Ben Banner's Enlightenment

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Pulling his crimson 95’ Honda Civic into his assigned parking spot, Ben knew today was going to suck. In fact, it was already off on the wrong foot. For starters he woke up forty minutes later than usual on a count of his power cut out mid-night in effect resetting his alarm clock. From there things only got worse: he had no coffee, and in addition to all of the above, his only tie had some kind of foreign yellow substance dried near the bottom. He had no choice though; he had to wear it, for when you teach at a school like West River Valley High, even as a student teacher, a tie is required.

He put the car into park and removed the keys from the ignition. Stepping out, he nearly slipped on the ice outside his door, and in effect dropped both his briefcase and his keys. Looking down at the briefcase, he thought about getting back in the car and going back to his one bedroom apartment. He hadn’t been able to sleep lately, and the thought of climbing back into bed was immensely appealing. He knew that wasn’t an option though, and he quickly picked up his briefcase and keys, hurrying inside to get out of the cold. He had always hated winter weather and presently, he couldn’t wait for February to come to a close.


Walking up to the main entrance, he passed his school issued ID over the electronic reader. Nothing happened. He took a deep breath and tried once again, this too was to no avail. He began to bang on the door. After a half minute or so someone did come, dressed in an expensive pinstripe, navy blue suit, and known around the campus as Dr. Fedorov, the head dean.

“Mr. Banner, …… where is your ID?” The man at the door asked.

“Hello Dr. Fedorov, I actually have that right here but the scanner couldn’t read it for some reason.”
Looking down he remembered the stain on his tie and quickly moved his hand in an attempt to cover it up.


“Well, I would advise you see Olivia in the office and get that worked out. Oh and by the way, I wasn't made aware that you would be absent from first period today. Did you make prior arrangement with the administration?"



"Actually something, uhh…..unexpected happened that I simply couldn't avoid. I can guarantee you though that this will never happen again."


"Well I would hope so Mr. Banner, for your sake. Now if you'll excuse me I have a meeting with the school board to tend to." And without waiting for Ben's reply the Dean turned and left the building.

Ben absolutely despised him, but knew that he could never under any circumstance confront the man. After the Deans quick exit, Ben turned left and headed down the long hallway that consisted of mainly science classrooms and storage closets. The hallways of West Valley High School were painfully bare, and windows were few and far in between. As a matter of fact the only variance from hallway to hallway was the amount of lighting provided by the fluorescent bulbs, which were to overpowering for Ben’s taste. The school was very exceptional academically of course, but Ben could never understand the lack of character the building exuded. Coming around one last bend Ben approached his destination, Room 326, better known as Bio-Lab.

“….And that’s all the notes I have for you today.” Mrs. Lincoln finished as Mr. Banner entered the room. She gave him a cold glare as he took his seat at the oak desk at the front of the room. The bell rang within less than a minute of his arrival, and after the very last student exited the room she finally confronted him.

“I don’t know where you got the idea that it is completely acceptable to arrive in the last five minutes of class Mr. Banner, but this is West River Valley. You’re merely a student teacher, and being so, I’d expect you to be much more concerned with your reputation. Your actions are under intense scrutiny, and, believe me, you are indeed held to a very high standard.” She finally took a break to catch her breath, and it looked as if she was going to continue until two students entered and took their seats. Soon a swarm of students joined them, rushing in within the last few seconds to avoid a tardy.

“Well Mr. Banner I hope that we’ve reached an understanding of what it is I and the school expect of you.” She gave him the same cold stare once more.

The bell rang, and it was now time for Mr. Banner to do what he had done every day for the last 6 months.

“Alright everyone, let’s calm down. Um, take out…..” His mind completely lapsed and he couldn’t remember what it was that the class had done the day before. Throughout the room the students looked to one another, bewildered by their teacher’s strange behavior. “What was it that you guys were finishing yesterday?” he asked. He felt completely embarrassed but at the time it appeared to be his only option. A student finally raised his hand and Ben called on him.

“We started the sound lab yesterday, but most of us didn’t finish it.”

“Right, right. Well go ahead,…..and uhh, finish those up.”

Immediately there was an explosion of motion throughout the room, and the students shuffled papers around in their folders before they moved across the room to their various lab stations. He sat Isolated at the desk and recalled his conversation with Mrs. Lincoln. He had dealt with her on a daily basis and dreaded having to share a classroom with her. He was relieved though to find that she was apart of the committee that Dr. Fedorov led, and would be gone for most of the day. He felt horrible, and was hardly able to stay awake despite the fact that the students work working with various instruments that produced a high pitched whistle. Lately it seemed as though the days were dragging out, and he had lost interest in teaching. As a matter of fact, teaching isn’t the only thing he’d lost interest in. In almost every daily routine he took part in he had been lacking his usual swagger. He knew something was wrong, he was just avoiding it. Suddenly a though ran through his mind,



"What am I doing here?"

