I click lights on with a sanitized hand.
My desk catches my teacher keys as they jingle,
landing next to a stack of papers I’ll never pass back.
Then there’s silence
its heaviness settling like dust on the grey industrial carpet.
A tower of desks leans against the wall
with jagged metal limbs reaching up
toward fading fluorescent lights
as if tired of holding its own weight
I hear no belly laughs, no frantic page turning,
no chatter about the past weekend
no rhythmic pencil tapping on desks
no daydreamer’s sighs
or muffled cellphones buzzing inside pockets
I’m a performer on a stage
with no audience.
The ticking clock on my wall pulls me back
from the catacomb of my mind
So I stroll across the room, feed my orphaned plants sitting limp in their pots,
and stuff my cabinets with unread class novels,
finishing my quiet offering to the WiFi gods as I pray for their mercy,
and wait for the world to decide
if I deserve a cape or a handout or their scorn
as I snap the lights back off
and head to the noise waiting outside my classroom door.