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Jessica L. Pavia | Longreads | February 21, 2023 | 20 minutes (5,721 words)

I spent most of my time in his room. Every day the same routine: 15 minutes before the bell rang, 45 at the end of the day. My excuse at first was that I didn’t have many friends. Good friends. But that wasn’t true. Entirely.

When I found myself in his class, the side effects of several friendless, depressive years still clung to my skin. The pull of his bright room, the shining praise he left on my papers, called to the deep aches within me. So I made up excuses for seeing T., my English teacher.

It was my junior year and I was trying to figure out what I wanted, and how to get it. In the mornings, T. and I talked about our previous days, the books we were reading, or the upcoming lesson. I’d meander around his room, glance at photos hanging on his wall, and ask about inside jokes from previous classes written on torn paper pierced onto cork boards. I found out he sang and played guitar in a band with another English teacher, and I made an internal promise to stumble into the bar they played in once I turned 21. We’d glance at each other from across the room, me cradling an emptying beer to prove my age, and we would know: Time had caught up, we could be together.

I wore knee-high socks and short plaid skirts, having stumbled around Tumblr the night before, beginning to idolize Lana Del Rey, Lolita, and nymphs; beginning to follow every blog tagged #teachercrushcommunity or #tcc, accounts with names like youaremyfavoritesubject, teachercrush-tcc, teachersthough.

I read students from around the world recounting their school day, or writing fantasy stories about themselves and their teacher crush. I saw GIFs of teachers smiling down at students chewing on pencils. One user commented: “THIS IS HOW BEN AND I HAVE EYE CONTACT MOST OF THE TIME WHEN HE’S IN FRONT OF CLASS SITTING DOWN.”

Sometimes, I considered writing about T.

*Some names have been changed.

My closest friend at the time was Kayla*. We had met years ago, at the snack shop while our brothers played baseball in the background, but I never remembered that. I knew her from eighth grade when we shared English, creative writing, and art classes together. The latter where we talked about Once Upon A Time and doodled hearts around our names alongside the characters’. Creative writing where we wrote into each other’s stories, each other’s universes.

By junior year, she had a deep crush on M., another English teacher up the stairs from T. She talked about him ceaselessly — at lunch, during rehearsal, all night over the phone.

At first, I thought she was deluding herself. The whole thing a disgusting fantasy. I could barely stand, in fact, sitting through lunch period with her going on about M.’s eyes or the way he stood next to her in the hallway.

But she was persistent, and eventually, I bought into it.

I bought into it because I liked having a secret, and loved having a crush. I reveled in the weight of it all, in how risky this business was. I enjoyed the game of seducing T. — the only way I knew how as a junior: Be kind, be interested, be smart. But the biggest reason was T.’s affirmations, which I sucked up like a sponge, how he made me feel smart and seen. He had a soft face and body; he talked about things I liked.

So now, when lunch came, we rushed through the crowd to nestle together at our table and share updates. Kayla was always more open than me, not even looking around the cafeteria to see who could be listening, never checking to make sure M. wasn’t lunch monitor that day, never bothering to use the code names we created.

By junior year, she had a deep crush on M., another English teacher up the stairs from T. She talked about him ceaselessly — at lunch, during rehearsal, all night over the phone.

We obsessed over stolen glances. The moments when T., sitting at his desk — brown hair and stubbly chin, his broad shoulders hunched over his laptop — would suddenly look up and catch my eye from across the room. How I would smile slightly, foot bouncing up and down beneath my desk.

Kayla and I swore up and down that M. and T. could read our minds, knew how infatuated we were, knew we were different, were artists.

We were being so obvious. Speaking with our eyes, our bodies. If they hadn’t said anything, hadn’t turned us down by now, it meant they definitely liked us back. They knew we were different — some invisible pulsation moving from their hearts to ours, begging us to recognize their deafening love, their painful lust, their desire to know us deeper than we knew ourselves. We relished that silence. But I’m not sure how harmless it was.

Our reading partnership began with me giving T. creative pieces I was working on — essays or poems I scribbled into notebooks and called art — while our class was preoccupied with The Great Gatsby, Macbeth, and The Stranger. At that point, I was in a separate creative writing class, but I reserved certain bits just for him.

And he did the same, for me.

Staying after, besides a few students coming in and out to ask questions about their next class, it was just us. I always started in my seat on the opposite side of the room, but without fail I would begin wandering around, making it seem aimless and random. Tilting my head to the side, acting as if something got my attention. Only to land at the table and chair just inches from his desk.

