The washed out faces greet each other across the hallway. There is a faint, knowing smile, a momentary glance at the ceiling and then a farewell - for the next sixty or so hours.
He unlocks his classroom door, enters, sighs and picks up his bag. As he leaves for the last time, he casts his eyes around the room to make sure that all the computers are switched off. He pushes the light switches up and exits the war-zone, now achingly quiet. The sound of a lock turning can be heard all the way down the hall.
He walks wearily down the staircase. On his way out of the entrance hall, he looks to see if any of the secretaries are still in. Seeing that the office is empty, he opens the front door, feels the cold air brushing against his cheeks and tries to remember where he parked the car, all those hours away. He closes the door
School is finished for the week.
The drive back home is relatively trouble free. At least the rush hour hasn’t kicked in yet. When he opens the front door of his house, he hears the usual sound of his kids screaming, the TV blaring and his wife walking around the kitchen, making the Friday night meal. He walks in. She immediately tells him the little one needs to go to the toilet, the eldest hasn’t done her homework, the second one was rude on the way back home and is in her room as punishment and the other one is square-eyed watching TV.
The oasis of peace that he has been so looking forward to, at the end of another challenging week, is nowhere to be seen. He wishes it were already evening and the kids were asleep; that he could sit down and take a breather – but right now, there’s no time. Shabbat is drawing in the house is in the usual turmoil. The oasis he hoped for has disappeared into the ever-expanding desert.
He has no time for the children. He is bullish and impatient towards the wife and the kids. She responds aggressively and he knows that, far from finding his oasis, he’s walked into the burning heat of the midday sun. She’s tired and although she really can’t understand how stressful his week has been – she too needs her own Shangri-La.
The Sabbath barges in and the kids get noisier and more hyperactive. Supper-time turns into the usual rat-a-tat affair and although she puts the kids to bed for him (after the usual dramas), his oasis seems to have evaporated.
He knows that he needs some time to himself. He’s realised that unless he has a chance to enjoy the Oasis of Peace that is Shabbat, he will enter the new week in the same manner he exited the last. His dilemma is how to find the time to spend a minute in the sun. When he does take a moment (or two hundred) to recharge his batteries, the wife resents him for daring to taking the time out, leaving her to look after the kids. In trying to address his own inner disquiet, he has succeeded in creating a new storm. Her resentment becomes the weekend equivalent of the aggression he has to deal with from the kids in his class.
He knows that, until he returns to school on Monday, his home life will consist of hostility and resentment. He resigns himself to this and gives up any chance of locating the long lost oasis.
On Monday morning, he will back in the war-zone that is his classroom and the dream of that sweet, unreachable oasis will just have to remain there in his memory.
Who knows, maybe next week, he’ll get a little closer to drinking from its waters.