In the painfully short interval between the day we were told who we’d be teaching, and the first day of classes, my roommate and I were crossing the train tracks, heading home. Codes like YL3, T14, and Int4 had been hurled at us, codes that poorly concealed the fact that we’d be teaching English to little children, teens, and adults. The city swarmed in the heat as we climbed uphill, through neighborhoods that seem to exist universally beyond the train tracks, through Mohammedia. My chest felt tight, less from the pollution and the incline, more from the thought of standing in front of a classroom of people. Checklists, rubrics and Uncertainty crowded my mind as we meandered among the sights and smells I had imagined myself immersed in. Not work, which loomed over us at last with its penumbra of Adulthood. Confining, it tastes like a dirty word to me even now.
Conversation looped round and round, and we decided to turn down a new street thinking it would be more direct. In fact, we ran out of street altogether. Passing through the little gate at the end, we walked into what looked like a park at first, then an orphanage, and finally a school. I’m sure we were trespassing, but there’s a privilege you usually have as a white, American duo looking somewhat well-dressed and woefully out of place. Across the courtyard, we merged into a tide of students going home and with them we squeezed through the far gate onto a street near where we’d started. Students shouting, running, being awkward, being friends – I turned to my roommate and asked, “Do you know much about karma?”
We’d been in the country for less than two weeks and were still probing each other to see how parallel our personal rivers of Experience ran. Mine ran through the Bhagavad Gita, through yoga and diverse musical traditions; it veered sharply away from the self-assured, “practical,” and disenchanted departments at college; it went through a restaurant in Upstate New York where, during the summer, I’d cooked and worked alongside witches and yoginis who whispered blessings over their food before leaving it at tables. Isn’t it so much more fulfilling to live by the magic of coincidence? isn’t that such a better way to make meaning in life?
We walked on with our foreign gait, speaking our foreign words, snippets of which echoed behind us in the pitch of students’ voices, exaggerated and accented – we were leaving a school. Dressed like we would be in our school, standing out like we’d be in our school, uncertain in our newfound authority like we’d be in our school. “Doesn’t it seem like these kids have materialized out of our conversation?”
As I’ve learned, karma is a process of evolution, not retribution. There is no Invisible Hand that comes to smite you for wrongdoing or shower you with flowers for good deeds. There is no Him and me, this and that; there is only your intentions, actions and reactions, all working together to guide you into your reality. And now our reality was school, waiting for us even after a wrong turn onto a dead-end street.
“Smh karma I’ll never understand you,” Ken texted later on, making me laugh and forget the knot in my chest.