Monday, March 18, 2013

The Teacher



 Linda was quiet and shy and never spoke during class, so when she raised her hand and asked to use the restroom, I readily handed her the classroom bathroom pass. 
When she didn’t return, I warned the class to behave while I went to check on her.  All the stall doors were ajar except for one. I knocked and called her name.
There was no answer. 
I squatted down and saw her feet. I called her name again and asked if something was wrong.  That was when I saw the pool of blood.  At first I thought she had started her period.  She was a sixth grader and maybe she didn’t know what to do. 
“Linda?  Sweetie?” 
When she didn’t answer I thought maybe she’d fainted. I got down on my hands and knees and saw her arms hanging by her side and blood dripping from her wrists. I couldn’t leave her, so I stood and yanked on the door with all my strength.  When it didn’t give, I threw myself on the ground and crawled under the door. (Don’t ask how I did it.  It was forty years ago and I was a lot thinner and more limber.)
After that I remember everything in snatches.  I unlocked the door.  I grabbed both her wrists with my hands; my fingers clenched over the cuts she had made.  She was not conscious.  And I yelled for help.  I screamed and yelled for help.
I remember footsteps, a small yelp, and the footsteps ran away.  Soon I was surrounded by many others, none of whom I remember to this day.  Someone pried me away from Linda and walked me over to the one of the sinks.  A woman, I think, washed my hands. 
I remember sitting in the principal’s office, sipping on a cold Coca-Cola, answering questions, until everyone decided I was calm enough to drive myself home.
Linda never came back to our middle school.  Her family placed her in a facility. A counselor told me Linda’s father had committed suicide the summer before, a bullet to the head, and she had been the first to find him. 
I never understood why the administration waited until then to tell me this.  Why not before, so we could keep an eye on her, protect her, help her through her grief?
I think of her often. She was twelve; she must be in her fifties now.  At least, I hope so.  I remember her face, her shy smile, her blood seeping through my fingers as I willed her to stay alive.
I was supposed to be the teacher, yet she taught me something that day that I have never forgotten.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, Raquel. Certainly a life-forming situation. I also hope Linda is well today. Thank you for sharing .Renee

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  2. We see so many of our students suffer unbelievable tragedies. Thank goodness you were there to help Linda. My heart breaks for the ones we aren't there to help.

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  3. Thank God you had the instinct to check on her. Amazing.

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    1. Thanks. It was all instinct and I had no choice but to do what I could.

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