The year was 1996. I drove my Nissan Altima to school on a cold gray morning in early December. I had a bad hangover. In fact, I was hung over quite a lot back in those days. I used to be an habitual drunkard. I quit drinking just recently, and I feel much better. Good for me.
I gave my first-period class a pile of worksheets. Worksheets are a drunk teacher’s best friend. Then I sat at my desk and nursed a cup of strong black coffee. I reeked of alcohol, but I didn’t care. The job made me completely miserable, and I secretly wanted to get fired. I would have been much happier collecting shopping carts at Walmart.
A girl named Peach gazed at me and smiled. She was a pretty light-skinned teenager with a nice set of pearly white teeth.
“You lookin fine today, Mista Buffalo. Me and you could have a good time.”
The class went nuts.
“Peach want some of that Buffalo meat,” one boy screamed.
“Peach already have a little girl, so you best wear a rubber,” another student said.
I waited for them to settle down before speaking. When it was finally quiet, I turned to Peach. “Don’t talk like that. If people get the wrong idea, we’re both going to end up in lots of trouble.”
She said, “I ain’t afraid of nobody. Ain’t nothing they can do to me. I’m bawdy bawdy.”
“Bawdy bawdy? What does that even mean?”
She said, “It mean that I don’t give a fuck.”
“Well, I care. In fact, I care deeply. I don’t want to go to prison. Being behind bars isn’t my idea of a good time.”
But she just wouldn’t keep her goddamn mouth shut. “Me and you could make some beautiful babies. They’d be cream colored.”
The kids started laughing so hard that some of them were falling out of their chairs.
“Get out of here,” I said, pointing to the door.
Peach looked hurt. “You really gonna send me to the office?”
“Yes. What else can I do? You’re acting like a crazy person.”
She shot me the stink eye. “Then go ahead and write me up. I ain’t scared of no office referral. Fuck you, Buffalo.”
“Whatever you say. The last thing I want to do is argue.”
“And I’m gonna tell Mista Jet that you called me a nigger.” She turned to the entire class. “You all heard him call me a nigger, right?”
“We heard him, sista.”
“Buffalo be a fucking racist.”
“Buffalo is KKK all the way.”
Peach stormed out slamming the door behind her, and I resumed teaching. I wasn’t the least bit worried. There was no doubt in my mind that Jet would see through her ruse. The guy didn’t like me, but he wasn’t a fucking idiot.
Well, I was wrong. He came to my classroom with a huge frown on his face. Peach stood behind him.
He said, “Buffalo, I heard you been calling the children a bunch of niggers.”
I was flabbergasted. “Are you for real?”
“What does that mean?”
“Do you think I’d be dumb enough to use a word like that at this school? Do I have stupid written across my forehead?”
He took a step toward me with fists clenched. For a moment, I thought he might actually hit me.
He said, “Well, let’s ask the kids.” He faced them, and they were all smiling like the Cheshire Cat. “Did Buffalo call you a bunch of niggers.”
“He sho did.”
“Buffalo be worse than the KKK.”
“Buffalo’s own mamma know he be racist.”
My goose was fucking cooked. Racism isn’t against the law, but good luck finding a job with something like that on your employment record.
Suddenly, a girl in the back named Anita stood up. She was a dark-skinned outcast whom the others perpetually teased. Anita’s grooming skills weren’t up to snuff. Her body odor could gag a maggot.
She said, “Jet, you gotta be the dumbest negro in Texas.”
He was taken aback. “You better watch your mouth, girl.”
“You know that Buffalo ain’t called nobody in this room a nigger. And you also know that Peach ain’t nothin’ but a triflin’ liar. She been causin’ problems since the day she was born. So why is you going along with it?”
Peach said, “Don’t listen to her. She just want to have Buffalo’s babies.”
Anita said, “Bitch, you be crazy. Buffalo a worthless drunk. But he never called you a nigger. You ain’t nothin’ but a fuckin’ liar.”
A look of supreme disappointment passed over Jet’s face. He wanted the story to be true. That was one of the scariest days in my life. My asshole still puckers when I think about it.