T. would return a piece of mine, something about a boy who didn’t exist, or a boy who was secretly him. He usually took a few days to read and leave notes, sometimes just a night. The days we got to talk about my work were my favorite. Instead of me taking up his time and space, T. invited me to his room after the final bell. There, I’d pull my chair up beside his large dark desk as he pulled in tight around the corner, his body leaning over the pages in front of him, a red pen in hand. I basked in the time, the effort, the generosity he spent on each line, each scene, each metaphor. He was so purposeful in what he said and how he said it. I knew he really meant it — had taken the time because my writing was worthy of it. I was worthy.

“I have something for you to look at,” he told me once. “But it’s really rough.”

My heart started racing with ideas of what it could be. Half-formed thoughts of a short story where we end up together. Maybe a poem or two about some mysterious woman with short brown hair and dark eyes.

Instead, he talked about his novel, following two brothers from a mining town beginning to cave in on itself. Set years after the gold rush, the brothers find some artifact in an old building, and then the story bounced between two timelines: that of the boys in their town sinking to the core of the earth, and the artifact, a throwback to the town’s most glorious days.

He swiveled on his desk chair and pulled out the thick manuscript, bound together with the largest paperclip I had ever seen. When he handed it to me, I expected the pages to fall heavily into my palm. Instead, I felt our fingers brush past each other as the weight transferred from his large hands into mine, my skin tingling at the contact that proved it was possible to get more. I wanted more. I was hungry for more.

My friendship with Kayla was often subconsciously performative. We based our personalities on images of Lana Del Rey; the short white dresses, the dirty knees, the angled liner, the ruffled white socks. When Kayla came over to my house we put on red lipstick and sucked red lollipops. We opened one of the windows in my bedroom and sat on the roof outside. She grabbed my Polaroid camera as I placed the Born to Die album on my 2014 record player. We sang about loving older men who were addicted to drugs but held us gently. Who would die for us. We growled out lyrics begging these men to kiss us hard in the pouring rain, toying with them, saying they like their girls insane. Kayla and I turned to Tumblr to find others like us, sent each other images of gauzy dresses revealing high-rise white panties, found poems about fucking in apple orchards, and reveled in them.

Out on my roof, our bright lips developed first on the Polaroids, then our tongues, red from the candy. We put our hair in pigtails. Kayla picked out quotes from Lolita, a book we hadn’t even read yet, and recited them like gospel: “You have to be an artist and a madman … in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs … the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”

Kayla told me we were artists, that we had fantastic power; that we were deadly demons among our peers. That we knew more about romance and those delicious tremors of grown-up life. And she said that T. and M. were artists, too.

When the clock hit 2:15 p.m., I found my way back into his room. Every once in a while, T. took advantage of my presence, keeping me busy organizing books or helping with lesson plans. Once, when restacking, I stumbled upon a dirty white cover with colorful lines slashing up the left corner, The Catcher in the Rye. Pages were beginning to fall out and become oxidized, but I recognized the title from somewhere deep down in my body.

Kayla and I turned to Tumblr to find others like us, sent each other images of gauzy dresses revealing high-rise white panties, found poems about fucking in apple orchards, and reveled in them.

I was bringing the book over to my desk when another student walked in. T. had left to return books to a teacher upstairs. I looked at this student as she told me about a poetry quiz; T. had said some students might be coming in and told me where the quizzes were. I nodded my head, told her to sit, shuffled through the white pages until we found the right one. I gave it to her and sat down in the front of the room.

Then other students started coming in to grab summer reads. I told them to sign out the books on a sheet. When the student was done with her quiz, I put it on a new pile on T.’s desk. I kept signing out books and handing out quizzes, waiting for him to return. At the same time, a new confidence in myself — in my leadership — peeked out from the shadows.

When everyone left, I took back Catcher and plopped on top of his tall spinning chair, feeling proud of myself. Finally, he returned, apologizing profusely for taking so long. I explained all that happened and he looked at me, in his gray Friday crew neck shirt — a favorite because it was thin and I got to see lines and mounds and turns underneath — and said: “Well aren’t you like my little secretary.”

I stopped spinning on the chair. I got warm and fuzzy inside and felt something sort of tighten beneath my skirt. Just the day before he had called me to his desk and told me I knew how to write, to stop freaking out about it. 

