Head shake

Shirley Lee
3 min readJan 22, 2018

Today I saw one of my colleagues sneeze. The sneeze was a typical one; not particularly loud, but just clear enough to get all the attention of the students in the classroom for a millisecond, before the little eyes went right back to the big story book they were reading. Following the sneeze was a mindless but rapid head shake. What’s so special about the shake was that it was almost cartoony; her eyes and nose pinched together, her shoulder raised; it was like the first, reflex shudder of an animal in a Disney movie unknowingly stepping out of from their warm, fairy-tale house into the cold, snowy winter. But just the head part.

I am surprised that you are still reading about someone’s sneeze. But while we are at it, let’s talk more about stupid head shakes. When I was a wee kid, my primary school made us sit in groups, probably for pompous reasons like “to foster collaborative learning” etc. A boy sitting next to me liked to shake his head when someone called him. And this shake was nothing reflexive; it looked more like a quick check on both shoulders for enemies nearby. After sitting opposite the boy for three weeks I picked it up for no particular reason, and shook my head when anyone called me. When he called me and I shook my head like that, we’d both smile and carried on as if nothing had happened. We never played together during recess.

One day, another student in the same group said we were friends. I said, no, I barely talked to him. “But you two always shake your head like an idiot!” the student exclaimed. I finally made the connection between him and…