Life Sciences Taught by Jesus Himself
By Ishani Thapa
A seventh grade discussion on evolution
I give the dial a spin to refresh it. Was it left-left-skip-right or right-left-skip-right? I meticulously spin the dial again, right-left-skip-right. The soft *click* relaxes my tense body. The small digital clock on the inside of my locker catches my eye, crap. I hurriedly grab my copy of the life sciences textbook with a bright green tree frog on the cover and head towards my next class. Sigh. Just fifty more minutes till lunch, and then three more hours till I get to go home. I can get through this. I sit behind Ashley, she’s in choir with me and sometimes her mom gives me a ride home. I like her, she wears a gold cross around her neck but never mentions the necklace I wear. As I finish that thought Paige comes to sit next to me, “I feel like if you’re going to have a god, he should be more realistic.” she’s referring to the tiny idol of Lakshmi hanging around my neck. “Like I doubt a god has four arms, that’s just weird” we have this conversation frequently. “It’s just a stupid idol, I just wear it because my mom makes me.” True, but I have to admit, it stings a little, Lakshmi is a part of me whether or not I believe in her existence.
Class settles down, for weeks the teacher has been hyping us up for this lecture. Mrs. Becker has jet black hair and talks as if she’s never been taught to clear her throat. Despite the nails-on-chalkboard voice, she’s a great teacher, she always lets us get carried away with our lectures if we’re interested enough. But today is important, we are going to learn about how the Earth was formed. I think back to all those nights where I lay in bed feeling as if my skull can’t possibly contain the thoughts of the universe. Today is the day I finally get clarity on how and why we’re here and I’ll be able to think about our world and universe without feeling suffocated. When these thoughts creep up it’s as if my brain panics and starts swelling and trying to escape out of my skull. I can feel it pushing out of my ears and nose and that’s where the suffocating comes from I suppose.
I snap back to class and look around me. It feels different in the room, tense. Hunter, a kid with short man syndrome (I mean we’re in the seventh grade, the kid probably just hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet) is a little red in the face. Last time he was red in the face, he threw up outside our math classroom, he’s got a weak stomach. Wary of an impending puke fest, I watch intently, tense and ready to flee if the need were to arise. But it’s different, he’s muttering something under his breath. “If she mentions the big bang I’m gone.” Big bang? Bomb? A cold chill runs through me, I feel myself freezing to my seat. I’m not prepared, but I’ve watched a documentary once. I slowly started to stand and kick my backpack to the side to make room under the desk, no one else was standing though. What if they’re still frozen in their seats? I feel eyes on me before Mrs. Becker says, “Take your seat Ishani, you’ve had ten minutes before class for a bathroom break” startled, I stiffly sit back down catching a raised eyebrow from Paige before she quickly turns towards the teacher. Oblivious to the tremor engulfing the class I sit attentive and nervous. “Evolution is a controversial topic, but for the purposes of this class you must learn the concept, but remember, your beliefs are your own.” she pronounces evolution with a hard E. She pronounces words funny sometimes. The rumors are that she came from England and hates America. I imagine being in a place I hate and feel sad, Mrs. Becker’s accent doesn’t bother me, it’s a refreshing change from the southern drawl that most of my teachers have. I think it’s silly to try to interpret whether or not it’s an indication of what she thinks of me on a personal level, but hey. E-vo-lution. I spell it out on my paper, a new term, for me anyways.
“This is bullshit” Hunter? I spin around with a slight jump and stare with wide eyes at the kid I thought I knew but who is now blatantly disrespecting a teacher. They go back and forth about the roles of teachers and students (something I’ve personally never questioned). “There’s no actual proof, you can’t teach something that you don’t have proof for!” Ricardo exclaims. I notice the rosary around his neck. As I scan the classroom I realize I’m not alone in being uncomfortable some students were also wide eyed. Others have hard argumentative faces like Hunter. Paige nods in agreement every time Hunter talks and shakes her head and twists her face at every counter argument the teacher provides, but has no words of her own. Mrs. Becker, looks slightly nervous, but mostly annoyed. “That’s enough. Out of the classroom, all of you.” Clearly, I’m missing something. “I’m not taking this crap, I have a right to defend my God!” I watch in horror as Hunter flings his binder in the air. Leaving papers flying in his wake, he stomps out of the room. Honestly, this is kind of a funny scene cause the kid is like four nine and his melodramatic exit came off as childish more than anything. I feel numb, and a little sick to my stomach as four more students walk out of the door, looking quite smug. Once they’re gone we all stare at each other and at Mrs. Becker who is desperately trying to look calm. She would’ve succeeded if she didn’t readjust her glasses every few minutes.
“Ahem” ah, she does know how to clear her throat! “As I mentioned, this is a controversial topic…” She’s cut off by Mr. Cormier, the vice principal, as he enters the room. He’s a tall scary man with a stern, calm voice. He’s here to address the explosion that just took place, but instead of saying any words he just raises his finger and does a “come hither” motion to Mrs. Becker and they quickly leave the classroom. The class, respectfully, waits a few seconds after they disappear out of the door to start discussing. “It’s about time someone shut her up, I heard she believes we fucked monkeys”. “Fucked” is the kind of word eighth graders say, Paige is dating an eighth grader, so she gets to say it. I don’t fully understand the word, but Ashley clarifies, “No, it’s gorillas, but she probably never read the bible. It’s not her fault she was raised by heathens that ain’t never found Jesus, she was just raised wrong”. I feel my face get warm and stare at my binder for the rest of the discussion. I’ve never found Jesus, was I raised wrong?
Mrs. Becker returns to class with ten minutes to spare, passes out our reports and writes out our homework on the whiteboard. I feel numb, I’m suddenly painfully aware of how people might view me. We never go back to the topic of evolution. The matter was swept away and as the year progressed we all just forgot about it. That night my brain almost made it out of my skull, I had so much to think about.