Sunday, February 20, 2005

I Almost Missed The Point

This past Monday was Valentine's Day, 2005. Sitting in the double-wide mobile home that the school board lists as a portable classroom, my day was starting like many of the others. Before the students shuffled in with their sagging pants, baseball caps tilted to the side on their heads, and their arms not protruding through the sleeves of their coats, but hidden inside the garment, I assume caressing themselves, I was trudging through more paperwork. The paperwork had nothing to do with student learning. My sense is that it had everything to do with justifying someone's position in the central office and acquiring more funding from the government.

Halfway into completing another three-page census form accounting for the number of hours dedicated to completing forms in my job, the metal door, with the Plexiglas window slowly opened. I watched her enter. A young girl of Jordanian decent, short, heavy, and depressed. She had been in many troublesome situations during her four-year high school stay. She was now in her senior year, looking forward to "graduating" with a special education diploma, and trying hard to resist stealing anything else. She had been busted for stealing, twice-a-year, for the past three years. Her favorite target were small, personal, round CD players. I oftentimes joked to myself that she single-handedly kept Sony in the manufacturing business of these players. Another of her hobbies were repeated visits to the local hospital emergency room. I always wanted her to have something medically wrong. Not anything serious. Just enough to have her validated as a legitimate patient.

"Good morning," she said, dropping her unusually heavy book bag on the audio visual cart.
"Morning sweetie. How are you today?" She told me her recent medical history, how she felt last night, how little she slept, and why today might not be a good day.
"What did you do last evening?"
"My sister and mom and me went to the mall. I got a new CD player. Mom, wanted me to get pants, but I didn't.
"What kind of pants."
"Well, I hope you have a great day."
"I got a test today in drivers ed."
"You'll ace it sweetie." I had heard her digging through the book bag. While I continued trying to complete the three-page form something was shoved toward my right hand.
"Happy Valentine's Day."
I looked at the small, white, cup. It was decorated with yellow and red hearts. Inside was a square of cellophane wrapped around individual hard candies.
"For me, Sweetie?"
"Yeah. I got to go and see if my boyfriend came to school today."
Before I could thank her, she was gone. I listened to her plodding down the wooden ramp to the busy sidewalk. The loud chatter of the other two-thousand students quickly drowned out the sound of her foot-steps. The cup sat quietly reminding me of Valentine's Day and that I almost missed the point.