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Cory Blake: Geography • Klein Oak High School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Stepping to the beat of an unheard drum, my fingers trail the grout between the cinder blocks as second period nears. I know he's watching me; I feel the weight of his eyes on the sway of my bangs, so inquisitively wondering what I'm hearing, feeling, seeing. I avoid eye contact. I know it's rude to be aloof to someone so understanding, but I don't know how else to act toward someone who knows my mind so well. He deserves so much more recognition.

I'll admit, my first thought about AP World Geography was, Great, I'll color in some maps, define a couple of vocabulary words, and move on with my life. But I knew from the instant I stepped into Mr. Blake's classroom, he had other ideas. You see, the world through Mr. Blake's eyes is so much more than just longitudes and latitudes on a piece of paper. The way he talks about the earth – so passionately, so naturally, so observantly – you'd think he was once a part of it – a blade of grass trodden upon by pioneers of the Oregon Trail, a mountain summited by frontiersmen, a tree carved into a Viking oar.

Mr. Blake paints such a vivid picture of landforms, climates, and other geographic means, each utterance is pure wisdom – a stroke of color added to a continually expanding painting of the world through my mind's eye. While others stare blankly at the grayscale dots, dashes, and lines of demographics, our classroom explodes with enthusiasm as Mr. Blake bounces from desk to table to chair, creating as much energy as possible about population graphs. I no longer cringe at the mention of demography.

Then there's the Viking Kitties, an endless loop of poorly animated kittens singing Led Zeppelin's “Immigrant Song,” played before each test, quiz, and exam we are given. Mr. Blake swears that it will boost our scores by at least a letter grade as it lifts our spirits in the looming shadow of questions needing to be answered. I admire his quirkiness, his vibrant idiosyncrasy, his enigmatic qualities that are incomprehensible through the simple words of a fiddle-footed teenage girl.

At the start of the year, my mother met with all of my teachers to discuss my “educational limitations.” First off, there is my dysgraphia, which means it is hard for me to handwrite anything more than a couple of letters long. Modifications need to be made to my assignments, like being able to type essays and highlight pre-printed notes instead of writing them out. She also explained a condition I have called synesthesia, in which my mind fuses two or more senses together. In my case, I see an alphabet of colors, each letter having its own shade of the rainbow, whereas normal people simply see black print on a white page. I also perceive noise as color and shape. Each sound, voice, and song is a paradigm of hues, my own private light show.

As the other teachers took notes on ways to adjust for my dysgraphia, Mr. Blake listened with deep concentration, and once my mom stopped, he questioned and commented and inquired with the utmost fascination, wanting to fully understand the workings of my mind. He asked, “What type of music does she listen to?” My mom named a few of my favorite bands, including Coldplay, U2, and Imagine Dragons.

The meeting came to an end, and I smiled politely as each of my instructors said good-bye on their way out. Mr. Blake held back a bit, his laptop in one hand, a bag of pistachios in the other. He assured me that my dysgraphia would not be a problem in his class and asked that I speak up if anything set off my synesthesia. I thanked him.

The next morning when I walked into Mr. Blake's classroom, the charismatic beat of Imagine Dragons met my ears, followed by the thought-driven resonance of U2, and to top off the playlist, the scintillating rhythms that are Coldplay's signature. He remembered.

It was in that moment that I decided to embrace the colorful inner workings of my mind, no matter how weird others found it. I shared with anyone and everyone the color of their voice, its texture, and how it moved, flowed, and interacted with the environment through my eyes. Some found it fascinating, while it was simply ignored by others. All that really mattered to me was that one person cared, and he did, does, and will continue to. Mr. Blake has greatly shaped my identity and strengthened my self-esteem. I no longer feel like “the freak who sees sound” or “the weird chick with the colors.” Now I am just me – creative, intriguing, me.

Hail, Caesar, Mr. Blake! You found me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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