The story could’ve been penned by Shakespeare himself. It belongs in the pantheon of the bard’s greatest love stories. A classic tale, the kind we all know by heart and have seen repeatedly acted out in drama and in real life. It’s the kind of story that makes women tilt there head to one side, put their hand to their heart, and say, “Ah, how sweet.” The kind that men pretend doesn’t touch them, but inside they long to be a player in such a narrative. It’s familiar and yet often distant. It’s a story of transcendence of careers and education, of dirty t-shirts meets pleated skirts, of whistles and brooms. It’s just your typical teacher meets janitor love story.
I remember the first time I saw her. It was August, and my crew and I were in the last hectic weeks of getting the campus ready for the upcoming school year. There were about thirty classrooms and all had to have their walls painted, their rugs shampooed, and linoleum waxed. The painting and shampooing had been completed earlier in the summer, and the waxing was the last big project. In these last weeks of summer vacation, it was a constant struggle to keep the early bird teachers out of their rooms so we could finish preparing them, for if we left something undone we would surely hear about it from said worm-catching teachers. Oh cruel irony. The room that was to be hers had had its floor waxed earlier that morning and a sign posted on the door alerted any potential enterers to come back tomorrow. Imagine my chagrin when I witnessed this apparently illiterate woman and her apparently equally illiterate (or just rebellious) boss walking into the classroom. I let out a sigh of frustration and walked to the classroom with the intention of giving them the boot and a stern notion of my displeasure.
When I got to the door and looked inside, the mutinous two were standing on the carpet and leaning over the five foot wide strip of newly waxed linoleum, doing their level best not to step on it, loading some textbooks into a cabinet. Their efforts to not foul up the fresh waxing softened my irritability slightly, and the fact that this new teacher I had just laid eyes on was young and cute probably didn’t hurt either. First impressions you know. She was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt. She had short brown hair and brown eyes and I couldn’t tell if her facial expression was betraying annoyance or was just in neutral. Either way, her chin wrinkled in kind of a funny way. As I left the classroom after requesting of her boss that Do Not Enter signs be heeded, I remember thinking to myself about this new person. What it is exactly I was thinking about I don’t recall, but I know she was on my mind, even though we hadn’t spoken a word to each other.
I do remember our first exchange, however. It probably wasn’t more than a week or so since I’d first seen her. Our paths crossed as we walked through the same hallway, each starting on opposite ends. When we met somewhere near the middle, she stopped me and asked if I might unlock the restroom for her. She was, and is still, a diminutive person and her voice matched her small stature, light and mousey. I remember that particularly sticking with me, the smallness of her voice. Of course I obliged her request, and as I was turning the key I said to her the words that every girl longs to hear from a guy, “I’ll be your janitor this year.” I think she chuckled a little, though probably not as much as I was hoping; we exchanged names and went our separate ways.