“You’re like a little woodland creature that feels isolated, scared sometimes, and overthinks too much. But you shouldn’t, because you’re good at writing. You should be confident,” he told me. 

Later that night, I wrote everything down. And suddenly, because I couldn’t help myself, I ran away with it, writing: “He makes me so happy, but there’s so much danger attached to being with him. And I really don’t want to ruin his life. More than anything, I just really enjoy having someone to talk to, who enjoys my company. And I just really, really want to hug him and feel his caring and understanding hands around my back, feeling my entire body go warm in his grasp.”

The next day, back in his room, I asked T. if he ever read Catcher in the Rye. He shrugged, said it was overrated. Even still, he walked over to the bookshelves and grabbed the same off-white paperback. “Maybe you’ll get something from it that I didn’t,” he said. But as I read it, I too didn’t like it. I kept thinking I was missing something, not reading it right. Holden was dull and apathetic — the language boring, lacking lyricism and poetry, every word landing with a thump. No tidy ending wrapped up with a bow.

I felt so much all the time, was preoccupied with everything meaning something, but Holden just walked. And seemed to never stop. He carried his past with him, on and on, wherever he went. It was the last thing I wanted to see. At some point between giving me Catcher and before I slogged through it, T. asked to talk after class. When the bell rang, I headed to his desk. “I read your essay,” he said. He meant a short story I wrote about a young girl with an eating disorder who’d been hospitalized, sick from obsessing over the way she could escape her body and mind. My anxiety and depression were known to only ever come out in my writing, infiltrating my themes and settings, notebooks of scrawled poetry about wanting to die. Even when I hesitated to reveal how dark things had gotten to myself, I couldn’t hide it on paper. Without meaning to, I manifested these neuroses into something more tangible, physical.

I thanked him.

“It was very well done but I have to ask, is everything okay?”

I wanted to say yes and no. No, things aren’t okay. I cry in the shower every night, my parents don’t care. Yes, because I have you, and having you means I have a reason to write, to feel good about myself, to feel good about my writing, to keep coming to school. I wanted to say I did everything to please him.

But instead, I told him it was inspired by a television show. I couldn’t shatter the fantasy I’d built around us by admitting no, actually, something was broken in me. “Everything’s fine,” I told him. 

I still have a few of the emails T. and I exchanged. Most, if not all, I sent using my personal email, hoping it would offer a veil of anonymity.  I had seen it work in Molly Maxwell, a Canadian film I steadily became obsessed with. I don’t think I ever realized he used his school one.

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Going through the emails again, I’m both appalled and embarrassed by myself. My tone drips with desire for his approval. I sent him three messages in a row explaining how I pretended to die after my journalism teacher said I shouldn’t have used personal pronouns in my final’s essay. Then in a separate email, he said that from what he had heard, I had the 100 percent in the bag — which I took to mean he was thinking about me on his own, asking for my grades without instigation. In the next email, I am ecstatic, writing in all caps and thanking him profusely.

One still makes my heart flutter, my pulse quicken. It’s from March 14, 2015, at 12:53 p.m. It reads: “I should be done with your story by the last bell if you want to talk about it — you should be very proud.”

Though he never took advantage of my lead, he played his part, too. He never told me to stop. Never told me I was being inappropriate in my advances, in my clear obsession. I finally see he loved the attention, too.

Last day of classes, junior year, I couldn’t bring myself to leave his room. While other students barely held their excitement together, skin itching for summer break, all I thought about was how I wouldn’t be able to use our lesson, or an upcoming vocab quiz, as an excuse for retreating into his classroom. I studied his broad shoulders and towering height, his pressed blue-checked button-downs and light beige khaki pants, his brown belt, and breaking sneakers — soon to no longer be in my daily vision — and felt a deep emptiness inside. I wondered if he felt the same. If that day held as much dread for him as it did for me.

I asked T. to sign my yearbook. Deep down I expected a proclamation of love, having convinced myself the only reason why he hadn’t reciprocated my gestures was that I was his student. I wondered, now that I would be a senior, would he be free to say what he wanted? I hoped what he wanted was me.

As I waited for him to scribble something romantic, I plopped myself on the spinning stool behind his podium and looked out to where I normally sat: second row, two desks in from the left-side windows. I thought of all the times I bit the end of my pen, toyed with him, tried to get him to blush and maybe even get hard. Begged him to notice me, see me, love me. I thought of slowly crossing my legs in my short skirts, raising my hand after every question, thinking I was proving my maturity despite my age.

