My name is William Clarke. For the last 25 years I have been a high school economics and sociology teacher in an affluent suburb adjacent to a dilapidated city in the Midwest. I can not be more specific than that simply because I can't bear to cause any more trouble. I've replaced real names with pseudonyms, changed some of the defining features of my town and school and marginal aspects of the plot. This is a tragic story; one that has troubled me. I'm relating it so that maybe by the end, I will understand it better myself.
I need to give you a little background, so please bear with me.
This suburb, poised as it is on the edge of a poor city, has had to work hard to maintain its tenuous air of allure. It is situated along the shores of an idyllic lake, boasts several country clubs, two small shopping "villages," and innocuous architecture (the homes mostly Tudors and Colonials) making this, in short, a pleasant place to reside.
During the sixties and afterwards the city became a volatile territory and relations between the city and the suburb were strained. My wife, Monica, a treasurer in the local chapter of the Jewish Historical Society and the manager of Sylvan Food Bank, strenuously, believes that the people in the suburb abandoned the city, took their money with them and then for the next umpteen years turned their backs on city dwellers impoverishing the area and embittering people. Of course, many people disagree with her viewpoint. Nevertheless, I think she is correct in surmising that this legacy will be hard to overcome.
An economics teacher, I believe there are many variables that contributed to the rapid deterioration of this Midwestern region including but not limited to the death of manufacturing, the inability to efficiently and cost-effectively transfer goods from one location to the other and the extreme (I can hear Monica's outrage from here!) demands of the unions, however entitled they may have felt to them. Add to that environmental and government regulations, cheap labor abroad and the offshoot is the dive we're in.
Introduction to Economics is a terminal class at the high school level, meant only to give students a taste of the discipline. My class is always full because it's an alternative to Calculus and many of my students, the sons and daughters of affluent people, find talking about the practical aspects of the handling, acquisition and dispersal of money fascinating.
This year I immediately noticed that we had more girls than boys for the first time in a long time. I also noted (and I really mean I simply noted it) that we had two African American students in the class, a girl and a boy. The suburb has slowly become more integrated over the last twenty years but I would say that even so, less than 10% of the student body is black.
The young man was very well dressed. On the first day of school, he was wearing khaki pants that had clearly been meticulously ironed if not dry cleaned and a button-down blue and white pin-striped shirt with loafers and no socks. I noticed this because most of the boys at our school wear blue jeans and the remaining minority favor khakis or cargo pants, most of which are so wrinkled one wonders if they ever get laundered. Almost all of my students wear tennis shoes, so his gleaming penny loafers were as unusual as the briefcase of dark, polished leather he carried. I don't have to tell you how strange that was, backpacks being the norm everywhere, I'm sure.
Everyone filed in to the class and sat down. On the first day, most students, if given the option, will gravitate to the back of the class. The boy with the pressed khakis was the second person in the room on the first day of school but instead of putting as much distance between us as possible, he walked straight toward me, held out his hand and said, "Good morning. My name is Andrew LaMott."
I greeted him and he took the seat right in front of my desk. He opened his briefcase and extracted a metallic looking clipboard and a ballpoint pen, which he placed on the desk in front of him.
I gave my introductory spiel replete with my perennial economics trivia quiz: What was the average amount of money left per visit by the tooth fairy in 1950? ($.25)
Who was the first African-American to have his portrait engraved on a
US coin? ( Booker T. Washington) What American company introduced sliced bread? (The Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.) It's a good ice breaker and the kids always get a kick out of the questions.
Nothing happened that drew my attention to Andrew until a couple of days later when I posited this question: "Does anyone know what 'there is no such thing as a free lunch' means?"
Andrew, who had been doodling, looked up and raised his hand. "Opportunity cost. If one group gets something free, then another group ends up paying for it."
"That's correct," I said, smiling. I was surprised that someone had actually read ahead in the text to the section on opportunity cost, which states essentially that to get something you must give up something else. There's always a trade-off, in other words.
"I have heard this is a big problem with the niggers," Andrew said.
I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. His face was blank, he hadn't said it with any emotion whatsoever, but in the same tone of voice one might say, "The Tigers lost last night." Looking out at the class was like looking at a still frame. Heat surged up into my face.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Niggers," Andrew said. "You know, low-life's. They have babies when they're like twelve and then they ride the system. You know what I'm talking about. You know who ends up paying for it."
