The Shape of Life

by Jake McPherson


I remember my geometry teacher from high school. I don’t remember his name, but his outline is clear. Or is it the room that is clear?

Large windows like any school building let ample light in. There was an enormous slide rule on the wall above the blackboard. Yes, they were called blackboards then. The teachers wrote on them with chalk. Inventive teachers bought different colored ones adding depth to the flat surface. The erasers were large, and one side had a chamois-like cloth to it. I have no idea what it was made of. Perhaps it was real chamois.

My geometry teacher was good. He was thorough. He drew clean lines and dotted ones on the blackboard. They intersected at precise angles he made using an enormous compass. We’d be given some measurements, and then we had to use our algebra skills to solve for x. It was sometimes not even a number. It was simply a formula we had to discover.

We learned about points and lines and angles and shapes. Things fit together. Lines were simple. Circles were, too. Objects could be extrapolated into three dimensions. We could compute the area or the volume.

We could know things.

The universe was comprehensible.



That was antediluvian life. After the flood, it warped. Lines lost their edge, and cones turned upside-down and leaked like a sieve.

My geometry teacher had white wavy hair. His clothes were unremarkable. There was nothing particular about the way he carried himself. But he had a voice. It was sure and constant. He smiled. He honestly enjoyed what he was doing, I think. He must have had a sense of humor. I remember him chuckling. He was a presence.

All that is gone now, and some of it is best forgotten. The lines and shapes are shadows.

But where there are shadows, there must be light. I turn to face the brightness, and I squint. My eyes can’t adjust. They are too accustomed to the dark.

It’s like I’ve been in a cave for a very long time watching a shadow play beamed on the wall.