Kim stopped to let her dog sniff agapanthus. “The question is,” she intoned downward, “who learns more, the teacher or the taught?”
“That’s one question, anyway.”
“It’s the one that interests me right now.” She could tell Jen wasn’t into it. But that didn’t stop Kim from continuing. They weren’t talking about anything else just then, and their old friendship could bear soliloquy as well as silence. Kim went on. “I guess it depends on whether the learner wants to learn. I mean,” pulling at the dog’s leash to continue the clamber up the pedestrian path, “if I want to learn something, I’ll take it any way I can get it. But if I’m indifferent about the subject? less than keen? Then I think I learn best if I teach it…”
“So where are you going with this?”
Kim smiled fondly. She liked that slight edge in Jen’s tone; it meant she was paying a little attention. Just enough attention that Kim wasn’t talking to herself. She liked Jen, but not sexually. Usually, the fact that Jen was gay and alone and Kim was straight and alone didn’t produce any discomfort between them. But Jen had lately been putting on fat and showing her age and wanting reassurance, which conditions led her to look at Kim with a little longing. Kim in response put up a little guard. Which could also account for the slight edge in Jen’s tone.
Kim spoke. “I guess I’m wondering lately who gets more socialized by nursery games, the kids or the parents…
“Take Musical Chairs, for example. I used to think it was an innocuous little party game. But I wonder: does it have a message about mating? Does it tell us to grab a seat, now matter how it fits, or lose? And if so, does it teach the kids that, or does it really teach the teachers, who in turn convey the desperate mating message to the kids?”
Jen said, “I don’t follow.” She was behind Kim on the trail when she spoke, but Kim was too stuck in her own thoughts to notice, too intent to laugh.
They reached a patch on the path with no trees arching over them, and their eyes were so dazzled that they paused. The sun lit the red and gold streaks in their colored hair. It made the fallen oak leaves look like coins on the ground.
“Or what about scavenger hunts?” Kim asked as she continued walking. “Are they in imitation of the quest for the Grail? No… better yet:” she paused and turned and then climbed some more, “do they teach us to seek our goals by amassing random objects?”
“Good grief, woman. Compose yourself.”
Kim laughed with delight. She emerged from the path onto a sidewalk, and Jen followed her. They walked in silence and full sun for half a block. Then clouds blocked the rays and stole the shadows. Kim flipped her sunglasses to the top of her head. Jen stopped squinting as the light gentled.
The dog made them pause by squatting to urinate. Jen broke a small sprig of lavender off an adjacent bush. Kim tried to recollect her nursery game theory but her recent revelations unraveled like smoke in the afternoon air.