Saturday, May 21, 2016


The first week of school in September my fifth period students of Spanish wiggle into their seats in language lab booths. Their books reverberate with thuds as they hit the floor I step onto the small podium in front and open the roster.
"Attention, please," I say first in Spanish, followed by English. I'll do it every day until I drop the English altogether.  "Quiet while I call the roll." I call the names, often having them correct my mispronunciation.

 I'm halfway finished when the metal booths clatter. Chairs scrape and feet brush back and forth on the wood floor like brooms.

A curly head pops above the partition. "Everything's OK, Teacher, I got it. Tamara passed out again."

I scramble off the podium and head to the fourth row to see who Tamara is. On the floor is a slender girl, her skin, a caramel color. She is curled like a fetus, unconscious. Some students huddle in the aisle while others sit still and crane their necks. Tamara writhes and moans without opening her eyes.

"Ooh," the curious utter in unison like a chorus in an ancient play. My insides squeeze with each whine that comes from the body. I hear shuffling as students close in for a better look. Instinct tells me I can't help her. I'm seeing epilepsy in action for the first time.

"Billy, get the principal!" I yell to the boy on the first row by the door.  I return to the podium and finish calling the roll while the principal and the coach arrive and carry the ill student out of the room.

 Tomorrow has to be a better day.

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