From the journal of Lucy Thames
Just got through an e-mail exchange. I'm going to have a new student under my care.
LS. Family moving into town tomorrow, starting school Monday. Highly introverted, poor social skills — possibly autistic — very good at keeping secrets, has made friends with dubious characters, and most importantly, suffered a tragic loss within the past few months.
Or so I'm told. I won't really know anything until I meet him. I've arranged for weekly appointments on Thursday afternoons.
Of course, his mother expects me to tell her everything. That's not gonna happen.
I saw LS for the first time. He was getting off the bus. Tall for his age. Couldn't read much from his face. GT was with him.
There was a little incident in the boys' locker room. Nobody in authority saw it, but we're pretty sure DF decided to see how tough the new kid was. Anyway, DF came out of there with a broken nose and wouldn't say how it happened. So does this mean LS is good at standing up for himself, or is he going to turn out to be a worse bully than DF?
The fact that he seems to be getting along with GT is a good sign. If he were a bully, GT would stay as far away from him as possible. I'll know in a few days, I guess.
TO had a bad day yesterday. When she met LS, he noticed her T-MAU without even having been warned about it.
Her parents keep telling her it's all in her head, and she knows better but she keeps hoping it might be true. So when she met the new boy, who had never heard of her or her problem, and he picked up her scent as soon as he got near her, she knew it was as bad as ever.
Now, of course, she's mad at him. Better she should be mad at him for no reason than mad at herself for no reason, I guess.
The people she should really be mad at are her parents. People in my line of work are always being accused of turning children against their parents. And yeah, we do do that — but not nearly often enough.
It's almost a relief that she had this little moment of weakness. She has such strength of character — I don't think I could have handled having her problem. My own "problem," as my own mom and dad tried to persuade me it was, was hard enough.
Had my first meeting with LS. He seems to be more or less as he has been described. Nice kid in his own way. Social skills not as bad as they might be, but definitely an introvert. He's made friends with some oddly assorted characters. (Some other children are intimidated by him — I wonder if he even knows it.) And I'm sure he's hiding something.
I think he trusts me, though. In his own time, he'll tell me about his earlier troubles at school, and about his father.
And I don't think he's autistic at all — or if he is, he's at the highest-functioning end of the spectrum.
JR had another rough night at home. Some people should not be allowed to raise children. I almost wish her mother or stepfather would step out of line and hit her, just so I would have to call the police.
And the best part? Spring break is next week. Time for everyone to stay home with the family. Because we all know that's really what's best for our young people. As for me, I'll be commemorating what Blue Eyes calls "The Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Easter Bunny" by catching up on paperwork.
Now this is interesting. TO met LS at the 7-11 over Spring Break. Some mysterious man was following him around. (Was it this Hantz (sp?) character?) He talked her and the manager into helping him escape. She took a malicious pleasure in ripping the man's jacket out of his hands and getting her natural perfume all over it.
In spite of this, she says she doesn't like LS. I think she's afraid of GT abandoning her to hang out with him. Or is she attracted to LS? If she is, she'll never admit it even to herself. All her loyalty is given to GT, who is, after all, the only friend she's ever had.
There's nothing at all wrong with GT, but I think he's going to grow up to be the kind of man you settle for, not the kind of man you dream of. But TO doesn't even dare dream of romance and excitement. There are 50-year-old women in singles bars with higher expectations than her. I should find that much sadder than I do. All I can think is that she's gotten a lot of misery and disappointment out of the way early.
Today, Crazy Pete cornered me in the staffroom and warned me not to let myself get kidnapped and sold to rich evil Arabs by President Bush. Thanks for the tip, Crazy. I wish I had the time to start counseling the faculty and staff. God knows some of them need it.
In other news, I just realized I can't ask LS about the incident at the 7-11, or he'll know TO talks to me. Good thing I remembered that before I opened my piehole. Maybe he'll mention it himself.
LS didn't bring up the 7-11 incident. Instead, we talked about this weird thing that happened to his mother, which he says this enemy of theirs was behind. Then we talked about this incident that happened at the last school where he was. A socially maladjusted friend called in a bomb threat, and LS wouldn't say which of them had done it. (Of course, everybody knew anyway.) He doesn't want to talk about his father just yet. He managed to get me talking about my plans to quit smoking this summer. Like all introverts, he's learned early on to get the other person talking. I'll have to watch out for that.
Oh, damn. I just got an e-mail from LS's mother.
Why do these things always come out of nowhere?
Has he not been through enough?
Ever notice how every damn thing happens at once?
First, some worm put a bottle of mouthwash in TO's locker room again. Don't they understand it doesn't help?
Then, she threw the bottle at TO, and the fight began… if you can call it that. Maybe guys like Mister Big Stuff have the right idea about kids like JR. Maybe what she needs is discipline. Real discipline, not just being randomly shouted at or thrown out of the house whenever her mom and stepdad are in a bad mood. In other words, discipline from people who have already disciplined themselves.
Only problem is, I can't do that. I don't have the authority. Even if they let me impose physical restraints on her, I'm pretty sure she's stronger than I am.
Just to make the day complete, our resident evil scientist finally pushed LS too far, and the kid threw a book at him. He's only getting one day in the AC, partly because he's suffered yet another tragic loss and partly because everybody wishes he'd lobbed a brick into Mister F'edupsome's nuts.
Anyway, three of my regular cases are in the rubber room together. Coincidence? I think… so, actually. I don't know if there is a God, but if there is one, I'm quite sure teaching me lessons is not why He's in business.
