I have no mouth and I must scream

Think this is a book review?

Well, you’re wrong.

The ruse is only because I sometimes find myself thinking this phrase when I am in class. That’s how torturous some of these classes can be for me.

Allow me to elaborate with a play by play of a class I recently had.

I am for the most part a very good teacher. The student’s like me, to the extent that I get compliments when I leave class. I know what the hell I am doing at this job. Occasionally classes go south on me, but it’s fairly rare, and they tend not to go too far south. It is safe to say that I walk into most of my classes with a fair amount of confidence, but every now and again this can be pretty easily deflated. When it does, it is the worst parts of Chinese culture that tend to do it to me.

I check my schedule to find a beginners class. Easy, I think. I enter the room and see what is an early 1990’s Portland grunge flannel and a fat little Chinese girl. I’m not tossing the word ‘girl’ around frivolously; we teach adults, but I somehow think this thing didn’t qualify, and you will see why shortly.

She was the only one in class.

As I approached my chair I gave this student the same friendly hello I give every class. In that I live in China and the people here are uncivilized, this is usually greeted with approving grunts as the students continue to stare at their phones, until I say it again, more forcefully. At that point, maybe one of them will respond back to my greeting. That’s not what happened in this class. When the students acknowledged me she let out an audible moan of pain.

I sigh. knowing that this was going to be a tough one. I ask her if she is checked into class and she gets this immediately, showing me her coupon. However, I then slowly and with exaggerated mouthing say “how are you?” to which she nervously did a fake cry.

I already fucking hated her, and we had been in the room together less than two minutes.

This was a class I had done hundreds of times before, and without wasting a minute I could do it while getting wisdom teeth removed if I had to. With her it was painful. She had a constant look of wide-eyed puzzlement at everything I tried to get her to do, and when she was confused she had a couple of stock responses to the problems; loudly bite her thunbnail, grasp her head between her hands and do a faux scream, a whiny cry, or the same terrified moan that she introduced herself with. Her reactions to everything were so over dramatized that I actually went to and online translator and kindly asked her to please relax.

The coup de grace came at the final task. It was a class on giving direction, and she had a grid of a city wherein she needed to fill out what was in various blocks of the city. She was meant to ask “Where is the library” and when I answered “It’s on the corner of Main st and Rose st next to the supermarket”, she was meant to write “Library” on the appropriate block. We got to the last question of the task, she literally only had one block left blank, I had been following her progress and everything was correct, she had been doing an excellent job so far, and when I gave her the last instructions instead of filling out the only free block where the answer obviously was, she put her thumb in her mouth, bit the nail with a dull thud, and whined.

I almost lost my god damn mind. I was so loudly screaming internally that I am sure they psychically heard it in the office next door. But I kept my cool, and the whole time I kept on thinking to myself “I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM”

I hope never to see her again.


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