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.


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

  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.

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

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