Math Class

Nicholas Banszegi

It’s 10:13 a.m. and I stare up at the ceiling, taking in the cypress wood supports that cross over one another; the wires that drape between the supports to hold up lights and sound mufflers; the metal plates and standard bulk hexagon screws welded into them, hiding where one beam ends and another begins. 

I let my eyes glaze over, their attention getting lost somewhere in the growth ring patterns of the supports, as I finally tune into what my teacher is saying. I tune out again after just four words, hearing my teacher quietly whispering -4x2 under his breath as he jots it on the board, his sloppy handwriting the same as the last four classes we’ve spent reviewing it. I swear in my mind that if I have to write that equation, labeling -4x2’s coefficient, variable, and base exponent before being able to solve it one more time, I would dance on the highway during rush hour; or more likely, fill the page with all of my cares for the equation: exactly nothing. Looking across the room and checking the clock, it’s only 10:17.

A car drives by outside, reflecting the sun perfectly through two glass walls to pierce my eyes with a pulse of light. Wincing, I damn the glass walls of this school, seemingly intent to air my boredom and daydreaming to the outside world. It reminds me of some 1960s suburban family hanging their laundry on a clothesline like an advertisement to their neighbors: “Look! We do our laundry. We’re so dutiful!” because they know their neighbors’ laundry is grimy, abhorrent, attention-losing and untouched. Much like the class work in front of me. Although in retrospect, they probably just didn’t have dryers back then. And though I damned the glass walls for allowing the sunlight through them, I won’t damn the car, likely far down the street by the time I even manage to remember what color it was. 

But I don’t have the time to remember because my teacher has apparently begun to call on me. He’s holding a popsicle stick with my name on it which he’s pulled at random from a cup of sticks; his way of making sure everyone participates in class. I’m thankful that he struggles with the electronic white board, which refuses to show the question he wants me to work on. Finally, we both find the question, me by flipping two pages over in my classwork-folder and him by plugging and unplugging the electronic board. I solve the equation, waiting patiently each time he painstakingly explains the steps to the class. It’s now 10:29. 

He leaves me alone, casting the next question to the board, and pulling a new stick.  Once more, I let my attention wander, and I don’t even know what I think about or notice or feel, because my attention is not in the room but lost God-knows-where. But, wherever it is, it’s more interesting than this box room that suffocates passion, with worksheets and pens the tool of the deed. But the killing of passion by the hands of what feels like an infinitely long class, is too much to think about during first block math. I’d honestly prefer to think about -4x2’s coefficient, variable, and base exponent.

Wherever my attention is, it remembers that nestled in my pocket, in the trove of pencils, keys, and forgotten paper-scraps, rests my earbud case. I couldn’t be more elated for such a simple thing. It’s sleek and lightweight, and opens with a firm pull and closes with a loud click, and I love to fidget with it for these very properties.  I open it and slip the earbuds snuggly into my ears, and, hiding my phone under the table, shuffle my 584 liked songs. It’s only 10:40, and I resign my self to waiting for class to end at 11:30, allowing my attention to lose itself in the ceiling-hung mufflers, floor-to-ceiling windows and my music; I pretend to not notice the new -6y3 my teacher has written on the board.