ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Issue Four - Winter, 2014

Issue One, Published January 2013

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26 ● ARDOR Nonfiction ● Gillette Featured Prose Universal Champion Courtney Gillette One month after becoming a third grade teacher, I decided I needed a tattoo. It wasn't a want, it was a need. Khaki pants and smart cardigans had infiltrated my closet of black jeans and threadbare t-shirts. I suddenly wore loafers. I was twenty two, and everyone called me Ms. Gillette. I'd become a teacher because I was a writer, and everyone said writers made good teachers. Or teachers had time to be writers. Or writers don't make a lick of money so you better learn how to teach. I needed to show them I was different. I needed a tattoo. I'd written a short story in which a camp counselor (like a teacher but younger) meets a young teacher (like a teacher but cooler) who's accompanying a gaggle of urban kids to the Poconos. This young teacher is sarcastic, beautiful, can be found reading Michelle Tea's Valencia at a picnic table while the kids are asleep, and has a typewriter tattoo. The young teacher was me, except for the tattoo. As soon as I typed the words, I thought, I could do that. A typewriter tattoo. No one could tell me that a typewriter tattoo didn't make me a writer, and it didn't absolve me from becoming a teacher. But I had to break away from Ms. Gillette. I had to have something, even if it was hidden under my Gap button down blouses, that distinguished me from these veteran teachers, flipping through Avon catalogues on their lunch breaks and talking about their grandchildren. It was startling to suddenly be part of a profession, and I often felt a weird sense of panic. The young teachers, they were married, they were straight, they were hellbent on being the best teachers ever. They wanted to be principals. They wanted to be policy makers. They wanted tenure. I wanted to write lesbian memoirs and sleep in. I wanted someone, anyone, to call me Courtney. I didn't want to be Ms. Gillette. A friend told me to go to Fly Rite on Metropolitan and to bring cash, estimating my tattoo would set me back $150, plus tip. It was a hole in the wall place I'd wandered by many times, but that day I just walked in, a Saturday afternoon in October. I'd printed a photograph of an Underwood Universal Champion of 1935: a narrow, sleek typewriter that was gorgeously black. The white of the letters on the keys popped crisply. I walked up to the counter, ignoring

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