← Issue 10
by Nathan Mann
Sister Carlos was not beautiful to my classmates. Her glass eye always wandered. Her breath smelled like bread. But I wrote poems about her in my heart while she taught us geometry proofs in chalk. Sister Carlos. Her white skin. Her little frown. At the end of each period, when we had time for our practice problems, I studied her instead. The way her black hair cupped her ears. The way she plucked at her typewriter, sending love letters to God.
Sister Carlos put the same blank paper in her ribbonless typewriter each day. There was no ink. She typed what she wanted and her words went directly to God.
At the end of the year, Sister Carlos informed us she was transferring to Haiti. I hid my face behind my textbook. The other nuns had gone and come back on dozens of mission trips, but they were not my Sister Carlos. I gave up on my proofs, hoping the lackluster math would attract her. I wanted to be the problem child that made her stay.
Twice an afternoon I asked Sister Carlos to come to my desk. She guided my hand with a new patience that I believed was a sign. She was already missing me. The other students grew annoyed with my questions, hating how I drew her near. Not understanding our connection, they offered to tutor me, and when I refused, they demanded I leave her alone. Truthfully, I considered my age, and her unfortunate vows of devotion, and tried to come to my senses.
Then one day, as she typed maniacally, her glass eye slid up and stopped my heart. I had to say something.
When she left the room for afternoon prayer, I stole her paper. Click clack I typed, but the page stayed dull, blank, so I opened my pen and rubbed ink over the ridges until my words appeared.
I love you.
She couldn’t be mine, but I hoped she’d see my confession and believe it came divinely from God. I wanted her heart to feel full.
After prayer, she returned and I hid my stained hands in my pockets. Soundlessly, she flipped the ink-smeared sheet to the empty backside and began to peck at the keys. She never whispered an amen. She never glanced up reverently towards the drop-tile ceiling. Her thoughts were her own and the typing she did went directly to God.
Nathan Mann is an English teacher in New Hampshire and a student in the low-residency MFA program at the University of New Orleans. His writing is inspired by the strangeness of small-town life in New England. His work has been published in Outlook Springs, Change Seven, and SHIFT.