Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: OVERLOAD (10/06/16)
- TITLE: Inkblot Pictures
By Laury Hubrich
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I touch her. She jumps from her chair, ready this time, to fight or flee. I forget sometimes who I’m dealing with – a girl with special needs, not only intellectually but socially too. I look her in the eyes to calm her. “It’s just me, Sweetie. It’s okay.” I settle her back down with her paper and pen in hand. I still have the rest of the class to help but I come back to this young girl. This girl who feels the need to fight instead of talk some days.
I want to wrap my arms around her. Run my fingers through her oily, ratty hair. I want to give her clean clothes to wear and provide new tennis shoes. I want to whisper in her ear, ‘What’s got you spooked, Melia?’
But I can’t. Not now. But I watch. I listen.
She finally settles down and picks up the calligraphy pen. She studies the examples and puts pen to paper, trying to make the strokes just so. Ink splatters across the lines and onto her fist.
Boldly, I lean into her; carefully pull her hair away from her eyes; and show her the correct way to hold the pen. I move away but always have her in my line of vision.
Absentmindedly, she drags the pen across the page.
A curly F appears. A fine F.
A U is placed just so in another part of the lined paper.
Melia looks around and catches my eye. I see defiance but hands are raised. Twenty-five other students need my attention. It’s just not fair to focus on her the whole time. I’m torn.
By the time I get back, I see a curled up C. A beautifully drawn C. Wonderful! So wonderful I don’t notice what I should.
When I check on her again, it’s then I see. “We need to talk,” I whisper in her ear.
The bell rings. The class clears out quickly.
I close my eyes and take a breath prayer. Open. And go.
I hold up her paper. “Melia. You can’t… I won’t have...,” the words trip off my lips when I watch her take a good look at what she wrote.
“I didn’t know!” Melia grabs the paper and rips it. As if that wasn’t bold enough, she takes hold of her ink jar and slams it onto the floor – glass shards fly everywhere. Her small body shakes – in fear or anger, I’m not sure. Both? I’m shaking too.
I hug her tight. Help her get a grip on life. Meanwhile, the language flies. Some words unfamiliar to me. Language directed at me. At her other teachers.
When it slows, she pulls away and I see a scared little girl. Her face smudged with inky tears. It’s on her arms. Her shoes. Her clothes.
Melia cowers. “Please don’t tell my mom. She’ll beat me. Please.”
Lost in thought, we both stand out over the black pond that is the floor. I send up another breath prayer. Open. Go.
“Oh Melia! Look at that spot. It reminds me of a dog.”
She bends in just so. “That one.” She points.
“What does it look like to you?”
The girl hesitates. “Why do you care? I was mean to you. You’re not supposed to like me now. It’s time to throw your arms up and be all mad and kick me out of class. That’s what everyone does. Why don’t you do that?”
“I like you, Melia. You’re a good kid. What do you see in that spot?”
Oh, the things she shared from that inkblot! I had to call Child and Family Services even though she told me her mom would beat her. Just one more thing tipped her over. It was just too much to bear.
And I have to question myself – because I was watching Melia all hour, who did I miss today? Who will I miss tomorrow because I’m hyper-focused on my own needs instead of my high school kids?
Overworked. Overloaded with kids in hard situations. More breath prayers. Open. And go.
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