"I would never have used that term," I said.
I looked out at the rest of the class. One of the football players, Max Meyer, was snickering in the back row. The African American girl, Sonya Wright, seemed to be holding her breath, her eyes protruding to an alarming degree. A girl named Melissa Conway, the newly elected student body president and head cheerleader, chewed her gum rhythmically with a glazed expression, as if this was all unfolding on television and merited no reaction.
"I won't have any derogatory language in this class," I said. "Do you understand me?"
"Sure." Andrew said, without looking up from his doodling.
That night, when I told Monica what Andrew had said, she looked decidedly nonplussed. "He's differentiating. He's not like them and he wants you to know it."
"Not like who?" I said.
"Niggers," she said.
"I never in my life thought I'd hear you use that word," I said.
"It's no different than saying white trash," she said, but she smiled so I knew she was goading me. Sometimes she thinks it's fun to elicit a reaction.
Monica and I met shortly after graduation when I was working at Pierson Elementary right next to Sylvan Food Bank, where she was the volunteer coordinator. We were both very fond of Grant's, the corner deli, and we always seemed to be getting our sandwiches at the same time. Being rather slow on the uptake, it took me six months to ask her out on a proper date, twelve months to propose and another two years to convince her to move to this suburb, which she has had issues with since the day we arrived. But in those days we thought we'd have children and she could see the plus side of living in a walking community where even the local grocery store was only a mile away. It was later, after it became clear that no children were coming, that she began to grow testy about our location and press me to move. By the time we had exhausted all options including years of fertility treatments, we had been in our house for fifteen years and I was very comfortable. Every time she complained I reminded her how much we were saving on the commute and how pleasant it was to walk down to the lake in the warmer months. By the time Andrew came into the picture, I was only five years from retirement and I was begging her to hold out a little longer. My primary concern was the real estate market, which had tanked; our house was worth ½ what we'd paid for it 10 years before.
The next day after school, the cheerleader, Melissa Conway came up to me with a petition.
"This is the greatest challenge of our times," she said in a voice that could have been a computer simulation of a voice. She was wearing a tight blue sweater and a skirt so short I wondered whether it was part of her cheerleading outfit.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Did you know that the governor wants us to join the schools of choice initiative?" She leaned over my desk.
"I did not." I sat back in my chair to create more space between us.
"If we are not filled to capacity, he wants us to open our doors to students from," she cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered, " neighboring districts."
"Interesting," I said.
"Well, even if it weren't dangerous, we are entitled to local control. We give our own money to these schools to supplement the state allocated funding. It's not fair to us to have other people freeloading."
"Hmm," I said. "I'm going to give that some thought and get back to you."
"I have to turn this in soon," she said, straightening up and receding from the area above my desk. "So please get back to me fast."
The next week in class, we moved on to a chapter on the welfare system-a comparison between the United States and Great Britain .
I lectured for the first half of the class, and then as soon as I was through, Andrew raised his hand. I looked around the room for an alternative but, as usual, no one else had anything to offer.
"Rich people are rich because they've done something to earn it," he said. "And poor people have become too dependent on the system. The reason they never get anywhere is they keep working the system, they refuse to man up and get a job or an education."
"I'm not sure it's that simple," I said.
Katie Reed, an accomplished clarinet and chess player, raised her hand. "Lots of people try to earn money, but it's like if one thing goes wrong, they're in trouble. Like if they're working at McDonald's or something and they break their leg, then they are out of work and the bills pile up and they can never get out from under them."
"There's more to it than that," Andrew said. He sat ram rod straight in his chair. When other people spoke, he didn't turn around to face them. He remained face forward staring at me throughout every discussion. I found it a little disconcerting.
Sonya raised her hand. "I don't know what his problem is," she said, jabbing her pointer finger in Andrew's direction. "But what Katie said is true. My cousin Rita she had a job at the mall and then the store closed and she had no way to pay the rent and she had to go look for a new job and pay for daycare and she got in something deep and now she's never gonna be able to pay off everything."
"That is not the problem," Andrew said to me. "The problem is the big screen T.V. and the leather sectional her cousin bought on credit."
"She did not!" Sonya shouted, rising up out of her chair.
"OK. OK," I said, waving at Sonya to sit back down. The football players straightened up in their seats and the girls in the third row, the ones who twirled their hair and surreptitiously checked their smart phones during class, looked up, engaging with the discussion for the first time. When I looked at Melissa Conway she rolled her eyes.
