“What the fuck–?!” She shoots a dirty look across the room, in the same space I have been standing watching with my own eyes as I monitor their ability to read sentences, their ability to respond to questions. “What did you throw?”
I have seen nothing. Not a speck, not a spitball, not an airplane.
“Can you tell me what—?” I begin, and am harshly interrupted by her friend whose phone I took away yesterday, who argued with me and cussed at me and told me that I should give her my phone if I was going to take hers, who said I don’t pay her bills and have no right to her property–“So you’re gonna ask her about what happened when he’s the one who did it?”
“I’m trying to figure out what happened. F, can you tell me?”
But before she can answer, all I hear is, slightly under her breath but loud enough so she knows I hear it, “Yeah, that’s right, she’s a racist.”
I call the boy outside, a boy who has sat in my class for two years and has never allowed a cruel word to cross his lips, and ask him about throwing the paper, which he adamantly denies, but I can hardly hear his response as I am already swimming in a pool of tears that sits just behind my eyelids, ready to fall loosely down into the hole that is this day.
Because I either say the wrong thing or make the wrong choice or don’t say anything at all, and none of it is ever right. Because I spend my life trying to be fair to all of my students, to all of the people in my life, even when they are not fair to me.
Because sometimes it feels like nothing I do will ever bring positivity, love, friendship, or trust into my life.
Because I was already crying before this class even began. After two months of planning, paperwork, training, money, and time, before we’ve even had a single meeting, my Girl Scout co-leader has just informed me that her daughters don’t want to do Girl Scouts and therefore, neither does she.
Because I promised my daughters that we could do this after a four-year break.
Because I’m terrible at making friends, and I feel like it is multi-generational, as my girls have struggled in recent weeks to click with her daughters despite the last three years of friendship. And I wanted to bridge that gap between the girls and their old friends and the mother who has warmed up to me, and build a foundation for something that could last for years.
Because I don’t have the right words, when I’m standing there watching a kid cuss in my class or at happy hour telling people what I really think, to do anything more than make people hate me.
“R, you don’t have your tablet today, do you need the paper copy of the book?” I try, several minutes later, a pathetic attempt at peace.
“Don’t even try to talk to me, Miss.”
Don’t even try.
Because, why should I? I got married when I was twenty years old and made my husband the center of my entire life. And whenever I try to reach outside of that safe bubble I built up for myself, I am misjudged, blamed, ostracized.
Because, the truth is, he is my one and only friend. And when I get a text at lunch as I’m walking around the gray-eyed dressed-up-for-autumn park, I have no one to share my sad news with once I arrive back to my school.
I have no one to call to talk through it.
No one but him.
And I spend so many moments of my days worrying that my daughters will face the same fate, the same insecurities as they enter adulthood. Which is exactly why I wanted to start the Girl Scout troop in the first place–to help them make and continue their friendships. “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold…” The tune of the song will forever be emblazoned on my soul.
Yet, no matter how hard I have tried, people have left my life for one “circumstantial” reason after another. And once they leave, they leave an abscess that I pathetically try to fill with a new set of… friends. Colleagues? Girls’ friends’ parents? Bueller? Bueller?
This is me, standing in front of my class, trying to hold together another day of teaching, another day of being a mother, a wife, another day of trying, and failing, to be a friend. And I may as well be the monotonous voice that no one listens to, searching in the dark for something that was never there in the first place.
Because I have heard nothing. Not a speck, not a word, not an offer. And I want to be like that brazen 14-year-old and shout out, “What the fuck?”
Only. I want an answer. Not a scapegoat.