Noble X - Episode 9: Mind Games

Noble X - Episode 9: Mind Games

By Mike Vinopal

As is typical for a Monday, the school building empties rather quickly once the bell rings. And on this Monday evening, John is the only one left, working away in the building's top corner, while only one quiet custodian does her rounds.

His energy snowballs as he completes a flurry of classroom upgrades. For every project John completes, he begins another nearly simultaneously, bouncing frantically around the room. Starting, stopping, distracting himself with a head full of overlapping conversations and ideas. One bit of one project causes him to think of another, leaving an equal number of unfinished projects in the wake of his creative tornado. 

Extremely comfortable in his solitude, he begins making selfie videos, quite literally talking to himself in his smartphone screen. 

He gives himself a tour of his classroom, talking to himself about how things had went today. He makes focused verbal notes-to-self, particularly about his perceived interactions throughout the day. He notes how the kids seemed to notice a difference in his energy level and his style of teaching. He continues to wax and wane philosophically regarding his own current mental wellness, keenly aware that cracks may be showing. 

“I feel like the other night, I experienced a waking dream or hallucination that effectively lowered the amount of filters I currently possess. Freud's Id, Ego and Super Ego comes to mind as a way to describe where I’m at mentally as a percentage. These are not scientifically rendered percentages but merely intended to be descriptive. First of all, forget my superego. It's gone. And at this point I have mostly shattered my ego or what it once was. I am currently existing at about sixty-seven percent Id.”

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John makes more videos, recounting his interaction with Principal Hall just hours ago in which she had made it pretty clear that he could be endangering his job by questioning certain things. This upsets him deeply. He wishes he could change parts of the bigger picture but he feels the weight of a massive system crushing his hopes to change anything. He captures the stormy waters of his mood swings on his phone camera, speaking to himself conversationally, losing himself at times. 

His thoughts wander and he continues to film. He records ideas to try with his kids for future literacy activities, demonstrating, spinning the globe with his eyes closed, dragging his finger across country after country like he had done many times as a child. "Wherever it stops, that’s where you’re going! Get on a laptop and research the place. Teach us all about it!"

John gets misty-eyed as he talks about wanting to help his students that are on the autism spectrum in another video. He wants so desperately to understand their perception of the world in order to understand the behaviors that challenge them across environments, school and otherwise. He wants to help them thrive. He thinks of their eyes filled with fear as anxiety takes hold of them. His head swirls with helplessness and guilt. “How can I help them,” he nearly whimpers.  

In the middle of making this video, John is snapped from his reverie by Maria, the custodian, gently knocking. She pokes her head in and asks if she can vacuum. John feels embarrassed for a split second, wondering how long she has been listening, but shakes it. He says sure and waves her in. Looking to his left, he notices the day’s fading light. It’s nearly seven o’clock, when the building gets locked up, so as the vacuum kicks on, he tidies some of the unfinished projects and heads out, listening to the vacuum drone soften and his footsteps echoing in the stairwell.

John realizes he is starving as he drives home. He has not been eating regular meals as of late. But as he walks into his apartment, the craving for food vanishes as he heads right for the spare room. Removing three extra clipboards he has borrowed from school from his bag, he sits, tossing them on the mattress beside him. John has also brought home some extra art supplies to use at the house show in a few days which he adds to the pile on the bed. He removes his special notebook from its hiding place, grabs a clipboard from the bottom of the pile and secures the notebook. Nothing else can be done until he records as much as he can remember from his interactions today.

As he’s doing so, his mind begins to wander as his phone vibrates with text messages and notifications he hasn’t checked all day. He resists the urge to check them, reviewing some of his notes. “Heightened mood...elevated energy level...increased volume and speed of speech...definitely noticed by the students and potentially by a handful of coworkers…high levels of productivity…increased distractibility and tangential thinking…began video logs.” Thorough. Clear. He feels he’s covered everything adequately so he tucks the pen into the clipboard and stuffs the log back into its hiding spot between the mattress and the wall. His phone buzzes again and he picks it up. Texts about the house show Thursday. So many things to finalize still.

He checks the time and it’s pushing eight o’clock. John certainly isn’t tired. He texts back a few of his closest friends to see if they want to come over and hang out. He’s curious to interact with more people to gauge what kind of response his behavior will elicit. He now believes the study to be about so much more than just sleep. 

While he waits for his friends to come over, John begins to work on his list of mind games for Thursday's party. 

Stay tuned for Episode 10.


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