Past and present

Today might be a slow day. Let’s see.

I need to do some shopping. It’s not particularly urgent, as I could not get a bus ticket back to Y-town until the 2nd of January. I wish it weren’t like that, but that’s how it is. Anyway, it leaves me with four days to buy some clothes (if I feel like it) and shoes (probably wise) and sheets for C and maybe a suitcase.

C does not answer her phone these days, nor does she text back when I send her texts. This is not that unusual, and it drives me nuts, but I have no control over it either. I don’t really know why she does this. Her mother gets angry at her for talking on the phone, or C thinks she will get angry. I know this is true, because I have called, heard shouting, and been abruptly hung up on. C talks on the phone a lot in the kitchen when she is making dinner. There is no reason C can’t call me back instead of her friends. I have no idea why she doesn’t, except maybe she is caught up talking to boys and forgets all about me. Or she looks at the phone, thinks, “What will I say to ma’am?” and doesn’t dial the number in the end. Or, she thinks my care is a kind of illusion that will break if she leans on it too hard. I don’t really know.

Periodically, I feel worried that I have not heard from her for 2 days, despite my insistent calls and some demanding texts. But I talked to her sister yesterday. C was at football practice. Her sister didn’t know when C would return. Anyway, C wasn’t dead. And she does seem to alert me to crises now, even if it is indirectly. Will you recharge me? Will you talk to my dad? Silence = calm. Maybe. It seems that way now. So I am not panicking.

I have been thinking about the days when we first began to have a more personal relationship. I think I understand the dynamic now. I mean, as an integrated person, I think I know what happened between us: what I felt, what I responded to, what she felt, what she responded to. The revision is important because at the time, everything was filtered through the lenses of parts. The links to the past were louder and more difficult to process than the present, and so actually it was the past that got processed, but not necessarily the present.

The day I noticed her—it was Social Forestry Day—I noticed her because she noticed me.

I was wearing a new National Dress outfit, a nice broach. I looked pretty, I think. Or at least different. And I walked quickly past her to the toilet, and she was taken by surprise, both because I came upon her suddenly when she was standing there idly, not expecting anyone to walk by really, and because I looked different. I have been wearing the same three outfits to school for more than a year and suddenly I was in different clothes, nice clothes. This National Dress someone wove by hand and the weaver did a nice job with it and the National Dress is really quite beautiful, if simple in design. And so C saw me. She saw me in that way you see someone who has been until that moment sort of furniture to you. This is not really unusual. It happens all the time. I tell a kid he should be listening during assembly or I spell a word or I help during an exam, and suddenly I am a human being. I have moved from background to foreground. There is a personal connection. The relationship changes after that. It did in this case.

I walked by, and C saw me and she bowed very prettily and said good morning, and I saw her back. I felt worried because she seemed overly startled to see me—like too compliant. I may not have needed to worry, but that is how I felt at that moment.

The next day, I began to talk to her, and what hadn’t crossed my mind is that she was thrilled. She was thrilled at my attention and she responded to it. When I asked her to bring her math work to check and she kept forgetting it until I wrote on her hand, and then she did remember it and came running to show it to me, she was responding to that feeling of being noticed and of mattering to someone and also to a sense of excitement about a new person and a new relationship. I like you. Please like me.

I think it was, in a way, like having a crush for her. Those days after her exams, when she seemed to be mooning about waiting for me, I think she was.

I don’t know how she stepped out from behind the glass—there are a lot of students who really like me. Not all of them do, but there are a handful of students who just really, really do. But I think I only half see this, or I see it as only they like my attention. They are kids and they want to be valued by someone, and I value them. I don’t see it as actually liking me. I mean, just as I do with the kids who can’t stand me, I don’t take it personally. They are kids. A lot of what is going on in their heads has nothing to do with me.

Maybe it was just a more intense feeling from her. C feels very intensely. Anyway, she did. I felt it, and I had to process almost every connection I had that was related in any way to the trauma in my past. Most of my attention ended up there—on the past—even while I was trying to maintain my sanity in interacting with her.

But I think it was something like a mad crush she had on me. That part I didn’t quite see. I mean, I didn’t see that she really, really liked me. I never think about kids that way. I think about what they need.

I didn’t see it, because that feeling of being liked due to a feeling of real connection—not because I wore the appropriate mask, but because of who I am naturally—that I can’t see. It hurts too much.


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