This afternoon I was eating lunch outside the library with some friends from the English department, watching the reconstruction of the Wilk. There were three of us, all seniors graduating next month, not a single one of us with a clear idea of what to do with a BA in English. "I should have done the English Education degree," I said. "At least then I could teach."
"Blech," said Jose, who meets the hipster-poet stereotype better than any of us, with his dark-framed glasses, tight jeans and t-shirt, and hair as long as BYU will let him grow it. "English Education is so..."
"Practical?" I offered.
Faith, a girl who has been in several of my classes over the years, including this semester's creative writing class where I workshopped my essay about being a mutant, chuckled. "If we were practical people, we would major in computer science." She brushed aside a tuft of long, brown hair that had blown in her face. "But you couldn't teach high school anyway, could you, Ben?"
She sat up. "Because of your... lifestyle. I mean, I know you're a good person, but if I had a kid and one of the teachers at my kid's school was... like you, I'd be concerned."
I stared at her, feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. Jose stopped mid-bite and gawked at her.
"Don't get me wrong," Faith said, "you're my friend and I know you would never..." She vaguely gestured toward the destroyed Wilkinson Center. "But people are understandably careful about who they expose their kids to."
Jose looked at his lap and continued eating his sandwich. I looked to the Wilk, trying to wrap my head around what exactly Faith was saying. That mutants shouldn't be high school teachers because they might blow up the school? You know, despite the fact that most of us don't have blowing-up powers? Or that by exposing children to us, they might learn to blow up schools? And lifestyle? Really? What kind of lifestyle do I have? I go to BYU. I do homework. I hang out with my girlfriend. I hate that word. Lifestyle.
"Hey," Faith said, breaking the awkward silence. "We're cool, right? I mean, I'm just trying to be honest."
I nodded. I was too paralyzed by shock to do anything else. I should probably be angry now, but more than anything I just feel depressed. Faith isn't a bigot. She doesn't hate me. She wasn't trying to be mean or hurtful. Faith is an intelligent, kind person. She's my friend. She's a good person. The depressing thing is that I live in a world where it's the good people who say things like that.