"Andrew, I would like to have a word with you after class," I said.
Sonya sat back down.
Though I had more to say about the welfare dilemma, I didn't think it wise to pursue that subject, so I asked the class to turn to the section on macro versus microeconomics.
It has not been easy living in the suburbs without participating in any of the requisite parental activities like Little League and Waffle Cone Wednesday. Long ago Monica and I got into the habit of taking leisurely evening walk to ameliorate the loneliness that descended during the hours of 4-7pm , when we might have been checking homework or sitting down for a family dinner.
That night I brought up Andrew again.
"He probably feels like a fish out of water," Monica said.
We were walking past a soccer match and had stopped to watch. The children were small and seemed to have no idea what they were supposed to do. A red-faced coach kept shouting for them to "move, move!"
"That's no excuse," I said. "Some of the kids might have similar political leanings but they would never be so strident. If a white kid said all of the stuff he's saying in class, he'd be kicked out of school."
"And yet the white kids say it amongst themselves, don't they?" Monica said, with a pointed look.
She was right, that kind of talk did happen, and I admitted it. "But not often," I added.
"That's not true and you know it. You and I can agree to disagree," Monica said. "But, I warned you from day one that living in a place like this would warp you. I should have made you leave.Retirement package or no retirement package."
As if Monica wasn't alienated enough, we ran into Melissa Conway's mother Cheryl, at a booster club fundraiser that weekend. Cheryl saw us the minute we walked in the door and ran towards us in a too tight pink suit and matching shoes, her blond hair bouncing. She barely paused to say hello before demanding to know why I hadn't signed the petition about Schools of Choice.
"I'm not sure how I feel about it," I said.
"Do you know that we are one of only 15% of school districts in the state who haven't agreed to schools of choice? The governor is going to try to force our hand if we don't band together. They have no idea what we're up against down here in this part of the state."
"What are we up against?" Monica said.
I knew from Monica's tone that she was already fuming, and I ran through a list of possible escape plans in my head.
"Oh, you know, Monica-crime, drugs, poor grades, kids without families. Trouble, in short," Cheryl looked down at Monica from her great height-the woman must have been 6'1 to Monica's 5'2.
"That's not true of all the students," Monica said.
"You don't know, honey. I was a teacher. I used to test them." Cheryl shook her head as if greatly dismayed by the memory.
"And?" Monica said.
"And, well, it was very sad."
"What was sad?" Monica's nose had gone red at the tip like a teapot ready to blow.
"Well, the test scores were pathetic. Really." Cheryl tilted her head and gave us a look that must have meant something but I couldn't figure out what. Later Monica said she'd had a bovine injection, which made it impossible for her to move her face.
"All of the test scores? All of them? Are you trying to tell me that an entire group of people tested poorly?" Monica said.
"Oh, give me a break!" Monica said.
"I worked down there. I know what they do! They wouldn't even give their own children supplies! We had to sneak them pencils out of the supply closet. Why, one kid even tried to stab me. Another boy had to hold him back."
"So what about the boy who tried to stop him? Doesn't he deserve to go to a good school? Does he deserve to be lumped in with everyone else?" Monica's voice had risen and I took her arm and pressed on it to remind her where we were.
"You don't know," Cheryl said. "You sit in your ivory tower and you have no idea what goes on down there."
"My ivory tower? I work at the food bank! You are unbelievable! You know what? I'm not going to listen to this anymore." She leaned forward and got as close to Cheryl's face as she could without resorting to tiptoes. "I don't think you have any idea what a bitch you sound like."
After she said it, she turned and hurried off down the hall. Later I found her in the guest bathroom shaking with rage. Cheryl had stormed out of the room after her. She must have left the party immediately as I didn't see her again that night, thank God, and we left ourselves as quickly as we could.
I was worried about my job after that incident. As PTO president, Cheryl wielded a big stick. On Sunday, I begged Monica to write an apology and she did it for me, but she wasn't happy.
"Can't I just say, "I'm sorry I said bitch, what I meant to say was racist?"
I told her no. I reminded her that after retirement we could move wherever she wanted.
"I can't wait to get out of here!" she said, when she handed me the sealed envelope. "I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! Five years seems like an eternity!"
That Monday, I had to pull Andrew aside again after he riled some kids up in the hallway by saying something monstrous that I have subsequently blocked out.
