July 25, 2020:

But there was one moment with one teacher I'll always remember with gratitude. I'm so sorry that I don't remember her name or I'd gladly acknowledge her here. A young Art teacher, who taught a tolerable class filled with productive ideas, who one day said the only supportive thing I remember any adult saying to me through that entire period of my life.

It requires explaining.

Since earliest childhood I'd been drawn to bright colors. Still am. I believe this is an indirect artifact of depression, where bright colors stimulate endorphin so that my brain experiences a tiny but perceivable calming of the standard chaos. These days I have the color control on my bigass TV dialed all the way up, a kind of capital-intensive substitute for the techniques I'd experimented with in childhood. During the period I'm remembering here, middle school, I bought full sets of fine-point felt-tip pens, Flairs® by Papermate, in their rainbow of vibrant hues. I bought the annual Flair calendars and filled them in, a kindof psychedelic coloring book. At school I doodled with them in a specific way. I'd first take an ordinary blue ball-point pen and rapidly and chaotically cover a notebook page with manic overlapping spiraling circles, dividing the space into smaller and smaller randomized geometrical planes bordered by ball-point blue. Then I'd use my Flairs to semi-randomly fill them in, creating a patchwork of contrasting colors serving no purpose but the colors themselves. In a naive way it was Abstract Expressionism, where the expressions were I like bright colors and My brain is in turmoil.

The teacher noticed. I could tell she was curious. It's likely she was at least somewhat intimidated to talk with me about it. I did not radiate a vibe inviting teachers to engage. Bless her heart, one day she did. "That's very pretty," she said. "I like it."

Now, please consider, what I'd expected was, "Do your assignment and don't ever doodle in my class again." It was a reasonable expectation. It's what every other City Schools teacher I'd encountered would have done. They were about enforcing the rules, and they were not interested in the kids as individuals. These were blue-collar kids singled-out from earliest ages to work as garage mechanics and hairdressers and gardeners and cooks. The main subject of instruction was obedience. I think they were afraid of us, with good reason. If we got organized and got out of control we'd challenge their world.

So that when she said, "That's very pretty. I like it", I was — what's the word for maximum surprise? Gobsmacked? Flabbergasted? Taken aback? Thrown off balance, knocked on my ass? Suffice it was not anything I could have expected.

I remember talking but not what we said. I believe I probably explained the technique but was unable to articulate why I'd chosen it or how it comforted me. No matter. She was supportive, I was stunned, and I carried-on crafting those doodles all that year and the next, because I liked them, and they made me happy, and someone kind had approved.