Last Summer

Red apple

The sun shines, the skies are blue, the temperature is warm, but not hot. The humidity hasn’t come yet, but in five minutes, the alarm will ring and summer will officially start. She looks at the students fidgeting in their seats. Surprisingly, they haven’t all got up and run out the door already. They are as eager, yet as sad as she is for the end of the class.

You see, this was the students’ favorite subject. She is their favorite teacher. There is cake and half-empty bottles of soda filling one long table in the corner. The atmosphere is bittersweet, the end of an era. Every summer is like this. Co-eds come and go, but the teachers remain. This year, though, is different.at the students fidgeting in their seats. Surprisingly, they haven’t all got up and run out the door already. They are as eager, yet as sad as she is for the end of the class.

She stacks her papers and slides them into her bag. Pens and markers for the whiteboard follow suit. Her students follow suit, sneaking glances at the clock and immediately looking guilty. She smiles and follows their gazes to sneak her own glance.

Three minutes.

She thinks about the final scene in Grease, where the high-schoolers go out and dance around to music at the carnival. They don’t do that anymore, more’s the pity. It always looked like it would be a blast. But would the adults sitting before her enjoy something like that? She likes to think so. Who doesn’t like to feel like a kid again, dancing, singing…well, maybe not singing. But having fun in a carnival atmosphere, surely.

Her toes tap as she sings the final song in Grease in her head. Joey notices.

“What are you thinking about, Prof?”

“Have any of you seen the movie, Grease?”

Several students smile and nod.

“I loved that movie when I was a kid.” The professor can always count on Sara to know musical theater, since that’s her major.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen it in years,” Tamara adds.

“I’ve never seen the movie, but they did it for the senior play at my high school,” Adam says.

“Well, I was thinking of the last song.”

“Oh yeah!” Janine exclaims. “That was a great one!”

The classroom falls silent again, as the students who know the song recall it, and those who don’t text their friends, about something unrelated.

“Do you really have to go, Prof?” James, a normally quiet student, asks.

She sighs. “I’m afraid so.”

“But—”

The shrill sound of the alarm interrupts him. The professor reaches for her cell phone without looking to turn it off.

“That’s it, everyone. Have a wonderful summer!”

The students stand up with a lack of their usual enthusiasm, but their things remain on the floor. She looks around, curious.

Sara walks forward. “We don’t want you to forget us. Or any of your students.”

“I would never—”

A hand is held up for silence. She raises her eyebrows, but complies.

Three girls in the corner begin to hum and three of the boys in the opposite corner harmonize. Sara sings the lead. The professor recognizes the song as a popular one from her high school days: Hero, by Mariah Carey. Before now, the song had no real meaning for her. Tears slide down her face as she realizes the students are well aware of her reasons for leaving.

They succeed in their goal; they have ensured their place in her memory. By waiting until the class was officially over, their display is more poignant. They should be rushing off to start their summer vacations. Instead, they are singing to her. They must have practiced for weeks! She swipes at her eyes and nose with her hand. When Sara finishes, the class rushes over to give the professor hugs of encouragement.

“Thank you,” the professor says.

One by one, they file out, trying to hide their own tears.

The professor follows them, out to the parking lot, and slides into her sedan. With a deep breath, she turns the key and heads home to spend her last summer with her family.

Comments are closed