"Andrew," I said. "Not everyone here is a racist."
"Well, I can't blame them if they are."
"How can you say that?"
"My feeling is that everyone is angry and afraid. And if they say they aren't, they're lying."
"I'm not," I said.
"Sure you are," he said. "You lock your car when you go downtown."
"Well, that's because it's a high crime area."
"Yeah, and what color are the criminals?" he said.
"Not all of them."
"I don't even know if that's statistically accurate." I pulled a Kleenex out of the box on my desk and began to shred it.
"Don't feel bad about it, Mr. Clarke. There are lots of crazy things going on in the world. Like the Jews, for instance. I'm not sure what the Jews are up to. It's like they've gone Rambo over there in Israel . And the Muslims-when I see one of those camel jockeys coming my way, I just cross the street. Those guys are nuts!"
He started walking toward the door and had made it to the threshold before I was able to speak.
"Andrew!" I shouted.
He turned around.
"If I ever hear ANYTHING like that coming out of your mouth again, I will tell the principal and have your parents called in too."
"OK," he said, but he said it like someone says OK if you tell them you borrowed a sheet of their loose leaf paper. He couldn't, in short, have cared less.
That night, Monica asked about Andrew. I didn't want to wound her by telling her that on top of everything else he was an anti-Semite. Instead, I shook my head and said, "I think the boy is very confused."
"We have no idea," she said. "Just remember that. We're white. We can't even remember what it was like to be oppressed. We don't have any idea what it would be like to be black and go to school in this town."
I decided to ask a student named Jack Smith what the general consensus was about Andrew. He was popular, had grown up in the area and seemed to know everyone. I resolved to do it covertly while he was asking me for help after school the following afternoon. It proved easier than I expected.
Jack was writing a paper on cost benefit analysis, a basic concept which, for some reason, he was having trouble comprehending.
"Jack," I said. "This is similar to something Andrew said the other day."
"Geez, Mr. Clarke," Jack said. "I don't know what's wrong with him."
"What do you mean?"
Jack shook his head. "I feel bad for him, I really do, it can't be easy..but I mean he is one crazy.." He stopped just in time. "Sorry, I mean."
"Why do you say that?"
"You ought to hear him on Facebook. He says things.. Honestly, no one can stand him." He flipped his head and swiped at his bangs so he could see me.
"What did he say?"
Jack shook his head and his bangs went right back over his eyes. "If I told you, you would die. I'm telling you, he'd be expelled. Let's just say that if that guy wasn't black, I would swear he was a white supremacist."
"Where do you think he's getting these ideas?" I said.
"Well, I heard his dad is like head of the Republican party in Monroe County . Maybe he's really right-wing. Andrew sits with these kids at school..to give you an idea, we call them the Nazi's."
"Come on! The Nazi's? Isn't that a little extreme?"
"That's what we call them. They're just.I mean they have swastikas and shit.. and stuff. He sits with them. The black kids stare him down at lunch. They can't believe he's associating with those guys and the white kids stare him down too because they're thinking, what? Are you crazy? It's like eating lunch with the Ku Klux Klan. What is he, insane?"
"Very strange," I said. "And they let him sit at the table? I mean if they hate everyone?"
"But that's the thing, Mr. Clarke. Andrew is like way meaner than those guys. He calls them crackers, rednecks, trailer park trash, gutter bunnies, all sorts of stuff and they just laugh. They must get off on it. That kid is never going to get into college. If any college saw what he was saying on Facebook, they would be like, um, no thank you."
The next day I was creating a circular flow chart when Melissa Conway knocked on my door.
"My mom said you might feel ready to sign the petition now," she said. This time she was wearing a low cut purple mini dress with three inch heels. If I had a daughter, I would not let her out of the house in a get-up like that.
"She said you might have had a change of heart after what happened," Melissa said.
"Why would she think that?"
"I don't know, Mr. Clarke." Melissa shrugged and opened her eyes wide. "She thought you might not want word getting out about certain people who were calling other people names."
I sat back in my chair. I've been teaching for a long time, but I'd never been threatened before.
"Well, this is something," I said. "Tell me, Melissa, why do you feel so strongly about this issue?"
"I know it may not seem very Christian, Mr. Clarke, but we are just trying to protect our community. I want to raise my kids here. I want to raise my kids with other nice, wholesome people. I don't want the neighborhood going to rot and when I think about what they're trying to force us into, well, I get very very angry about it."
