Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spoon River Middle School: 20

Tisha Blacque

     Found in folder

Do you know what the first words you said to me this year were?  I bet you don’t’ remember.  So I’ll tell you: Well, you certainly look different this year, Tisha.  Then you sort of smiled and shook your head a little and walked off down the hall to teach your class.
Now what was I supposed to do then?  I mean, you directed me in the school play last spring … you said I did a really good job … and on the last day of school, you even came looking for me.  Remember?  You found me out by the buses that were all lined up out front.  The kids were filing on board.  Teachers were out there, just about all of them, waving good-bye to all the kids.  Lots of kids were crying, especially the 8th graders, who were going on to the high school and would not be back in this building again. 
That sort of made me laugh, all that crying.  For three years those kids have been saying how school sucks, how they hate this place, how they can’t wait to get out of here, how they treat us like babies, how no one trusts us, and on and on.  And then when the last day comes—the day that they’re released from this suckery—what do they do?  They cry!  They write stupid notes to their teachers about how they are grateful, about how they’re going to miss this place.  Some kids even give presents—not just to other kids, but to teachers, too. All kinds of hugging in the halls. More tears. Pretty strange stuff, if you ask me.
Anyway, last spring, the last day, you came and found me.  You walked all the way down the line of buses, looking for mine.  And when you saw me sitting by the window (I was one of the first kids to get on), you tossed a pebble at the window to get my attention.
Well, it got my attention, it almost scared the hell out of me, if you want to know.  And then you motioned for me to lower the window (which we’re not supposed to do, you know, without the driver’s permission, but she wasn’t paying any attention, so I did it, it was hot anyway and most of the other windows were open so I don’t think she ever even noticed in the first place).  So anyway, I lowered it.  And here’s what you said that day, that last day of my seventh grade year when I was getting ready to ride home on the bus: Tisha, I just wanted to tell you one more time how great you were in the play.  Really great.
I felt myself blushing.  You may not believe this, but I’m not really used to teachers saying nice things to me.  I don’t like most teachers, you know, even though I pretend I do—like most kids.  I mean, I don’t suck up to them, like lots of kids do.  I’m not the kind that shows up after school and offers to help clean up the room or something.  You know that.  You can tell.
So anyway, I was blushing, and feeling really stupid and really hoping that no one was noticing.  I guess I sort of mumbled a thank you or something.  And then you said something else: Have a great summer, Tisha—I’ll be thinking about you.  And then you smiled and turned and walked away.
I’ll be thinking about you.
What did that mean?  I thought about that all summer, off and on.  All summer.  I couldn’t really figure out what you were getting at.  And then along in July, late in July, I got that postcard from you.  From New York City.  You had gone to see some plays on Broadway, and you sent me that card that showed Times Square.  Do you remember?  Of course you do … Well, maybe you do.  Maybe you sent a million other cards, I don’t know.  Well, I know you sent some, because at the roller rink some of the other girls said they got a card, too.  I was kind of embarrassed by that, you know?  I thought I was the only one.  So when I found a chance to say I’d gotten one, well, a couple of other girls said they did, too, and that sort of hurt a little. Later, I wondered: Did you send any to guys?
I know … it shouldn’t hurt me.  Because you can write to anybody you want to.  It’s a free country and all that.  You’re a teacher.  I’m a kid.  But still … I thought I was the only one … but I wasn’t.  Doesn’t matter, really.
I guess I should tell you at the rink I met a bunch of kids who don’t go to our school.  (I won’t tell you where they go, because you don’t know them, so what’s the point?)  Anyway, these kids were nice to me, not like a lot of kids at this stupid school, and so we started meeting there a few nights every week, these kids and me.  My parents wondered at first, like what am I doing, going to the rink so often, because I never used to go more than once a week, if that, so anyway, I just went, you know, “I’m starting to like skating.”  And they were okay with that because they don’t really care if I’m around that much or not.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking, that my parents are bad or something, but they’re not.  They love me.  I can tell it.  But, you know, once kids get older and start hanging out with their friends, they don’t want to be around their parents as much, either.  It’s kind of an agreement, you know?
Anyway, these kids at the rink, they don’t dress or act like most of the kids around here.  And I thought it was funny because I was a little scared of these other kids at first, because they looked . . . well, they looked like I do now.  And so I was afraid.
But after a while, after they were so nice to me, I quit being afraid and I started realizing that if you’re nice it doesn’t matter what else you are.
So I started wearing lots of black, too, and at the mall I got my ears pierced.  (My navel, too, though my mom hasn’t seen that and I don’t want her to because if she does she’ll make me take it out.)  And I wear the purple lipstick and the dark make-up.  It’s fun, really, like being in a play every day, dressing up.  It doesn’t mean anything, really.  Not to me.
I won’t lie to you, though.  I don’t wear this stuff much around home.  My mom sort of likes it but my dad would go crazy if he saw me and would say I was a daughter of Satan or something when all I’m doing is just dressing up, pretending, playing a part.  Just like everyone else really.  So I bring clothes and make-up to school in a bag and change before classes start.  It doesn’t take all that long.
Lots of kids treated me strange today, looked at me like I was crazy or something.  It was fun.  No one really said anything too mean.  Not any meaner than usual around here.
You were really the meanest, you know?  I mean, of all people I thought would get it and would not go all weird about it, I thought it would be you.  The teacher who directs the plays.  Who sees kids dress up all the time.  Teaches them how to use make-up.  Teaches them how to play parts.
So why does this part bother you so much?  And why did you laugh at me, today, in the hall?  I don’t understand.

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