Just a Backpack

Someone left a bag in my classroom yesterday. Just a regular backpack resting on the floor next to the table where I stand or sit. My bright and observant student, Shay Goodine, recorded the moment:

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Fear

Teacher evaluations. The long sway of his braid as he turned to face the class. A wide blue dappled mug on the table, his watch facing up, a pile of books. A small backpack beside the leg of the table. No one had noticed. Something left behind.

He stopped midsentence. Picked up the bag.

Is this anybody’s?

Classmates searched each other’s faces.

He put the bag aside. Began a thought, then put it down. This is stupid, but I’m looking in the bag, he said.

A few student’s chuckled nervously, quietly.

Just a backpack, he announced. Stupid, but, these days… he muttered as he turned back to face the class.

Fear. The hush of still breath.Waiting. Wonder. When did we wonder like that? How did that wonder steal in our windows in the last years, creeping into our sleeping ears and into our everyday brains? Check the back pack.

A moment of fear in this grown man. Braid swinging. Just a back pack. Just a back pack.