There is nothing a teacher enjoys more than a well-behaved enthusiastic pupil. In this suburb, whatever it's flaws, the children are generally tractable. I am ashamed but I must admit I shared some of Melissa's fears, however base I believed her to be.
"I'll think about it," I said. "And get back to you tomorrow or the next day."
When I handed her back the petition, her fake smile hit me like a dart.
I started feeling apprehensive whenever Andrew raised his hand. What would come out of his mouth next? On Channel One every morning students on the journalism track broadcast on close-circuit TV. We were subjected to editorials on everything from unrest in the Middle East to the state of the lavatories and the lack of chocolate pudding at lunch.
One morning, Andrew and his classmates filed in just as the perky pigtailed host was bantering away about schools of choice. She introduced two students, Melissa Conway (in another audacious costume) and Max Kanin, who were sitting in armchairs opposite each other. I couldn't bear it. I turned off the television and opened my book. Andrew raised his hand.
"I would like to hear that discussion about schools of choice," he said.
"Not today," I said. I tried to say it with a stern tone and I gave him quite a look as well but he didn't notice.
"I just have to say that I am very worried about it. I don't know about my classmates, but I really feel that if we let them in, they'll bring the entire district down."
"I'm not sure that will be the case," I said.
"Sure it will," he said. "Have you ever been to one of their schools?"
"No," I said.
"Do you know what they do there?"
Sonya raised her hand. "Who is they?" she said.
"Those kids in the city," Andrew said.
"You mean those black kids?" she said.
"Those kids who are economically disadvantaged, those kids whose parents are riding the system, those kids who don't know their thumb from their."
"You are such an asshole!" Sonya screamed, slamming her fist down on her desk.
"Hey, hey," I said.
"I don't know why you're mad at me," Andrew said. "I'm just telling the truth. They really are animals."
A small collective gasp sounded out around the room. Sonya stood up, gathered her books and marched out of the room. The other students appeared stunned.
"That is not appropriate, Andrew. Just because people are impoverished doesn't mean they are animals and I think we've learned on more than one occasion during our studies of economics here in this classroom that it is not very easy to pull yourself up out of poverty. I think you need to go to the office right this minute."
"With hard work," Andrew got up and put his clipboard in his briefcase, "it can be done. And if it can be done, there is no excuse for not doing it."
Tom Ryan, the principal, gave Andrew a warning. The next time, he said, he would have no choice but to suspend him.
I decided to ask some of the other faculty members about Andrew.
"I had him for math," Mary Blanchett said. "Very well-behaved. Very bright."
"Did he ever say anything controversial?" I said.
"Not a thing!" she said. "Why are you asking?"
"Well, economics is a different kind of class. We talk about society and what is going on around us and Andrew is very outspoken."
"Well, I don't blame him at all," Mary said. "His people have had a hard time of it, haven't they? I mean, they've been oppressed. I don't wonder he has a lot to say."
That night I googled Andrew's father, Martin LaMott. It turned out Martin LaMott was not a Republican. He was a Buddhist, a devotee of Pema Chodron, who wrote long floral blogs about meditation: "Breathe in the sludge, breathe out the breeze," or something along those lines. The blog went on and on about ways that we can help our fellow man and included several pointers on dissolving the "clinging of the ego." He looked like a nice man, a teddy bear of a man, a man who likes Jews and the Muslims. All of his posts were about nurturing a loving environment.
Clearly he had no idea how angry and defiant his son had become or this man-the man pictured on the blog-would have put a stop to it. I was sure of it.
As I was scrolling through Google, I noticed another citation, which included both Martin and Andrew LaMott's names so I clicked on it. It was a video posted by a local news station taken four years earlier when President Obama was running for his 1 st term. It was taken on Halloween. A woman in our town named Laura Taylor was refusing to give candy to people who'd decided to vote for Obama. The video showed Mrs. Taylor standing at her door with a very angry look on her face. Then it cut to her saying, "If they make the decision to vote for him then they don't deserve candy." The reporter tried to say that children can't vote but she just shook her head and said, "If they make that choice, then they will have to pay the consequences. After all, he's come to this country from who knows where and he wants to take all of our candy."
The reporter walked back to the sidewalk where a black man in a charcoal-colored suit was standing with a little boy around eight or nine. The reporter said that the man in the suit was named Martin LaMott and had been the woman's neighbor for five years.
