Every other Friday, our history teacher takes us on field trips through history. We visit Pompeii, Mount Ararat, and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He guides us through the depths of the Pyramids of Giza, rides with us through Venetian canals, and shows us the paintings of Vermeer and the prints of Hokusai. He brings these places to life for us, illuminating them through seemingly trivial details, showing us how the shape of an arch reflects the philosophy of the time. He is in love with history, just as we are in love with him.
Our history teacher answers all of our questions, even the silly ones. He laughs when we make jokes. He leads our discussions of the textbook, which he also wrote, and asks us questions to stimulate our understanding of each subject. He grades our papers. He’s a harsh grader, but fair. Occasionally, his algorithm gets a bit off kilter, and he answers our questions in a strange way, or his face freezes in an odd expression, but it only lasts a second and when he comes back, we laugh about it together.
We wonder if he remembers us, although we know he won’t. We ask him about stories the older students tell us, and he smiles and gives us vague answers. He never tells stories from previous classes. He doesn’t understand our in-jokes. He can answer any question about history, so long as we remember to use the right syntax and don’t mush our words, but he can’t remember who asks him these questions.
We need to find out where he lives so we can copy him. There are rumors about a copy of the civics teacher that someone installed in an adult game. There are rumors about a house of pleasure that got shut down for using the likeness and personality of someone’s grandmother. There are rumors of dream pods using memories to reverse engineer a person. If we can’t copy him, perhaps we can make a better, wiser and handsomer history teacher, someone who is better, wiser and handsomer than the real Mr. Simon ever really was. The school is more and more careful every year about how they secure their teachers while still delivering the lesson. The lawyers find more and more ways to retard the pace of technology. It doesn’t matter. We will find him in time.
Today is Friday the 27th. We’re going to medieval Ireland, fifteen minutes before the arrival of Henry II at Waterford. We meet in a large green field overlooking the sea. A fleet of ships heads toward a small settlement in the distance. We look for our teacher and can’t find him. We begin to panic until we see him, standing far above us on the hill, smiling and waving to us.
We smile back.