02.20.17 // 11:20PM
There’s a tall cabinet with one wonky door in the far corner of my junior year English teacher’s classroom, a straight shot from the entrance, right behind the almost-life-sized cardboard cutout of Taylor Lautner. Currently, it houses Chex Mix, Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, and a 56-pack of Rice Krispie treats along with teaching curriculum and several Toni Morrison novels.
I became Ms. Wei’s teacher aide when my senior-year schedule left me with a study hall gap rather than a free seventh period like I originally intended. Third period is a prep time for her rather than teaching time, so the classroom is typically peaceful. I sometimes grade tests or make copies, but a lot of the time I simply find random ways to keep myself busy for those 51 minutes. I’ll scramble to finish biotech homework, worm my way through a couple Ralph Ellison essays, or sit around talking to the juniors that sometimes stop by to get essay help or just hang out.
One day, I cleaned the closet.
There are lots of boxes of tea in the room along with mugs, spoons, and a few napkins (there used to be disposable cups, too, but they were used up pretty quickly). On a Monday morning, the chaotic nature of the tea containers started bothering me, so I re-distributed and re-ordered everything. This evolved into the week-long venture of organizing that cabinet with the one wonky door (sorry, Ms. Wei, but it really was kind of a disaster). Over a few days, I emptied and refilled the shelves with all the papers, binders, and cards, candy, birthday hats, and banners, books and posters, forks and knives, plates and tupperware and cough drops and instant creamy corn soup packets. I found old drawings and adorable sticky notes and an opaque container labeled as the “Naughty Box” (it just had a bunch of old chocolate in it). I can’t deny that many of these discoveries were snapchatted to friends. Cleaning the cabinet was quite a delight, and in the end, even though the left-side door never fully latches shut, I was satisfied with its newly-organized state. There was now a shelf for mugs, a space for blank paper, a small container for plastic cutlery; it was easy to find each object’s residence.
Recently, Ms. Wei has started stocking the cabinet with food: bags upon bags of chips, pretzels, cookies, and more. Our grade has some particularly hungry individuals, regular snackers that trickle in and out of this classroom to say hello and snag junk food before, during, and after school hours. Rice Krispie treats have proven to be the popular choice. Marley and I occasionally grab a couple, resolving that it’s important to “treat yo-self.” Tomislav and Isaiah can easily go through several in one sitting. Oscar usually swaggers in during third period– when he’s on a bathroom break from econ– and tells me about class while munching on one of the sticky cereal treats, always tossing the blue foil wrapper into the garbage can near the door when he shuffles away.
Naturally, this all amounts to the Rice Krispie treats running out faster than a personal-sized bag of popcorn does during a movie. Even if the cabinet is stuffed to the brim with food, between Ms. Wei and us hungry seniors, it typically takes no longer than a week to clean it all out.
I was there one evening when a delivery man came with a fresh pack of snacks. Ms. Wei usually stays at school for long hours finishing work, and Isha, Karan, Kelvin, and I were hanging back in her classroom one day after a yearbook deadline night when he walked in. It was almost nine at night when he wheeled a stack of boxes to the door, plucked the first box from the stack, and presented it to Ms. Wei with a mildly amused “this is for you?.” A delighted giggle slipped out from Ms. Wei as she received the carton and peeled the tape away, gleefully revealing a 56-pack of Rice Krispie treats. “Thank you very, very much.”
The next morning there was a bark of rapture from Tomislav when he discovered there were finally more Rice Krispie treats. Oscar, who had come by during third period twice over the week but hadn’t found the desired food, roved in, opened the cabinet, stopped suddenly, and turned around holding a Rice Krispie treat almost at eye level next to him, looking decidedly satisfied.
I find lots of happiness in organized shelves, sugary indulgences, and seeing others find out that food exists so nearby. That cabinet is brimming with simple joys– I worry that the wonky door might fall off at this rate, what with all the amusement filling the space and snacks threatening to leap away.