I really liked that teacher. He started at my school when I started fourth grade. He would ask me when I didn’t turn up for school. When I got into fights with the sixth grade boys, that’s something you don’t have to do very often. He would ask me when I fell asleep during class.
That feeling, when you have to stay behind after all the others go for a break and some fresh air. It doesn’t take more than that to feel different. I already knew that I was very different, and usually thought that I didn’t care. But it hurt when the others in my class wondered about what was going on. I didn’t want to be that different.
He’d never yell at me or anything, he would start by saying: “You know it’s not ok to beat up anybody, I wish you wouldn’t do that.” And then he would use about three minutes convincing me that I should tell this boy that I was sorry. Which of course I never did.
I need to say that this boy, was kind of like the cutest one in school. And he was a bully, going after everyone smaller, weaker, with glasses… He had this fan gang gathering around him all the time.
At one time, it just happened. As everybody was in the hallway, he passed me, I put my foot out, and he fell. They were laughing, most of them thinking he got what was coming to him, some thinking of what on earth I was getting at. As he tried to get up, I kicked him real hard in the stomach.
I have no idea why I did it. I was a short girl at ten, he was two years older and quite big for his age. Maybe I was angry about something, or maybe I saw an opportunity to give him a few scratches when everybody would look. Maybe I needed to let everybody else know not to touch me?
The day after, he and two others were waiting for me as I walked home from school. My lessons in pain must have scared them. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, it hurt like hell, I asked them if they were done yet. I got a black eye.
My teacher wanted to see me the day after. He asked me what happened to my eye. I said “Nothing”. He would be daft not to get the picture, but he didn’t ask anymore. Instead he told me that he understood that something was going on.
“How are things at home?”
I couldn’t answer.
“How come you fall asleep in class?”
“Don’t you get to sleep at night?”
“Do you feel safe at home?”
Definitely no answer!
He talked about bad things sometimes happening in families, and that it must be hard not to have my mother around. He said that he was worried that I spent so much time away from school, but very happy that I did so well with all the subjects. He asked me what he could do to help.
He asked me if he should talk to him.
That must have been the closest I ever got to getting help. I walked out of the classroom, out of the school and once more to my favourite place by the sea. It rained slightly. I cried, I cried myself into a terrible headache, and then I fell asleep.
He tried again and again, that teacher. For years. It must have been the first time someone saw me, and it didn’t feel like a threat.