"It certainly is sad the way she's reacting," said Martin LaMott. "We've lived next door to her for five years and I had no idea she felt this way.I never had any inkling..."
Next the reporter turned to a small boy, who was clearly Andrew, but much smaller.
"How do you feel about it?" the reporter said.
In a soft voice, much less forceful than the one I was used to, Andrew said, "I don't understand. Why is Mrs. Taylor doing that? Why does she look so angry? Why doesn't she like Obama?"
"She's a sick woman," his father said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "A sick, sick woman."
The reporter turned back to the camera and shrugged. "Well, there you have it, Guy," he said.
The next day, I was sitting at my desk during first lunch when my pencil cup started to rattle. A pounding sound was coming through the floor. I got up and walked to my door, opened it and looked up and down the hall. No one was in the hallway, but loud noises emanated from the lunch room three doors down. Missy Rowen, the Physics teacher, peeked out of her room across the hall. "What's going on?" she said.
"It's coming from the lunch room," I said.
In the lunchroom, we found complete pandemonium. All of the students were standing on their seats, several were actually up on the tables stomping their feet and booing.
Behind us several other teachers came through the door and we stood in a cluster trying to figure out what was going on. Tom Ryan appeared and pushed his way through the crowd. The other teachers, myself included, followed him into the center of the room. He took out a whistle and blew it several times. It was so high-pitched it silenced the crowd instantaneously. Everyone reflexively put their hands up over their ears. Where had he purchased such an ear-shattering whistle? Maybe it was something that principals kept on hand for emergencies.
In the center of the room stood Max Kanin and Andrew LaMott, in what appeared to be a face-off. Clearly they had been fighting. Max's shirt was askew, hanging off of one shoulder, and the left side of his face was red as if he'd been struck. Andrew was holding his stomach.
"What is going on here?" Tom said.
Max pointed a finger at Andrew. "He is a terrible person. He is a terrible terrible person!"
All around the room, the other children started to clap and stomp their feet-everyone hooting and booing and pointing their fingers at Andrew. It was frightening.
"What happened?" Tom said.
"I said something last night on Facebook about being completely broke, and he wrote back, 'You are such a Jew.'"
Tom looked over at Andrew who gave his customary shrug. "At least I didn't offer to round up the cattle cars."
There was a split second when no one moved. I had time to look around the room at all of the horrified faces and see that even Melissa Conway was making a big O with her bright red mouth.
"You are out of here, Andrew!" Tom shouted, pointing toward the door. "Out! Out! Out! Out of my school!"
At that news, there was a general whoop of joy. Kids from one end of the room to the other started high-fiving.
Tom blew the whistle again.
"That is enough!" he yelled.
He motioned vigorously to Andrew and they headed toward the door.
"Serves you right, you racist pig!" someone screamed.
I looked through the crowd and saw that it was Sonya who had shouted. An enormous tattooed boy gave her a high five.
Just before Andrew reached the door, he stopped and turned around. Tom took hold of his arm and turned him back toward the exit, but Andrew shook him off. Then he turned around and bowed to us, holding the pose for what seemed like a long time. Finally, he straightened back up and saluted.
"It has been a great pleasure," he said.
It has been three months since Andrew was expelled. Rumors fly about what happened to him, but the truth is no one knows. Soon afterwards his family put the house up for sale and within a month they were gone. Some people said California , others said Indiana where he had family. Every now and then I google him but nothing has come up so far. His Facebook page remains inactive.
Monica and I have had a rough time of it. She found out what happened to Andrew and right after that she saw my name on the petition about Schools of Choice reprinted in the local paper. I had signed it the day after Melissa came to see me, rationalizing the act by telling myself that while signing the petition wouldn't swing the vote, not signing it might cost me my job.
"You sold your soul," Monica said.
For several weeks after that she was morose and withdrawn. She watched a lot of television. When I tried to talk to her, she either didn't respond or nodded perfunctorily even though I knew she wasn't listening to a word I said. I knew I had asked her to put up with a lot, including living in a place she dislikes, but I told myself I wouldn't have done it if the job market had been better, if I wasn't so close to the finish line, if I could have thought of a way around it.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, and I went up to her while she was reading on the couch and asked her if she was ever going to forgive me.
"I wish it was that easy," she said, without looking up from her book.
"What do you mean?"
"I forgive you," she said. "I just don't like you anymore."