He finished my yearbook and walked over to me. Rotating back and forth, back and forth, left and right on the stool, I imagined him pulling me in for a kiss, me touching the small of his back, him removing me from the stool and pushing me up against the wall. Instead, he grabbed a whiteboard eraser and began removing any last remnant of the year. But he was so close to me as I turned left and right, left and right; each nudge moved me closer and closer to where he stood behind me. I could nearly feel his hair in the wind I created, pushing the stool as far as it could go, knowing I could brush his arm if I got over far enough. And he didn’t move away; he didn’t do anything. His back faced me, but he was so close I could smell him. Later that night, alone in my room, I opened my yearbook. On the entirely blank page I had left for his words, I found a small note, barely taking up the left-hand corner. 

“You were a great student this semester,” he wrote. “Make sure to come visit!”

I read over the minuscule text again and again, searching for what wasn’t there. That’s it? I asked myself. Even if he didn’t love me back, surely I deserved more recognition than that. Didn’t I?

Senior year, Kayla and I were in the same advanced English class. We spent most of our time talking about the way M. looked at her differently yesterday. About how his request for her to water his plants was obviously a declaration of his trust in her, a trust beyond teacher and student. (“He wouldn’t ask just anyone!”) We ignored the immature giggles at lunch coming from Anthony and Claire, saying that M. was gay and Kayla was wasting her time. Sometimes when he monitored lunch, Kayla and I were convinced he stood near our table on purpose.

I imagined him pulling me in for a kiss, me touching the small of his back, him removing me from the stool and pushing me up against the wall.

A favorite topic was the day Kayla sat on top of a desk in M.’s class after school, leaning over toward him behind the podium. She kicked her feet lazily while I watched from behind the door, ready to inform her of every stolen glance she missed once their meeting ended. When she walked out, we clasped hands and ran down the hall, singing praises of how well she seduced him, had captured his attention.

In class, we were assigned to write about a book turned into a movie. We scoured the internet for age-gap films, which wasn’t hard, and stumbled onto The Babysitter (1995), An Education (2009), Palo Alto (2013), Magic in the Moonlight (2014), and Pretty Baby (1978). We idolized the relationship between Ezra, a high school English teacher, and Aria Montgomery, his student, in Pretty Little Liars, asking the universe what we had to do for that to happen to us.

Unsurprisingly, we decided to write our essay on Lolita for the assignment. The first step: getting our hands on the book, which felt dangerous, maybe even wrong. Dressed in our most darling outfits we made our way to the bookstore. With the sweet taste of doing something salacious, we snuck around the shelves, nearly begging one of the male clerks to ask us what we were looking for. After half an hour of searching, we were about to give up before finding that iconic cover of baby-soft pink lips nestled next to other “Summer Beach Reads.” We found this incredibly funny, made jokes about it for weeks to come: “Ah, yes, my favorite beach read, young girl has an affair with an older man, who is also her stepfather. Sounds like my ideal summer read.”

We watched the film together, more than once. I began to find myself no longer romanticizing the story and felt nervous to tell Kayla. She was still holding onto the love story and it felt dangerous to admit I wasn’t. Here was the one person who understood me. Was I really going to isolate the both of us? We were artists, after all. Like Humbert said: Together against the world.

But something in the film didn’t hit right. That final scene, maybe. Or when Dolores finds out her mother has died and her sobs ricochet through the motel walls; retainer in, oversized pajamas, hair falling out of cloth-rolled curls. Her face twisted and unrecognizable she doesn’t look like a kid anymore, but she certainly doesn’t look like a woman. Perhaps the turning point was in Humbert’s narration, “You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.” Or later on, when he says she died in childbirth — a child she would never have had if he hadn’t stolen her, never molested her. Because he never gave her a choice. Those scenes were switches. 

My final essay focused on how Humbert created a Dolores he wanted us, as readers and jury, to believe in. A Lo that desired his love and advances. We never actually know what she wants in the book because we can’t see her. Humbert is able to hide her behind the words on the page, behind her silence. But the movie gives us clarity through her physicality — the sadness in her face, the bags under her eyes, all the moments she pushes him away only to come back. A young girl without a mother, in need of even a false safety.

Whenever Kayla asked me about the paper, I made it sound less condemning. But inside, I knew I didn’t want this story for myself anymore. I watched the movie and felt a dip in my stomach. I saw Dolores for who she truly was: a 14-year-old girl. A scared girl. A kidnapped girl. I didn’t want to be lied to, stolen, raped, abused. I wanted independence and autonomy.

