Before we move on to the next 18 years, I want to tell you about Mrs. Beattie. She was an English teacher in high school, and out of the few strange things I have taken as path markers in my life, is an essay I did for her class.
She was normally very liberal with the use of red pens, perhaps filled with the blood of crushed students before me; however, this particular paper though now slightly yellowed is unmarked, except for the grade (A) and a single comment: “you are too young to be this bitter.”
I stopped after the class and brought the paper to her desk. “I have a problem with this.”
She looked at me sternly; she excelled at stern. “I gave you an ‘A’. The paper was well-written.”
“The comment. You’re wrong.”
She laughed. “Well, you are far too young to be so bitter and…”
She stopped as I looked her straight in the eyes, and let everything that lay hidden beneath the bedskirt of life look out.
In the moment of rising from her chair: she sits down heavily dropping pen and papers to her desk; one hand flying to her mouth were the laughter is gone, replaced by horror; the other hand starting to reach out towards me but stopping.
Then I blinked, put the happy face back on and take a step back. Once more I softly said,”You’re wrong.” And then I left.
Her quiet sob gains response by another teacher in the hall, but I still hear part of their faint conversation. “Oh my God, Judy, that poor child!”
I remember being jealous that she could get comfort, and I just had to go home.