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2005-09-20 - 2:38 p.m.

Last night, as my class was working on their group questions for "Once More to the Lake," one of the Indian boys, a nice kid named Raghu, raised his hand and asked me to come over. The classroom, because of the five different discussions happening in the same concreted room, was a low-level buzz. I leaned in close.

"Yes, Raghu?" I asked.
He sort of pointed at my nose and smiled at the same time. His teeth were very white against his skin.
"What's that?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.
"Your nose," he said, and the girls in his group began laughing. This was something they had been discussing at the expense of E.B. White.
"My nose?" I said.
"You have blue ink on it," Raghu said.
And he was right. I rubbed my finger along the ridge of my nose--the fine, thin ridge--and when it came away there was a smudge of blue ink on it. I'd been using a Bic Uni-Ball, stolen from the office where I work, to mark attendance and keep notes on what was working and what wasn't. They were still looking at me and laughing.
"It's my war paint," I said.
Raghu and the girls in his group weren't sure they should have told me about the ink in the first place, but when I spoke, smiling, they laughed. "You will learn here today, goddamnit," I said.
We read some in-class writing later and one of the students who sits in the back, a polite Asian boy named David, read his aloud. The assignment was to write a seven-sentence narrative with a main idea on the topic of "pure joy." His first sentence was something like, "While many college freshman achieve pure joy by partying all night long or hanging out with friends, I found my own pure joy last summer during church retreat." And the name of his church's retreat was called "Highway to Heaven." I mentioned the Michael Landon show and they hadn't heard of that. When I left the classroom, after erasing all my hurried outlines and notes on big ideas, I had "Highway to Hell" in my head.

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