Prime, Part 1

(by, 23 March 2001)

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Day 1

I can't believe that I'm keeping a diary. I have decided not to use the ‘dear
diary' approach. I mean, not too many people start keeping diaries at the
ripe old age of thirty-

Okay, enough of that. Leave it an history teacher to start off with an
historical approach, which I will have to teach myself to keep to a minimum.
The best histories focus on the salient event and not the ancillary events.
So here goes my history with Freya Orloff, to this point.

There is a difference between knowing who someone is and knowing them. I knew
who Freya was- I could put a face to the name, and not just because it was a
pretty one, although that is not something to which I am immune. I knew she
was young, that she was beyond competent- in fact, I knew as well as I could
that she was a good teacher. Students talk about us, and they had almost
nothing but good things to say about her. She has that ability to be liked
and still instruct. Or so I had gathered.  This may sound irrelevant, but
it's not. It's important that I reveal a little bit about myself as well. I
am at once easy going and yet I have high standards. In other words, my
threshold for accepting other people is rather low. Unless someone is rude,
cruel, or inflexible- or a combination of all three, I'm unlikely to dislike
someone. But there is a major difference between disliking people and liking
them, and most people end up in that middle ground. In other words, most
people- well, I can do well in group. People like me – well, to keep this
part of it short- if you  ask people if I'm their friend, they would be
likely to say yes. But I don't make that distinction so easily.

Respect is one of the best ways for me to like someone. I respected her
before I really ever spoke to her for the first time.

The yearly retreat was one of the most important things in our school year-
as teachers that is. All tenured teachers and anyone who is expected to get
tenure are invited to the retreat. It runs from Thursday right after school
through the following Monday. If we have snow days in the bank, they give the
kids two days off- this year, they didn't, so for two days the school is run
with non-tenured teachers, substitutes and, quite frankly, any warm body they
can latch onto who holds a college degree. I taught during the retreat my
first two years, and I would never do it again. Teenagers smell weakness and
they attack it like a virus.

Anyway, this was especially important because we'd had a major turnover at
the top of our little food chain. The principal and both VPs were new, so
they were really excited. But me, well, I was pissed off. This was the second
time in four years that I'd been accidentally roomed with another woman. VP
Phage was in charge of the room assignments, and he'd met me at least twice
that I could remember. Sure, my name is Christi, and yes, it's largely a
woman's name, but he couldn't put a face to a name ?

The first time it happened the resort was full and I spent four miserable
nights with Mrs. Fitzgerald. She was in her late fifties and that meant she'd
had some forty years of practise in the fine art of snoring. She took her
toilet in the grand European fashion, half an hour of noisy bathing, odd
coughing noises and other sounds I'd rather not ascribe an action to. At
least once, I was concerned, after the noises stopped, that she had expired.
And I had better not go into her nocturnal flatulence.

I was bunked with Freya. After Mrs. Fitzgerald, I was glad about that but I
was worried she might have reservations. She's young and attractive, and I'm
just at that age- thirty, where the students are liable to start thinking
about me as more of a dirty old man than- well, let's not go there either.
Kids can be cruel.

Becky Johnson told me where to find her. Our school has an interesting and
enlightened smoking policy. We try to keep the kids from smoking, we are
asked to provide the best role model that we can, and if they want to smoke,
we let them. I don't have a problem with that. My older sister Lauren smokes
as does my mother. My father smokes cigars. So maybe I'm biased.

She was outside, not where the students smoke, but in the faculty's own
smoking area. It's not like the old days where the teachers could smoke in
their lounge. The school is smoke free- well, the principal smokes the
occasional cigar in her office with the window open and no one bothers her,

I won't even write down the because.

Anyway, Freya was there alone. She must have just lit her cigarette before I
got there, because the ash was still square. Lauren taught me that. The
burning end stays square until you tap the ash from it, and then it rounds

She was just exhaling. Milky white smoke was wafting out of her mouth. The
long cigarette- she smokes Marlboro Lights 100s- was in her left hand, held
up by her ear. She finished the exhale and smiled at me, It was a warm,
inviting smile. The sort of smile guys see and make mistakes about. It's an
innocent smile, but it melts your knees and makes you feel like there are
only two people in the world and if you're not careful, you think that's the
way she wants it.

I'm careful by nature.

"Hi, Christi."

"Hello," I said.  I was having trouble deciding what to say, which I hadn't
been expecting.

"What's up, Christi ? You didn't come out here to smoke, did you ?" She drew
on her cigarette again and it hissed as she drew in the smoke. She then
pulled the cigarette from her mouth and exhaled. It was very sensual. I felt
as though I was being invited to share something.

"No. I just wanted to talk to you about the room assignments."

"You and I are supposed to be bunkies, huh ?" Bunkies. It sounded so
harmless, so summer camp. But I had lost my virginity at summer camp when I
was fifteen. To an eighteen year old girl who liked to sneak off after lights
out to smoke cigarettes. The parallels- well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

"Well, we could get it changed if you're not comfortable with bunking with

"No, I'm okay with it."

She drew on her cigarette and I found myself watching her- probably more
intensely than I had intended to.  "But I have to be honest about something,"
she said, exhaling more of that milky white smoke.

"Tell me you don't snore or fart in your sleep."

She smiled, then took another drag on her cigarette, and again I watched,
feeling as though I was almost sharing it with her.

Freya may not have caught the first look, but she caught this one.   

"If these sessions are anything like what I've been told, the first thing
I'll want to do at the end of the day is curl up with a good novel and a pack
of cigarettes."

"Not a problem. I shared a room with my sister Lauren, and she started
smoking when she was sixteen- well, that's not true. She started smoking when
she was fifteen, but she was sixteen when Mom and Dad decided to let her
smoke at home. So I'm used to it. It won't bother me."

"Oh, we probably won't be in the room that much anyway. I hear that there's a
lot of after hours drinking at this thing and I love a good beer."

"Honestly, the smoking thing is fine. But the farting is out."

"Then no mussels."

"They get me too."

She drew on that cigarette again and this time I figured I better talk so I
wouldn't just be staring.

"This is all because of my first name," I said, as though we were both idiots
who needed it sketched out in size 30 fonts.

She finished her exhale. "How did you get that name. I mean, I don't want to
insult you, but Christi's a girl's name."

"Yes it is. I was a twin- for about two days. Christopher and Christine. You
know what they say- that sometimes twins are part of that whole natural
selection process. I was healthy, ten pounds and strong. She was five and-
sickly. If she had lived, it would have been a nightmare, or at least that's
what the doctors said."

"I'm sorry."

"No need. I mean, I never knew her. I could be guilty about it, but that
would be unhealthy and pointless. But my parents always called me Christi,
with an i. Kind of to honour her. It just stuck, and I like having an odd
name, you know."

"You're different, aren't you ?" she asked.

We talked until she was done with her cigarette and I left her so she could
have another.

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