The sledge hammer of her words
is now a thudding rhythmic pain. He died. Pause. Pause. Pause. He died. Pause, pause, pause. He died.
He died. He died.
makes my eyes narrow and my head shake as the truth of it, unbidden, enters my mind. At work, my fingers lift from the computer's
keyboard as his smile--broad and real; teeth straight and white--comes to me. They scratch my forehead. Deaths of loved ones
make me do that. I cover my face with my hands and scratch my forehead.
I am bewildered. Bewildered at this next and surely most awful thing to
happen at that school. This? Really, this? Could we not, years ago, have avoided this? His being called
into the principal's office. "Already?" he must have said to himself as he again made his way into that savage arena.
"Already? Why, the school year has barely started.."
He would not have known that call for classroom coverage so that he, the
union steward, could be present for another "Conference for the Record" would be his last patient wait for another
adult to take his place in his classroom. He'd again listen to whatever trumped up charges the principal and his sycophants
had documented against another teacher who'd said:"That's a lie. I will not do/say/write that". He'd not known either
that words like these would be his last to his beloved students; "I'll be back soon. You be good boys and girls."
What made him stop at the door
and look back in? What tug of children's eyes on his back? There! His smile. His eyes. They speak:
"Dear boys and girls. Good boys and girls. Beloved boys and girls. I'll be back soon."
Mine is a state of disbelief.
I cannot take in--cannot fathom--that he is gone.
"It's like being at church!" a delighted boy once spontaneously
cried out as he and I presented a lesson together. His turn, then mine. A duet. A performance. And
a release for me; a fleeting feeling of freedom from the incessant bondage of uncertainty our principal's sick leadership
I did not
want to leave that protective space--his and his students' fourth grade class.
"Come to my school," I said two years ago. I'd called him from
the school at which I'd accepted a position after my report to the school district of our principal's bullying and violence.
"There's a counselor's slot opening. Get out. You've done all you can do there."
On the phone. A pause. "No. I am needed here."
I wish I were outraged. I
wish I were beating drums and honking horns and painting signs and picketing. I wish I were writing letters and organizing
people and standing on rooftops with a megaphone, screaming "THIS IS WRONG!"
I wish I were "marching on Miami" and standing at the podium
of my school board's meetings and saying, "Now whatcha gonna do, huh? What's it gonna take to cover this up?"
I wish I were pissed off, angry,
and vengeful. Wish I were filled with such a lust for revenge that it carried my voice up and out of my vengeful belly
and into the ears of others craving retaliation for all of the lies and coverups surrounding that awful place. Wish I'd take
those words to producers of TV shows and writers of newspaper editorials, for his death--right there in the principal's office!--must
be news worthy. There have been so many of us bullied educators for whom he stood tall; for whom he spoke when we simply could
not speak for ourselves; to whom he offered the only solace and refuge we were to find in that house of horrors.
But I am not angry. I
am not outraged. I am just sad.
and my protector has died.