NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 126

“ Because it ’ s her school ,” I say .
He grimaces in frustration . He is the one who has lost face by refusing to hit me . He is the one who deserves an apology . But there is no way to regain what he has lost in front of our audience , the twenty-seven children who witnessed his degradation . I have , for better or for worse , climbed a rung .
The high is short-lived . He registers a complaint against me with the union , then with the Department of Education . He claims that I hit him in the hallway ( the security camera footage , thankfully , says otherwise ). He writes a two-page letter cataloguing my heinous accusations , insists that I dislike him so much that I will probably accuse him of sexually molesting the female students . I try to avoid him , dip my head down low when he passes , but he has a way of filling the hallways , one arm swinging , his expression oscillating between hurt and anger . One April morning , he grins at me from across the cafeteria . This calms me down , which is not a good sign . It means on some level , I am scared shitless . I check behind me , when I walk to my car after work . I imagine him vandalizing it . I imagine him showing up at my son ’ s daycare , at my other son ’ s school . I imagine him standing in front of my apartment building . The smile confirms that he is at best unstable and at worst completely insane .
The linoleum floors are dirty . For our annual quality review in May , I wipe the students ’ desks down for the first time in eight months . The school feels grimy . A wall of fruit flies rises from the tile in the girl ’ s bathroom when you enter . I drink a lot at night to relax . My face is bloated . I ’ m dehydrated . My stomach is raw . I eat chocolate at school , the cheap kind sold at the local supermarket . On a Friday , the faculty sits together and grades the mosl , the city ’ s end of the year assessments . Ishmael , instead of addressing the writing prompt , describes the challenge of living in a home where your father beats your mother . Children , he explains , in this situation , often kill themselves ; or else a parent is killed , and the family ceases to exist . I make four copies of the essay and distribute them . The principal finally says , “ I think we have to report this .” I spend an entire evening and morning on the phone with the city ’ s Administration for Child Services . But I want to see Ishmael . I think , if I can see him , I can keep him safe .
The next morning I greet the shadow and the gold , the sun again , and he is there smiling and unconcerned . I draw him into conversation , asking if everything is all right . He nods and is off again , moving like quicksilver down the hallways . I remember the caseworker ’ s bored voice on the phone and the firm insistence of my own . No , there are no bruises on him , but how can I describe the way this violence will destroy his ability to concentrate , to remain focused on any one task , that it will set him perpetually careening down our hallways ? How can I explain that he cannot protect his mother , or that the violence he has seen in his home has already taught him a way to move in the world , that he visited a local park and returned inexplicably with half a front tooth missing ? How can I explain the maternal fear that welled up inside of me at the sight of that jagged , exposed bone ? If he cannot concentrate , he cannot learn . If he cannot learn , he will never grow into a person — certainly not the kind we want walking our city streets . And here he is , I can see him ; I can touch him . I am a teacher . These are the things I know . It is my job to see him , to nurture him into being . At the end of the year , I give him my cell phone number . I will not be returning to the school . I tell him to call me if he needs me . He barely looks at the number and is off . He is used to being left . I am not . n
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