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June 21, 2024

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Sam Milligan


When I die, I hope they don’t put it in an email. That’s how I found out Ray was dead. Not gone, or passed, or any of the other words they used. He was dead. There was a donation link at the bottom of the email and I wondered how red some poor prick in the development office’s face was going to be on Monday when someone pointed that out. Even worse, I wondered what kind of person might click on it. Might see an email from a public charter school announcing that one of its teachers was dead, split in two by some dickhead in a de-mufflered Mustang painted matte black going 74 in a 45 at nine at night, killing him on impact in an awful collision of metal and flesh and plastic trash cans out for morning collection, a sort of fucked up bowling strike, a sort of wet, bony meteor scattering cardboard and plastic under the flickering bug-dampened streetlights – again, not exactly how they phrased it in the email, but true nonetheless – and then go fish his credit card out of wherever it was.

To make things worse, I didn’t really have anyone to tell about Ray, since I’d been fired from that school three years earlier for forgetting a kid at the aquarium, again. If you ask me, it should have been administrators who got the shit for that, since why would you ask the guy who left a kid at the aquarium the year before to be in charge of the headcount again, but what do I know. That’s why I wasn’t a Vice Principal or Head Cornercutter or whatever other admin jobs would have been available.

Ray was probably the last guy at school I was on speaking terms with. If I heard one of my old coworkers died, I would have wanted to tell Ray. To see if I had the chance to break the news to him. We’d started the same year, him in 7th grade English, me in 6th grade Math, and got stuck in all the same professional development circuits. The type of thing where they’d teach you how to develop students’ emotional intelligence right alongside PEMDAS, conveniently pretending that you ever had the small class size that allowed for one-on-one conversations or the physical space that allowed for any modicum of privacy. I really fucking tried. My room was shaped vaguely like Oklahoma and so if I stood with the kid I was talking to in the panhandle, and me straddling the place where the panhandle met the rest of the thing, I could sort of listen to the one kid and talk out the side of my mouth to him, while the other half of my body watched for movement in the rest of the classroom. The way a crocodile hunts, I imagine, mouth open, waiting for something to happen.

Anyway, please, don’t put it in an email that I’m dead. Don’t do anything special – give me the Full Zevon. Just keep me in your heart for a while. Enjoy your sandwiches, all that. Text whoever gets my phone number next with whatever bullshit you would have told me. Pretend to point to me in heaven when you hit a three pointer playing pickup ball. Name a dog after me, if I’ve earned it. Don’t let me be the end of me.