Break time at the Ed Center is often the time when my old students come upstairs to check in with me, and tonight is busy. First Benny comes up to ask how my weekend was and to apologize for missing class this morning. Haila comes for a hug and a kiss, followed immediately by Noemi. It’s taken me a while to figure out that Noemi wants a hug and a kiss, too, but won’t come at me with arms outstretched the way the others do. I have to make the first move. No problem. I’m happy to hug her. Then Manny comes in to share his angel smile and say, “Good evening, Miss Stacie.” (That boy could not be any cuter.)
And then Jeovany comes to the door. He is happy tonight, bouncy and smiley, styling in a white cable watch cap and his big parka. “Miss, I got something new.” (I am so afraid that when he says something he means girlfriend that I just can’t ask.) He pulls down the neckline of his t-shirt and reveals a piece of a new tattoo. Then, before I have a chance to respond, he pulls up his shirt and gives me a more complete view. He has a big rosary tattooed around his neck and down his chest. “Where’s your camera?” (This isn’t a weird, random, exhibitionist question from him. I am fascinated by tattoos in general, and by my students’ tattoos in particular, and I have taken photos of them in the past, including two of Jeovany’s. Now, it is true that those photos are of his arms, not of his bare chest … )
Rebecca is in the doorway and asks to see the rosary, so he turns to show her then gives me a hug and leaves. Rebecca tells me she has eight tattoos. “I keep them hidden,” she says, closing the door. I think she’s closing the door to tell me more about her very difficult current living situation. But no, she proceeds to show me all eight of her ‘hidden’ tattoos … which involves baring her extreme lower back, her upper back, her right shoulder and both thighs. No, I’m serious. She undoes her pants and shows me the two tattoos she has on her right thigh and the one on her left. “Excuse me a second,” she says as she unbuckles her belt to get her pants down. I don’t think I’ll be photographing Rebecca’s body art.
This is too weird to me. True, I don’t have any tattoos, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be taking off my clothes to show my teacher! I suppose on the one hand I am glad they feel so comfortable with me … but at the same time, I might like to move the boundary line just a few feet away!