Larry, My FBI Guy


At the beginning of class, I don my headphones, get my notebook ready, and click on the link. The link brings me to a little virtual room into which students begin aspirating with a vroom. It sounds like the magical characters in Harry Potter zooming into the ether to another location.

“Hi guys!” I say, too chipper, trying to remove the little gap of reality that sits between us all, namely the fact that we are all at home and we won’t be leaving, let alone seeing each other, for a long time. On the bright side, I think we are all wearing pajamas. After I say hello to everyone I say, “Oh, don’t forget to say hello to…”

“Hi Larry!” the group says.

Larry is our FBI guy. Well he’s my FBI guy. We are certain that he sits in on classes and listens to us discuss the unreal past, the probable future, and the unbelievably, uncannily fucked up unreal present. So, if Larry wants to sit in, why not.

Some of my students seem to be better than others. Some are quite demoralized about being cooped up in their homes for so long. Others seem fine, these are the ones usually at their family homes in the country somewhere and who, though surely a bit depressed and thrown off, have seen this as an opportunity to sit on the lawn and not do things.

When a demoralized one speaks, I just know it. There’s a voice now, a Corona voice. It has a mildly desperate plea in it that is shucking its subtly. Some might come out and say “I am not doing well.” But even if they didn’t, I’d know the Corona voice. I know because I have it. I hear it in myself when I chat with a friend or my family at home. It’s a creaky and small voice in the back of my throat that says, “Fuck man, this thing better end or I’m going to go to the zoo covered in chum and grabbing a wolf by his genitals.” I let the demoralized ones speak about being demoralized. “It’s OK,” I say, “this is only temporary.” But they can tell I’m just as demoralized as they are. They no doubt hear my Corona voice. We sort of have an unspoken support group. The Demoralized.

And who can blame them?

The year of 2020 is shot. Yet the news comes out every week differently than the last – restrictions are being rolled back, we’re going to be in outside pubs by late May, actual pubs in June, then we’ll be in masks until late June. I was looking forward to a family visit and a pleasant spring, but those things aren’t happening. A trip in summer? Not a chance. The best time of the year has been robbed from us and this virus can go fuck itself. As long as it stays six feet away from the other viruses fucking themselves, I guess.

“So Laura, could you find the hypothetical structure in this sentence?”

No Laura.

There’s no way, with laptops humming and the inability to see each other, than I can tell if Laura is still there, having trouble with her mic, or eating a sandwich in the corner while watching The Tiger King. I have no idea if she’s simply living her dream of being in a class where she doesn’t have to say a word. No clue. And, to be honest, no care. So I say what I always say when we get ghosted by a student in the virtual classroom. But before I can, two students beat me to it:

“So Larry. Can you find the hypothetical structure in this sentence?”

Larry doesn’t answer either. But one day I’m sure he will. And when he does, those wolves better beware.

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