The fall of 2005 found me anxiously awaiting the release of Eminem’s greatest hits CD titled Curtain Call. An odd thing, I suppose, for a forty-something high school remedial English teacher to be coveting. I didn’t really know any of his work beyond the pop-y stuff on MTV. But I sensed an anger roiling beneath his surface which matched my own and being someone who finds music therapeutic I knew instinctively this collection was something I needed.
I’d spent the summer on a hamster wheel of grad school and care taking. By September I was dealing with a new assignment in a new school with children who ranged from merely disenfranchised to criminally inclined, and the nursing home was calling me daily about one new crisis after another. I was pushing for hospice. Death shadowed Will’s eyes. I could see the little that was left of him fading and fighting for release at the same time. He was running fevers the doctor on staff was dismissing as a late summer cold. The enamel had been eaten off his teeth by the Mountain Dew his mother insisted on giving him despite the fact that no one was brushing his teeth in the evenings after she’d leave for the night. Just weeks earlier I had had my second only outburst of temper when I discovered what remained of his front teeth, painful looking and flaking. I don’t know if he could discern the information coming in at that point due to the damage to his nerve endings and the dura matter covering his brain. Maybe he didn’t realize and maybe it was a constant barrage of misery. I’ll never know.
I was tired. I was alone. And I was angry because I was powerless. Impotence does not bring out the best side of my personality.
The song The Way I Am summed up in a sense my frustration about the way the world seemed to be forcing its ideals and expectations of who I was on me without my consent. It said what I couldn’t find words to say for myself.