The other night, I was home alone putting away some laundry and briefly thought I was going insane.

You see, I suddenly heard my high school English teacher talking to me in the other room. I ran out of the bedroom, but there was nobody there, just Law & Order on the TV, playing to a room empty save for the dog snoring softly under the dining room table.  Baffled by my VERY CLEAR impression that I had heard my high school English teacher talking to me, I broke out into a hot sweat, and got myself a cold bottle of water from the fridge, before heading back into the bedroom.

I remember voices very clearly. Voices, and smells. I used to be able to identify which of my mother’s friends were calling by barely the first huff of “hello” and I could always tell who’d been in her car by their perfumes. So I was freaked out by that voice. I turned the cushions of the couch over, sniffing them, wondering how delusional I really was.

Eventually satisfied that there was no one else in my house but me and my dog, I went back to the bedroom. I again began to put away clothes, but this time, stopped to take my temperature, just in case I was having febrile hallucinations. Nothing – my temperature was normal. I got the infrared ear-canal thermometer to double-check – again, normal.

I had been under a serious amount of stress for a few weeks (which is partly why I haven’t been writing much), so it wasn’t really that surprising that I was hearing things. I had been feeling incredibly guilty about how snappy the stress was making me, as well as all the things I wasn’t able to do because of the stress of my situation.

Adding to the stress, I’d taken up working with a running coach, because I needed to be able to train safely, but at times of acute stress, I was really only able to handle one “activity” at once. So I had been working with an ex-Olympian Kiwi two nights a week, and feeling guilty about not writing much or seeing my friends, so maybe the guilt about not writing was why I had conjured up Mrs. Kearney in my living room.

As I put away laundry, I thought about it more. Had living in a near-constant state of panic, and starting to put some real miles on my legs, as well as managing a never-ending apartment renovation and a transatlantic marriage caused my brain to simply short-circuit? Was I hearing Mrs. Kearney, specifically, because she had followed us from 7th grade PEACE to 8th grade Honours English to 9th grade Honours English to CPEG to AP Lit and she’d always encouraged me so much? In that case, why not Mrs. Lund?

To test my theory, I frantically dug through some old notebooks on my bookshelf and began going down memory lane. I had saved old graded essays and her notes on them.

note1 note2

Oh, god. There I was, in a puddle on the floor of my bedroom, weeping. Had I conjured this spirit of my teacher to give me the fortitude to get through this stressful time?

After my many hours-long detour into tearing apart my bedroom for the notations on my billion year-old essays from Mrs. K, I resolved to go back into the living room to sit down and WRITE. She was clearly sending me a message, and I needed to heed it, whatever it meant. I snapped the notebook shut, sat down on the sofa, and picked up the remote to turn off the TV.

As I looked up, there she was – Mrs. Kearney – on a Chantix smoking cessation-aid commercial.

I wasn’t crazy at all, it turned out. I was just a stressed out idiot who didn’t understand how TV worked.


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  1. Is it the ghost of Christmas past? No, it is I. Mrs. Kearney. Hey sweet thang…..I am still kicking, thanks to non smoking and leading a productive if crazy life. Someone forwarded your angsty blog to me and I love it. You are still amazing and beautiful and obviously talented. Thank you for showing me that in 30 years I made a difference. I am retiring this year to start a brand new life with the man whom I have loved for the past 35!! He is back in my life and I am moving to Savannah to marry him and live like Scarlett O’Hara (minus the curtain dress). Just wanted you to know that YOU (and others like you) made my long strange trip totally worth it. Loving you still. Mary Ellen Kearney

  2. Hey!!!! I never saw Ms. Kearney’s tv commercial but last spring, while taking a well earned break from studying for my board exams in Ohio, I flipped through a magazine and saw Ms. Kearney’s Chantix ad. I blinked and thought I was hallucinating until I looked at the fine print and, yup, it was her with the caption that said she was in Santa Clarita, CA. Haha, yay for small wonders! It’s fantastic to run into other students who also had her as an English teacher; alas, I only had her for AP Lit. Cool post, though.

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