in the fifth grade, we had to fill out a page in a daily assignment book by copying down the notes from the morning chalkboard. part of our class check-in was a spot examination from the teacher that a parent had signed off each page the night before; my mother didn't understand the point of this exercise, and my father often ignored it, and i couldn't adequately explain it. we'd forget some nights, and if someone was home in the morning they'd scrawl a name on their way to work, while i was still asleep. some days, i'd just be docked points for failing to complete the assignment.

once, i didn't want to bother my parents anymore, so i folded a page from an earlier day and slipped some scratch paper under it, running the letters over and over again until the hand felt embedded in my own. i rubbed graphite over the backside of a sheet with their signature and make an impression by firmly tracing over the ink, leaving a light mark on a blank sheet, which i would ink over, then erase the graphite.

'just sign it for me,' my mother started telling me, too tired from her new job to lift a pen. so i did, and sweated the first time i passed inspection at school.

one day, my teacher noticed these strange graphite scribbles on the back of an assignment, and frowned. 'what's this?' she asked accusingly; i shook my head with my mouth shut. i knew enough from previous disciplinary run-ins with her that when she had that tone of voice, everything i did was bad and nothing i could say would redeem myself, 'okay, be that way,' she growled; in that day's signature block, she left a note for my parents: SEE PREVIOUS DAY.

the intention was for my parents to see her note while signing my page, flip to the previous day, see evidence of my forgery, and they would have the conversation with me that she wanted to avoid. i took my book home, forged my parents' signature next to her note, and wrote 'OKAY' under it.

the way i sign my surname now still looks like my father's hand.

13 February 2018 21:27

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