I'm looking for a sign that says "love is on its way, Julia. He's coming." I am a Leo, and apparently love is not on my side.
I read the horoscope first, on the last page, and only then can I read the news on the rest of the paper. I skim through most articles, because apparently, I don’t care about who tackled who in a football match or what member of royalty is going out or cheating on another rich celebrity. Whatever juicy gossip the writers come up with, I am not interested. I like reading about happy accidents, or one of those interviews in ELLE magazine. I remember one specifically asking a violinist how she managed to study for six hours on end without taking a break. That’s impressive. Or that designer who made burkinis with amazing floral designs. Sadly, the newspapers only contain short prompts on politics – each newspaper writing with its own agenda in mind – and loads of advertisements, sports stories and gossipy scandals. It’s not news, it’s sensationalism and cheap talk. We’re more interested in a famous singer dropping a double macchiato at Starbucks than in the socioeconomic disparities affecting many families, and how to solve them. Reporters and journalists spend days tracking down women in tight dresses who “provoked” an infamous womanizer instead of observing the season’s changes or asking themselves who gets an education and who doesn’t.
That’s why the horoscope is the best part of the newspaper. It’s so vague that you can apply it to any part of your life. Also, it leaves me wondering. Wondering why money grows on trees for a select few but jumps into oblivion for the rest of us. Why some couples get married, that I would have never imagined to be together for so long, and those that seemed perfect dissolve their union. Life isn’t just strange. It’s crazy.
Today Leo is feeling lucky. Sure. There’s a chance that I might bump into someone familiar. I always do though, don’t I? My colleagues, my friends, I know them. I’m guessing all the Leos out there are hanging out with people they already know as well. Good for us. Oh, and I might make a few bad decisions, but it will all turn out alright. I’m probably going to spill my coffee because I decide to hold it like a glass instead of by the handle, and the heat will pain my hand so much that I’ll drop it and spill all of my hot beverage onto the carpet and stain it forever. Sounds like me.
Enough reading. Time to get off the bus. This is the stop. There we go, am I still in one piece? I’m still whole, that’s good. Let’s get to work. I look like a detective with this coat and leather briefcase. Who would think that I am a secondary school English teacher? No one, that’s who, unless they knew me. Oh god, that motorcycle almost slammed into me... Remember to pause before crossing the road, Julia, you’re going to get yourself killed! Look left, look right, now walk, walk like an emperor penguin on an icy bank, waddle like a bird in a tuxedo, woman! Actually, glide along like a majestic lion. After all, I am a Leo. A fierce and noble lion. Who takes the bus to work because she failed her driving test four times. You’re a disappointment, Julia. Or maybe just unlucky. I’ll go for disappointingly unlucky.
Oh god it’s him. Don’t look, pretend you don’t know him, hide, if I can’t see him, he can’t see me! He noticed. Run, Julia, actually no, don’t run, walk walk walk. Get to the class, you have ten minutes! I wish he hadn’t seen me. Now that creep is following me. The maths teacher, a man with a seriously annoying crush on me. If only I could burn him with my stare, I so would. Why does he keep chasing me? Get to your class, you hippo! Leave me alone...
Screams. I’m screaming. What a jump scare! Who is planted right in front of me like a sycamore tree? Oh wait it’s him, but it can’t be.
“Oh my god it’s been so long! Fancy bumping into you here.”
“I work here. What are you doing here?”
Holy potatoes, a sign! It's a sign! My love life won't be so non-existent anymore!
Andrew is beautiful, there’s no other way to put it. Even if he were picking his nose, I’d think he was handsome. He’s got that movie star look, blonde hair streaked with chestnut folding onto one side dramatically, blue eyes, a sparkly smile... Don’t stare! Oh, but I can’t help it.
“I’m going to work here as well, for a while,” he says. “I’m replacing the chemistry teacher who’s on pregnancy leave. I’ll disappear just as I came.”
“Oh, yeah, miss Rodriguez, she’s expecting. Well, it’s nice to see you here... Ummm.” Ask him out for lunch, you idiot! Wait, is he taken? No, forget it, get to class and teach. Run away. “I’ll see you around then.”
“Yeah. Catch up with you later.”
Get to class. All the students are waiting outside, thank heaven. They’re so tiny for fourteen-year-olds. Whatever, I just have to drum Shakespeare into their skulls. Rap, act the fool and watch YouTube videos. That’s how teachers catch their attention. But I’m just going to read through the book and ask questions like I know what I am doing.
Who is that? Oh, it’s the teacher’s pet. I have to act like I actually like this kid. You’re all the same, I want to say. Just a bunch of young people trying to get through the day, struggling in your changing bodies and begging for love silently. I feel so much compassion for teenagers, their life is so difficult, but they all hope it will get better somehow. Only to find out that adult life is so much more complicated and problematic. I hope they all make it. These years are the worst. This girl just wants my attention so her parents will read that she’s a good girl in her report. Only then will they give her the love she deserves so much. Maybe she’s also interested by whatever literature nonsense I am spouting. But I know that when you’re young you want to get into university to make your parents proud. And to feel a little less empty once they fill you with their conditional love.
“Why do lower class characters speak in prose, while the main characters speak in verse?”
Great question! I’m so passionate about this.
“Well, to distinguish the different social classes from each other. Like you said, the ‘commoners' speak in prose. It just makes it sound more like a normal speech, right? Meanwhile, our protagonist speaks in verse. It’s constructed in a rhythmic way. Because Shakespeare used the iambic pentameter, the lines sort of bounce. You don’t get that with prose.”