*


Eight years ago Mr. Banner, or Ben, graduated from Hartmen College Preparatory. Not only did he earn a diploma, but he graduated at the top of his class, Valedictorian. Not at all an easy task when you attend the most highly regarded prep school in New Jersey. This, however, was expected of him, for his father had done the same before him and his brother afterward. He was offered scholarships from every Ivy League School, (with the exception of Yale who had been offended by his father’s decision to transfer to Harvard in 1976.) Consequently, the choice of which university to attend was not his either, it was made years ago when his father graduated from Harvard Law School. As a matter of fact, his father is the most highly regarded professor currently on staff at the school. So in the fall of 2000 Ben packed his bags and took a one way flight to Boston. Seven Years and two degrees later he found himself in Seattle and discovered an opening at West River Valley High, which actually rivals Hartmen Prep in its prestige.



It was a dream come true, or at least it appeared that way. He had finally reached the pinnacle of his journey, ready to move on to the next chapter of his life. He found an affordable yet classy mid-town apartment, one that he outfitted in what would be considered by most as a yuppie interior. He quickly integrated into the Seattle daily life, quite efficiently blending his culture with theirs. He met people from various backgrounds and was pleasantly surprised to find that they accepted him quite easily. The only thing that gave him trouble was that he still found himself unfulfilled, when it came down to it, he was just plain miserable.

*



The truth had been emerging slowly over the past few months; he just didn't want to acknowledge it. His apartment was once in pristine condition, and Mere months ago he wouldn't have been caught dead wearing a filthy tie to work. More importantly he never, under any circumstances, would have arrived to work almost an hour late. It didn't happen all at once though, it began back mid-September, when he accepted his post at West River Valley High. Since then his state had gradually degraded to the point he found himself at now. During the first semester of teaching at WRVH, he realized that it just wasn't everything he thought it would be. It wasn't that the students weren't motivated or that the school was in anyway sub par, it's just that the teaching profession wasn't what he expected it to be. All through college he worked diligently to get to the point were he is now, only to recognize that what he had worked for was not what he wanted.


This wasn't his dream career, it was what he thought would finally gain his fathers approval, but it hadn't. His father was a clinical over-achiever, which was subsequently passed on to most of his children. He quickly realized that the more he achieved the more attention he gained. The more attention he gained, the more he wanted to revel in it. All in all he found what he thought would bring about happiness, and throughout Ben's life his father took the steps necessary to obtain fame. This primarily consisted of working extremely long hours and alienating his family. No matter what Ben did, his father never seemed to take notice. Even when he was selected by the President himself to attend a White House dinner, Ben was barely acknowledged by his father, as if it were an ordinary event which merited the slightest amount of attention. And as anyone could imagine it had a profound impact of Benjamin. This need to please his father had directly influenced almost every decision Ben had made thus far in his life, Decisions that should have been influenced by personality trait or personal values. Ben had not been living with his own future in mind; he was only seeking his father’s ever important approval. At 27 years of age, he was finally enlightened.



As many people know, one thought can easily lead directly into another. That was the case presently as a second thought now rose to the surface, fully prepared to strike his psyche. "Where can I possibly go from here?" All the years of failed attempts to please his father had prevented him from learning everything that there is to know about himself. He had no idea what he truly wanted to do with his life, both professionally and for enjoyment. His hobbies were his father’s hobbies. His opinions, on topics ranging from the war on terror to favorite sports team, were his fathers opinions. He never had to put much thought into it, for he had always sided
with his dad. To put it simply, every aspect of his life was dictated by his need to please. He had no idea what it was that he truly wanted.

*


By now the period was over, the bell had just finished ringing and the students had quickly flooded out the door. He finally rose from the old oak desk and left the room. The hallways were filled with the normal chaos that accompanies a high school campus, yet Ben barely noticed it. He was so confused, his mind a hurricane of thought. Every so often a distracted student would bump into Ben and continue on without the slightest apology. Ben could have cared less though, for at the moment he was in his own world. The passing period was drawing to a close, and most of the students were in the third period class. Ben did notice this, but he didn't care, he had no intention of returning to room 326. He was coming to the main entrance of the school when an announcement came over the loudspeaker,



"Good Morning West River Valley High we have some news to pass on to you all this morning. This morning a pair of students, Clay Whitcomb and Adrienne Emerson, Were involved in a fatal crash on their way to school. More Details involving funeral arrangements will soon be provided. In the meantime counselors will be provided for those who find they need them. Thank You."


He could now see a few students making their way to the Guidance Office to speak with their counselors, but the announcement brought about one final thought, a rather dark and bleak one at that.



"Is death really the worst option when presented with the alternative of living with no purpose?"


Deep in thought he pushed open the door, and made his way into the cold. No matter what he decided, he knew that the school was the last place he wanted to be.





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