause.
“But I don’t want to sit down!” he whined. I gave him a Teacher Look that was more withering than usual because it was the I Understand and Identify With You, But I Am Still Your Teacher, So Sit Your Ass Down Look. TJ returned to his seat. I’m like his gay para.
Once, he was lounging on top of the air conditioner by the window as Mr. N tried in vain to organize a tangle of A/V equipment, the class reaching the pitch of Madison Square Garden during a hockey game. I made a beeline for TJ, appalled at his lack of respect for the function of furniture.
“TJ,” I said like I was sizing up his evening gown, “this is not a GRECIAN BATH. You can’t DRAPE YOURSELF on the AIR CONDITIONER like it’s a CHAISE LONGUE. Get UP. Sit down in a CHAIR. Jesus.” I presumed he had no idea what a Grecian bath or a chaise longue was, but he went wordlessly to his seat.
Last night, TJ helped me sell tickets at the door of the spring concert. During a lull, we stood chatting with D, a basketball player girl who came out in the eighth grade. I had a query: “So I was walking down Christopher Street yesterday,” I said, “and I’d never seen so many queer black teenagers in my life. I was like, is there a conference or something? Is that where Harvey Milk High School is?” Naturally, they enlightened me.
“Oh, that’s just where we hang out,” explained TJ. “We go the pier.”
I marveled that there was a gay main drag for the queer youth of New York City, just like there was in San Diego. But these kids can hop on a subway and be there in under an hour for two bucks; I had to scam rides or wait for hours at windy bus stops to get to mine. Cheers. NYC wins again.