The 3332 bus pulls up. I board, swipe my card and walk down the aisle. Same glum faces. Dee smiles. I sit next to her.
‘Yaaay! Last day!’ she says.
‘You don’t sound too excited.’
‘Well, I don’t really like the last day of school.’
‘Of course you don’t.’
‘I like the holidays, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the last day. The kids are wired, there are always loose ends to tie up and the kids are wired.’
‘You said the same thing twice.’
‘It’s a salient point.’
‘So what? Entertain them for an hour and then ‘Be Gone Bitches.’
‘Yeah, I suppose.’
We stop at traffic lights. Dee sighs.
‘Only you could be depressed on the last day of school.’
‘It’s just experience. I used to expect to feel this huge rush of relief once the kids walked out the door but I just ended up feeling empty.’
‘It’ll be easy. We haven’t seen most of the teenagers for weeks. They’re not even gonna show up today.’
‘That’s the other thing. We’ve been teaching them all year, gone beyond the call of duty for some, and then one day they just stop showing up.’
‘Well what did you expect ‘Oh Captain my Captain?’
‘No but a goodbye or thanks would have been nice.’
‘I mean not even a shrug or a pout. They just don’t bother showing up.’
‘It’s just teenagers being teenagers. Don’t read too much into it.’
The bus curves a roundabout.
‘I remember when I was teaching in Ireland. It was the last day of sixth class. The kid’s last day in the school ever. And as one of ‘em was leaving he came up to me to say that he didn’t think it was fair because he didn’t get as many sweets as Colm did. I looked at him like ‘Really? Those are your parting words? Eight years in the school. Two with me and that’s all you gotta say.’
‘Well there are lots of jobs where people don’t get any thanks.’
‘But – they all left and I was there on my own. Next thing, two of the girls came back into the class and hugged me.’
‘What did you do?’
‘I said thanks. They said thanks. It was a goodbye. It was lovely.’
We get off at our stop and go to work. Later, we meet for beers.
‘Did you have many?’
‘I had all the kids.’
‘How were they?’
‘Grand. I didn’t expect much, so grand. You?’
‘Had the kids. None of the teens. You had Asier and Endika, right?’
‘Yup. They showed up every class this year. Nice lads. Asier is going to study film next September. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a famous director one day. He’s so passionate about film and music. It’s mad that they’re such good friends. I mean Endika isn’t really into music or film. He’s sporty. And he’s tall and thin whereas Asier is- Holy shit!’
I notice Asier and Endika walking up the road. I smile and wave. They wave back and walk towards us.
‘Hi guys. How are you? We were just talking about you two.’
‘Brian, we went to the cinema and afterwards we went to the music shop and got you this,’ Endika says and gestures towards Asier.
Asier dips his hand into a plastic bag and produces a CD. David Bowie – Black Star.
I stand up.
‘We had a very good year with you,’ Endika says. Asier nods in agreement.
‘ Jesus. Thank you so much! This is the album we talked about in class – remember – when he died?’
‘Yes. We remember.’
I don’t say much on the bus home. I just keep staring at the CD. I think about them discussing the whole idea, counting their money after the cinema, picking up different CDs in the music shop and the light bulb moment when they saw David Bowie. I think of them going to the academy first to find me. I think of the embarrassed way they approached me. I replay the sentence ‘we had a very good year with you.’ I think about them pushing themselves through all those stages. I’m so glad they did.