And yet I still snuck into T.’s classroom, still spun into his doorway with a big Barbie smile plastered on my face. How could both things be true? 

Maybe the answer’s in Molly Maxwell. In the film, we follow Molly, a young girl at a school for gifted children, and a new teacher in town, Ben, whose rock band only recently disbanded. Molly and Ben stumble their way into an independent photography study and later a relationship. They “run” into each other on buses — Molly having seen Ben get on from down the street, rushing to meet up with the closing doors — and catch each other at a bar downtown.

One of the first photos Molly takes is of her feet, adorned in green socks, floating below her room’s chandelier. I began taking my heavy, clunky film camera to school. And with each new roll of film, the first picture was always my feet sticking up in the air, dangling below the crystals.

I ripped out a page from a magazine and scribbled my favorite lines from the film on it:

“You’re something else, Molly Maxwell.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“No. You’re like a hand grenade.”

I daydreamed about running into T. around town and going on a secret jaunt to an island as Ben and Molly do. I wondered what we’d talk about, spinning around in some dizzying abandoned top ride. I wondered if he would take my film camera, like Ben does with Molly’s, and gently pull my sweatshirt hood down, his big hands hesitating to tuck the hair flying around my face behind my ears. I wondered if he’d get angry if I said, “Do not bother, waste of film.” I wondered how we’d look at each other after the photo was taken, sitting in the silence of rushing waves and whispering wind.

In one scene, Molly takes her clothes off slowly in front of Ben. I told myself it was because she wanted to and because she was a woman, not a kid, and they could both see it. Molly stares at Ben who says, “You know you’re a real godsend.” She takes her hair out of its ponytail, stands up, unbuttons her shirt. She pulls her skirt and gray tights down, her shirt off. She’s standing in green underwear and a silver bra. Ben walks over to her, closing the space between them, hands linger over her arms, her skin, like one touch might hurt her. 

Kayla and I went through phases of watching this movie: as high school students, freshmen, then juniors in college, and first years in graduate programs. Watching the movie in high school, the relationship between Molly and Ben felt so distinctive from Dolores and Humbert’s. Molly spends the entire film convincing Ben of her maturity. And she does it so well, that I believed her, too. So when their relationship starts, it does feel more consensual than Lolita. That’s the trick.

In one scene, Molly takes her clothes off slowly in front of Ben. I told myself it was because she wanted to and because she was a woman, not a kid, and they could both see it.

In the book Stolen by Lucy Christopher, a young woman is kidnapped by a man who’s been watching her. He attempts to convince her of his love, and eventually, with the onset of Stockholm syndrome, he does. But the book wants its readers to feel the same way. It’s moving and upsetting and successful because you, ostensibly, develop the syndrome, too.

Narratives like Molly Maxwell, like Stolen, are meant to make us question the ease with which we start to accept inappropriate relationships. But when you’re young and looking for approval, you don’t have the tools to analyze these subtleties at play. All to say, it took me until my early 20s to see the movie in a new light. And when I did, Molly sounded young, felt young, was young. I finally saw it.

I brought T. my college essay more to read than to edit, but I guess I didn’t explain that well enough. He asked me to come by after school so we could go through what he thought of it, and given any excuse to sit beside his desk once more, I agreed. But when I got there, other students were in his room, too. For some reason, I thought it would be just us; a special meeting closed to the outside world.

He gestured for me to pull up a chair. I scooched in as close as I could, tried to touch my leg to his, so close I could tell the fabric blend of his pants. T. started going through his notes and I saw my paper was riddled with red pen marks. My cheeks flamed, pulse quickened: He hates it, he hates it, he hates it, he hates me.

Half listening, my ears filled with blood as he went through each grammar change he thought I should make, each wrong sentence. At one point he called over to the other students in the room, peers of mine, and asked what they thought of a line. That was the ultimate betrayal.

I didn’t listen to them. I just stared into his eyes, my whole face hardening. How could you do this? My writing is just for you. Why are you asking them? What role do they play in this?

I seethed so much that I thought he would feel my body radiating heat. At the end, I snatched the paper out of his hands, tears forming in my eyes, and stalked out of the room.

When I got home I stormed up to my room, chucking my backpack onto the floor. I grabbed my black notebook out of my bag and wrote: “Today, I grew up. Today, I realized I don’t need, nor want, T. by my side. He was rude to me in a way that showed me he doesn’t care in the way I thought. And I’m honestly very happy I had this revelation.”

