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I'm normally more normal than this

I walk through the door, slipping on their front step and forget to speak to the humans first. Why is it that dogs are so magnetic? Why do I forget that people expect communication when I enter their home?

Further in and I swing my bag away from the tantalising hall table, kneeing myself with it and sheering off like I've been at the whisky. Luckily, they don't see this; only the dog sees it, and we are already friends.

Later, what seems like much later, (it's been 5 minutes), I am seated at a table with a young human who needs expert help with their educational problems. What they get instead is an expert eccentric who wants to help them enjoy learning. With time, we meet somewhere in the middle.

Poetry looms - I always start with poetry, it breaks down barriers as well as the spirit of recalcitrant teenagers. Then we argue over how many words are too many and I am accused by more confident students of being harsh, I am not harsh, blame Dickens.

I smile at their parents, gratefully accept cups of tea and coffee, react excitedly to cake and biscuits. I try to only talk about the weather and fail almost every single week. I try to explain what we have done in the lesson without it sounding like we had a great time - most parents don't pay so their child can have a great time, they're here to learn.

At some stage, I will produce a picture of my dog.

Leaving, I veer away from the hall table and instead bounce off an unexpected wall. Gathering my bag, myself and their dog trot the rest of the way to the front door and I stumble out into the night, alive and overfull of relief at escaping. One last, longing glance from the dog and I am forgotten - I hope.

If I like them, if they like me, if I forget, or have too much coffee or too little sleep; I will become recognisably myself and their eyes will widen at the sight of this well-intentioned stranger they think might be me. Then, diverted by practised pretended normality, they relax back into the world we know and think themselves mistaken.

Feeling like a witch at the gates, I hide what is in my bag, tuck my hair into my hat and carry on as before, hoping my green stockings and warts do not give me away. Next time I will plan ahead and wear the other hat, and yellow stockings, and then no one will know.

I am normally more normal than this. Or at least, they become used to the less-normal me they meet each week. We might reach a stage where their eyes don't widen and they move the hall table behave I arrive. And there will be cake waiting.

Every day I do this, I wonder where I am, holding on for the solid, tangible moments when my light shines through.


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