The Sun of Their Lives
The bell rang. I was sitting at my desk. A rarity. I made them stay an extra ten minutes to finish their exams. One by one, they each began to submit their papers. The room was empty, save for her and a red-head boy named T.
He was so fixed on finishing that he didn’t notice what was happening. Her face scrunched up, as if she wanted it to sink all the way in, leaving nothing but her brown skin— no features, no expression, no mouth to tell what happened, no eyes to cry out.
But I could still see her face: hardened by the world.
“What’s wrong, baby girl?”
She took out her phone, put it near her ear and waited for the person on the receiving end...
Nothing... where’s mommy?
Can you tell her call me back?
She hung up. Still letting her tears paint her face.
“Nothing, Ms. Clay.”
“You want to write about it?” I knew she would say no. She wasn’t a writer. She was always quiet. With a newfound affinity for reading “street novels.” Her attendance wasn’t regular, was just suspended last week.
What could be wrong? What couldn’t be wrong?
Unaware of her full story but I knew enough to know, what ever was wrong was not something that just happened in the last 75 minutes that she’d been sitting in my class.
She was traumatized.
“You want to talk?” I looked over to T. By now, he knew what was coming. “Get out, T. Let us talk.”
“But Im not done!” He looked over to her face, still scrunched. Still not unseen. “Fine. I’ll go. But I’m talking my test with me!”
I didn’t object. Too focused on Babygirl.
“Did something happen? What happened?”
“I don’t know Ms. Clay. I just started... crying...” and as soon as she said crying, she began crying, again.
“Did someone do something or say something to you?”
She lifted her head in an up and down motion to say yes.
“Who? Someone at school or home?”
“Even your sister?”
“So it’s something that happened before? But not today?”
I didn’t know what to say from here. I wished I was my therapist. I wished I had the words to make her open up. I wished I could heal her. But I already know how this goes. No matter what it is, she’ll have to do the work of healing self. Nothing changes. Black women have always had to heal ourselves.
“Come on, I’ll walk you to the cafeteria.” There were only 5 minutes left for her to eat lunch; 5 minutes left until my next class. Before we walked down the stairs, I held her.
“You’re going to be okay.” I corrected myself. “You are okay.”
She did not hug me back but I felt her need for love as she leaned more and more into my heart. We separated and descended down the stairs.
“And one day,”’ I continued. “There will be a little girl your age, who you are going to be here for, for a situation like this and you’ll be able to help her get through it because you are strong.”
I loathed my words as soon as I let them out. Strong. I hate strong. Why do our children have to learn to be strong? Why can’t they be soft. Why can’t they be clouds. Why can’t they be air. They have no choice but to be the sun of their lives. Guess that’s the gift and curse of being Light.