There was a dance party last night. This was to raise funds for some kind of shrine in honour of the former king that the teachers want to put up in our school. I went.
I thought I wouldn’t go. I was very, very tired in the afternoon after lunch with Maths Madam. But I had to go to do some work—I was supposed to help with stage decoration. In the end, we did nothing to decorate the stage. I had no work. The music started though, and my friends were all there, and so I stayed.
I stayed until it closed.
I missed dancing with my friends from back home, and I danced at some points the way I would have danced with them, which was perceptibly not Country X-style.
Also, Madame Kay had an altercation with her husband. I saw this. They were not far away from me—this was during the very last song of the night—and as it became physical, I intervened and pulled Madame Kay away from her husband. I say “pulled,” but Madame Kay is stronger than me. She let me pull her away.
Then her husband went and punched someone in the face.
Oh, so that’s what they were arguing about.
But for me it was all instinct. I’ve broken up a few fights in my classroom or tried to, and I did exactly what I would have done if she were a student—who are also usually bigger and stronger than me and yet will let me keep them from fighting if I act quickly enough, before the violence takes on a life of its own. Just as Madame Kay did.
I came home at midnight feeling very disturbed. Disturbed, first of all, because I felt lonely and also in some way rejected and unwanted. And then I also felt disturbed because I wondered if I had made the wrong decision with Madame Kay and if she would be angry in the morning because of it.
For a while, I cried. Then I slept, but I woke up feeling the same way: disturbed, lonely, and wondering if I had made a seriously wrong decision.
Madame Tee. W.’s son was at the dance. Schoolchildren were not supposed to come, but he came with three friends and a large bottle of beer. Why someone let them in or sold them beer, I can’t fathom. But I suppose there are ways. Anyway, during third period the next day, Madame Tee called me to find out exactly what had transpired. I called her back at lunch and filled her in. He had not gotten into too mischief, so I told her that. His friends were drinking, but I could not see that he had.
Then during last period, when Madame Kay and I were both free, she came and sat at the next table. She wanted to know exactly what her husband had done. I guess her back was turned at that moment, and she was not very sure what had transpired. So we talked for a while. She wanted to know if she had done anything wrong during the evening. I told her no. She went off again.
So that was the day. Sort of. Everything but the teaching part which, of course, was most of the day.
Now, I have two thoughts about this. I felt lonely because I was missing friends who are not here now. That is based on reality. But my sense of being rejected and outside of things was not entirely accurate. In larger group situations here, there will always people who know me well and people who have never spoken to me before. New people will see a foreigner and someone completely incomprehensibly different as well as (usually) exotic. My friends will see Ashana M. People who know me but not well might see me in some intermediate way.
However, all of these views will be apparent to me, and I will feel it at a visceral level. Sensing that others see me as an outsider—even if it is not really the important others who see me this way—will translate into rejection in my mind, because it feels like a change of status: I used to not feel like an outsider, and now I do. It won’t cross my mind (until later) that the group has changed—not the perception of the same group I am. So, my perception of rejection is also based on reality, but not in a full way. In order to create a coherent picture in my head, I discounted indications from my friends that I was being welcomed and included, and I remembered only the moments when they left me out. That felt better to realize, and I began to remember these positive moments again, and I thought of Madame Kay coming to my table to talk to me about this personal thing and about Madame Tee W. calling me up to ask about her son.
The second thought I had was that, whether her husband was building up to throw a punch at his wife or not, if I let in the feeling of holding Madame Kay in my arms while I pulled her away from her husband, I am aware of a sense of being able to protect someone I love and who is important to me.
I know my compulsion to act at these moments comes from the memory of having been unable to protect Natalya from my father’s friends who murdered her so brutally.
I should add that, over the years, as a result of dealing with overwrought students, I have learned to apply touch during tense moments in the most loving way and calm way I can. An upset child who feels restrained or frustrated in reaching a goal will become more out-of-control. A child who can instead feel contained and safe might just become calm enough not to harm herself or others. I think this probably applies to adults as well, and so it is how I held Madame Kay as I pulled her away from her husband. If you had to put into words my thoughts in that moment—although I was not thinking in words—you would say it was this “I love you. I will not let you hurt anyone. I will not let anyone hurt you.” That thought was in every part of my body, even if it was not in my head. In tense moments, people don’t listen anymore. But they feel.
Because of that, my memory of that moment was of one where I felt a great deal of love, and where I was touching someone in a way that was very firm, but also very gentle. Consequently, when I think back to it, I am keenly aware of acting in a protective, loving way with someone I care about and that she was not hurt.
I know the memory of being helpless in the face of violence against a loved one is still there. I can see it in the way I tend to watch my friends. It was my friend who was murdered, and my friends I worry the most about keeping safe. I want to know where they are all the time. I want to make sure they aren’t dead. When I first came here, I suppose since I didn’t know anyone well, I watched everyone. I had to make sure they all weren’t dead. Now, I watch only the people I care about most.
However, if I let myself, I can feel now that I was not helpless in that moment with Madame Kay. I was able to act. I can feel that my friend was not hurt, and that I was capable of acting in a caring and protective way. If I let myself take that in, I can feel it very profoundly, because the understanding is encoded in my skin. My skin knows it kept her safe, just as my skin knew I could not keep Natalya safe, because I also held her although in a different way. I touched her, and so my skin knows.
One more bit of healing. I am grateful for it.