Five minutes of explanations and me rambling about Twelfth Night ensue. That’s just how I am. I love literature. The students love break time. There has got to be a compromise. Shakespeare first, break later. Forty minutes of reading and dissecting Act one pass as slowly as a tortoise walks. I can tell the kids are exhausted and practically brain dead. Someone at the back yawns. I don’t blame him, it’s a hot Monday morning and the room is stuffy, everyone had to wake up early to get to school and no one wants to be here. They’d rather be playing video games at home, splashing in the pool or skipping the rope outside. But not here in this boiling room of doom. Hah, a rhyme. Someone’s hand shoots up.
That’s when the bell rings. It’s over! Even I am ecstatic at the prospect of getting a well-deserved break. I rush out to get some fresh air. Oh yeah, that’s better. Oh no, it’s him!
“Hello Julia, lovely morning, wouldn’t you agree?”
Mr. Emmett. Hate that maths teacher. Just get away from me, please!
“Sure. Don’t you have a class to get to?” Yes, I sound dry and grumpy and nasty, and I love it! Chase rhe hippo away.
“Yes, you’re right. See you at lunch?”
I know he’s being ‘nice' to me, but I hate it when men can’t take NO for an answer. Just leave me alone already! I don’t want to go on a bloody date, man! I just want to be free.
The bell rings again. Time to get back to class. And it’s still English literature.
Lunch time shows up like a unicorn to take us all onto a rainbow. Faces light up, it’s the longest break of the day! Finally, time to breathe normally. And avoid a very hungry maths teacher. There he is... Hide, Julia!
I rush behind a pillar and unexpectedly crash into someone. I stutter an apology like a fool, red like hot pepper in the face. It’s you!
“Oh Andrew, I’m so sorry!”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. We bump into each other again, it seems.”
“Yeah. Listen, will you go to lunch with me? I’m trying to avoid Mr. Emmett, he’s a real creep.” I’m that desperate, you see. I don’t want to run into that guy alone. I’d rather have movie star Andrew by my side. “You see, Annie isn’t here today, and I usually get lunch with her.”
Andrew shakes his head. “I have to rush home to get some things sorted. I’ll see you later, though.”
With that, he runs away from me. I feel like I’ve just been rejected, or like I am the female version of Mr. Emmett. The shame is eating me up alive. Kill me now! I’m out.
I’ll leave the school building for lunch. Eat outside, under the scorching hot sun. Who cares if I burn? Cancer does. And I don’t have any sunscreen! This is just great. I don’t have sunglasses either. Okay, I’ll survive with my panama hat though, right? I run to the safety of the shade and shield my body from the sun with my thin coat. Making my way towards the burger bun vendor on the parking lot, I spot Andrew with a woman. Oh lord, he is taken! Tears stream down my eyes. This is it. I need a seat to cry.
Fifty minutes of lunch break run by and I haven’t eaten a thing. Instead, my emotions have been chewing me up from inside. Shame, guilt, anger, bitterness. I am so pissed. He lied! Couldn’t he just tell me the truth? Or am I just assuming stuff? This isn’t a rom-com, Julia! That could be some friend or sister. Or wife. Did he go home to sort out whatever? No! Ugh. Men.
The rest of the day I am a grumpy mess. Upset, irritable, impatient with the nasty kids who throw paper planes in class and talk over me. Brats. Fifteen-year-olds pretending to be better than me. I’m so sad! I thought I was going to be lucky, like the horoscope said! Why did I ever believe it in the first place?
Let’s pause here. Andrew was an old childhood friend I really liked. That’s why I am so distraught. It’s not some scary and sudden obsession with an old acquaintance that I just happened to bump into. It’s the man!
The day ends like that. Messy, ugly, even the bright sky has gone dark with stormy clouds. I’m on the verge of bursting into stupid tears. I avoid everyone, even my own slim reflection in the toilet mirror. Yes, I also use the toilet from time to time like any normal human being. How exciting!
Sigh. That’s the way it is. The day is over and I feel so icky. I’m a gross little girl in a grown-up body, running away from one guy just to chase another. I start to walk towards the bus stop. Ride the forty-five home.
“Hey, Julia, would you like to go over to my place for dinner tomorrow?” It’s Andrew. He followed me all the way to the bus stop. Awkwardly, I glance at him. What is going here?
“And help you cheat on your girlfriend? No thank you.”
Hid face suddenly goes beet red. Yeah, drink in the shame, you gorgeous bastard! He’s just been caught.
“I’m not taken, you – um – I’m asking you...”
“Oh, come on! I saw you outside at lunch. You didn’t go home. You met up with her. Am I wrong? Tell me.”
I get drunk on the silence. He is such an awful person, thinking he could get away with that! I have my pride, you silly man! He just looks away like a toddler caught eating cookies, or a child painting the walls with a crayon. I know that look, half-defiant, half-guilty. I love the desperation burning in his eyes! Yes, I am evil for enjoying this man’s downfall, but I don’t care. I won’t have someone make fun of me.
“Well, have a nice ride home. See you tomorrow.” And he slithers away like the snake that he is. Leave, demon, be gone from this sacred ground! Mwahahah. Feel the burn!
And the day ends on a positive note for me. Who knew I’d get such a kick out of not going out with my childhood crush? I’ll give credit to the horoscope – I bumped into a familiar face, stupidly asked him out to lunch, was grumpy all afternoon, but in the end, it all turned out alright! Yay me.