Still by Zimam

Posted on December 24, 2015 by


Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Still, they made him come back to school; still, class went on as if it was another ordinary day. Perhaps, it was.Nothing about it could have been particularly jolting if we could go back so calmly after a few moments to reading the scene where Oedipus gouged out his eyes.

But, we did have to pause. I had to pause from labelling stick figures for my ELLS. Stick figures so that my Spanish and Chinese speaking students could comprehend at least a semblance of a story that was as meaningless to them as it was to me, especially when for example one of them glanced at me for permission before secretly texting his lawyer during class about whether or not he would be sent back to Guatemala, worried about ICE still chasing him. Miss, por favor, es muy importante, mira, he whispered showing me the phone to prove it was really the lawyer.

It was then that he walked in, slamming the door open. I looked up but didn’t flinch, so familiar were moments like these. The lead teacher looked up, we glanced at each other. Maybe one of those rare moments where we really saw each other because we knew we needed to.

His face was gaunt, his body frail, and the structure of his bones visible. He climbed easily onto the windowsill. We were on the fifth floor from where students frequently looked out, out towards basketball courts, Dunkin Donuts, the sun and sky, the metro nearby that made our building tremor like it could fall apart any moment. I often looked out, too, wishing I never had to come back.

The window had been opened for fresh air; he climbed up easily and just as easily put one leg outside the window pane,and it was then that the lead teacher said P,I think you should get down from there. She walked closer to him still holding her clipboard and pencil, never taking her eyes off of him, and talked him down; we all watched, holding our breaths. The moment he came down, he let out a sharp scream, and ran out, still teeming with emotion, slamming the door shut this time.

I rushed out immediately; R came out with me and I told him to please go inside, to please give it a minute.

Uhyo miss, here’s the telephone I think you need to call someone asap. That was AZ, the loudest kid in the class, holding the phone towards the lead teacher.

Miss that’s my friend, I just wanna know if he’s okay.

Yes I know R but please go inside for just a minute, let’s give him some space.

I was mostly monitoring that P didn’t go to another window or run outside of the school building when I saw the counselor run down the hall towards us.

The class had been uncharacteristically silent throughout; we had held our breaths in a room where we needed a window open for fresh air.

The police was called. P was taken away. I use the passive voice because we do not know by whom exactly he was taken away. P was not seen for days. The Assistant Principal and the Counselor and mostly everyone knew. They had to know. How else could the child have been escorted out? And, then, of course students talk. It is only natural.

There was no follow up. To be honest, I was so used to situations like this that it did not register to me that it was that out of the ordinary. The lead teacher, though, said I cannot believe she didn’t talk to us about it.

Who, I asked. About what?

The Assistant Principal. The Principal. To see if we are okay. To see if the kids are okay, and to tell them if P is okay.

Oh yes of course. It’s shocking, I said trying to feign emotions I could not feel.

And still, they made him come back to school. He showed up one day during Algebra, black hoodie, and sat in class with his bony structure, gaunt face and vacant eyes that despite discomfort still weakly reciprocated the smiles his classmates shot at him.Still, class went on as if it was another ordinary day.

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