Updated: Dec 13, 2020
It was a Friday afternoon, last class of the day, last full week of school. There was a substitute. She was new and would probably never come back to the court school, but she was really trying to be nice and trying to help everyone understand the work. It was math class, and she was actually a decent teacher. I could tell, since I understood the stuff already.
The problem was the class roster. There were only two or three of the minority gang in that class; the rest were the majority gang. On that day, only one of the minority kids showed up for school. When he saw that classroom, he should have left. He should have made some excuse to go up to the office and hang out there for the period. But he didn’t. I’d helped him with the math a couple times. He really wanted to learn. So he came into class and sat in his assigned seat near the teacher’s desk, quiet and ready to go to work.
It started while the sub was standing at the board pointing to examples of the day’s lesson, explaining what we were supposed to do. She probably didn’t hear the first slurs thrown at the kid. She may even have missed the spit wads that started flying at him. But she saw the pencil. She didn’t see who threw it, and I don’t think she realized yet that there had been a target, but she chewed out the entire class because throwing pencils is dangerous.
That got it started. They started making fun of her for calling a pencil dangerous, started telling her things they’d done that were really dangerous, things that really could cause damage. And while she was distracted by those people, others started throwing more things at the kid—papers, pencils, pens, small books, then the text book.
She saw the text book fly and tried to stop it, but people started throwing little stuff at her and making fun of her because she started to cry. Then they were out of their seats, squirting glue at the kid and at the teacher.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t blending into the furniture. I was being watched. I was going to be on a side, one way or the other.
I picked up my glue and squirted it on the kid and shot some that fell short of the sub. All I saw was her shoes; I couldn’t bring myself to face her. But I looked at the kid. He wasn’t crying. He was stoic. He gazed into my eyes with a look that said he was betrayed, but understood the betrayal. That’s the look that wakes me up at night.
I spent the weekend waiting for the police to come to the door and take me back to juvenile hall, anticipating the way my parents would look at me, knowing I’d be stuck at court school again the next year, that I’d probably graduate from there, which would pretty well wipe out any chance I had at a good college.
The police never came.
Monday I went to school expecting the principal to lecture us. That didn’t come, either. By the end of the day, when the math teacher didn’t say anything about a note from the sub, we realized she probably had been too embarrassed to say anything.
So you wonder why it was such a big deal?
The kid wasn’t in school that day. Or the next. Then we heard how he’d had a big argument with his father and then disappeared. Wherever he went, it was far away. I hope it’s somewhere he can go to school and learn, without having glue shot at him.
That was bad enough to have me worried about him, but the nightmares didn’t start until I overheard ladies in the office the last day of school, my last day there. They were talking about the young substitute, how sad it was she’d killed herself. I had to know. I looked up the obituaries online as soon as I got home. Of course they didn’t say it was suicide, but she was “called home” the night she subbed for us.
She would have made a good teacher.
I’m sorry, forever.
So that’s why I’m sitting on the edge of this cliff by myself, hoping a mountain lion will come take me. But they might find this note. So I need to go back to camp and burn it.
Camping this week’s been nice, almost normal. My new boarding school’s in the mountains, a few hours away from where we used to live. If I find a way to have a fatal accident there, maybe my family will remember this week with me, instead of the rest.
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