“I needed it.”

“I deserve bigger and better things.”

We run through the halls, blue dresses with gray cardigans, Kayla’s big purple backpack dwarfing her height despite the three-inch wedges she always wore in spring. Our small girl laughs ting off the metal lockers as we race against the clock. Just a few more steps and then his door. Just a few more steps and one last goodbye, maybe finally a hug, a kiss, or an admission of love. But as we turn left, manifesting M.’s door swinging wide open at the sight of her, it’s shut and locked.

Kayla backs away and lightly slams her head into the locker behind her. My laughter starts to roll and cannot stop. I snap a photo as we both laugh at ourselves, sinking down to our knees, stomachs hurting, abs forming.

“Well I guess that’s it,” she says.

We join hands once more, but there’s something more final to it this time. The door to the outside world, to our cars and the road, is right down the hall. We head over.

Part of me has let T. go. Another part, the ugly part, knows I would be jealous if it came out that T. took advantage of a student that wasn’t me. That I’d interpret as him saying I was never good enough. There is so much silence in all of this. In the stories of girls abused and groomed by their teachers; in the stories of girls aching for attention, and teachers relishing in it. I workshopped this essay once and the professor — an older white female writer — thanked me for telling it from this perspective. “People don’t believe me when I say some of these young women are asking for it,” she told me. “That they sexualize male teachers.” Her comment broke me. Made me feel completely misunderstood. That’s not what I’m trying to say, I wanted to yell.

I scooched in as close as I could, tried to touch my leg to his, so close I could tell the fabric blend of his pants.

Kayla and I used to watch the movie Beautiful Girls for Natalie Portman’s character and her neighbor Willie, an older man visiting his hometown. In one scene, Willie leaves his buddies ice fishing in a red shed and walks over to where he’s seen Natalie Portman’s character, Marty, skating with other children. He wears a trench coat and hoodie. She has on overalls and a white fair isle sweater. A green hat on her head, mittens to cover her small hands. 

She asks what he’s doing there. He tells her. He asks about her crush from school: “So where’s Scooter? Uh, what’s his name. Billy? Tiger? Pookie?” She’s not into him anymore.

“So you got someone new?” 

She does a small jump on the ice. For the first time, she’s quiet. Then she smiles, licks her lips a bit: “Yep, you.” 

Willie laughs, a smile crosses his face and his breath turns to smoke in the cold air. He’s happy with this reveal. “What?”

“You. You’re my new boyfriend Willie. You up to it? Oh, I feel faint!”

She falls into his arms, and in the background, one of Willie’s old friends, now skating with his own kids, falters. He’s heard about her one drunken night when Willie said he thinks he loves her.

Marty asks if Willie will wait for her. She says, “We can walk through this world together.”

Young girls are desperate for validation. We crave recognition so badly from older male figures that sometimes we mistake innocent need for emotional desire. That impulse is misguided, sure, but we are children. We are young and pubescent and desperate for someone, anyone, to see us and say everything will be alright. That we are alright. And it’s easy to misconstrue love when you have access to bits of culture that romanticize those relationships, imbuing sensuality within the hush of forbidden love.

Only recently have we begun the uncomfortable conversations. Memoirs like Alisson Wood’s Being Lolita and Cheryl Nichols’ four-part Hulu docuseries, Keep This Between Us, expose what they describe as an “epidemic” of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers, and the silence from administration, peers, and adults that enables the behavior. 

There is no situation in which the student is to blame, ever. Even if they “ask for it,” even if they seduce and flirt and beg. Certain teachers, often narcissistic, relish the spotlight we give them. Some may never act but remain complicit in their silence. For something so pervasive amongst young women — so much so that entire communities online used to exist in support of it, and probably still do — we should all be much louder.

I once took T.’s quietude for admission. If he only spoke, if he only acted like an adult and broke the mirage, where would my energy have then gone? All the time I spent molding myself into his perfect student. Focused on pleasing him and only him. I’d like to think it’d go somewhere progressive. I’d like to think I would have poured it into myself.

Jessica L. Pavia is a Pushcart Prize-nominated creative nonfiction writer whose work has appeared in Catapult, Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, and the Columbia Journal, among others. She is a columnist for Write or Die Magazine based in Rochester, NY. 

Editor: Carolyn Wells

Copy-editor: Krista Stevens