Now this is irony — LS, who could endure the rubber room forever, was let out after only one day. TO and JR are going to be in there all week. TO is a little more used to isolation, but she's not happy about it.
"This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays."
First, the good news. LS and I have made about three months' worth of progress today.
Now for the bad news. It isn't just that he lost his father. It's how it happened. I don't think he even knew how much anger he was carrying around on account of it.
I said all I could think of to say. I don't think it helped. My head is still reeling. More later, when I've had time to digest all this.
JR finished her week in the rubber room today. You'd think she'd be used to it by now. She cried on my shoulder during our session. I had to walk with her back to the room — she couldn't make herself go there on her own. This is the second person I've had collapse in tears on the sofa in as many days.
The worst part is, she says I'm the only thing keeping her from running away. I'd like to tell her to find some better reason, but I'm afraid it would just sound like "don't count on me, I'll just let you down like everybody else." I keep thinking I never asked for this kind of responsibility, but the truth is, I asked for it when I applied for the job.
It wasn't her who put the mouthwash in TO's locker, though. If it was, she would have said so. She trusts me that far. I think.
And even after all that, I'm still a little preoccupied with Thursday and LS. We're not allowed to talk religion with the kids. I know for a fact that some teachers ignore this rule, but they're good Christians and are allowed to get away with it.
I'm not even an atheist. Sometimes I think I should be one on principle, because even if there is a God, He doesn't deserve to have people believe in Him. But saying "Okay, God, I don't believe in you any more, because You don't deserve it" would kind of defeat the purpose.
I can't be an atheist. Proving a negative is hard enough under normal circumstances. When you don't even have a clear sense of what you're trying to prove, it's hopeless. I've heard God described so many different ways — how can I rule them all out? I've heard it said — "God is truth," "God is love," "God is light." Well, these things do exist, and if they're God, then God does exist. But that's not much help, is it? Light is no good to the blind, there isn't enough love in the world… and there's plenty of truth, but it's usually unpleasant and is famous for not changing to suit anybody's prayers.
So how can I comfort LS? If I said "Trust in God" I'd be lying, because even if it was true I wouldn't believe it myself, and he could probably tell. (ALWAYS assume they know when you're lying or being a hypocrite.)
Back to JR. Why do I keep wanting to talk about LS instead of JR? Maybe because his situation is a little more hopeful. His mom may be a little overbearing, but she's still everything a parent ought to be. He has a good home to go to. All I can really tell JR is "be patient, get through school, learn enough so you can support yourself, and THEN you can get out of that snakepit and make your own way in the world." It doesn't help that everyone else is telling her that in spite of the evidence of every day of her life, her mother really loves her.
If the JRs of the world really got that there are such things as "supportive parents" and "loving families" which other people had, but they didn't — I think they'd all drop dead from the shock. Then they'd all show up at the Pearly Gates at once and tear them off their hinges and there'd be such a war in Heaven that that little tiff with Lucifer would look like the Grenada invasion. They wouldn't stop trashing the joint until Somebody came forward and explained to them why they'd been born cheated.
Still thinking about Thursday. This is the story I wish I could tell LS:
A few years ago I was an intern at the office of a regional blood bank. This was right after 9/11, and everybody who could give blood was giving blood. It kept me very busy, making the appointments, but we liked it like that. For the first time in God knows how long, we were getting more donations than we knew what to do with.
That turned out to be the problem. We had more blood than we could use, and that stuff can only be stored for so long — it's got live cells in it, you can't just freeze it like lemonade and thaw it out again when you need it. So a lot of it had to be destroyed. I mean, we had to. It was no good to anybody. It was standard procedure and we never thought much about it, but when the media found out about it they treated it like a scandal.
But my problem wasn't the media. My problem was the people calling up my office — in tears, some of them — begging me to tell them that we had put their blood to good use, we hadn't just thrown it away. My idiot supervisor actually wanted me to try to explain the situation rationally. To him, it was just blood. He only thought about what it was good for. He never thought about what it meant to the people who gave it. He didn't get it.
And some of them were threatening to never donate again. We really couldn't afford that. Every year it seems like medical science comes up with some new reason to reject somebody's blood (the latest one is Mad Cow Disease) and every time that happens the donor pool gets smaller. People who can still give blood have to be willing to do it.
So I had to lie. I'd say, "Normally we don't do this, but… just this once…" and I'd type on the keyboard and click the mouse, like I was looking up their contribution when really I was just messing around on the Internet. "Ah, yes, I see your donation was used — I can't tell you where or when or anything, because of confidentiality, but we did use it."
It was a nightmare. Days and days and days I spent on the phone, just lying my ass off to these people and going home sick to my stomach, feeling like I needed a shower, or maybe a good horsewhipping. The worst part is, I still don't know if they could tell I was lying or not. None of them ever accused me out loud — that's something, I guess.
Maybe some day I'll tell him this story, but not any time soon. First of all, telling him about people I've lied to may make him trust me more, but it's more likely to have the opposite effect. (This kid thinks.) Second, it's not about me. Every minute I spend telling him about my stories and my problems is a minute he isn't telling me squat. I haven't even really told him about Blue Eyes.
I just wish I had a better way of letting him know that the pain and anger he's feeling are things I've run into before.
And why do I still think he's hiding something?
A day of peace. The Week from Hell is over, and a new one is about to begin. (I'd say I'm getting cynical in my old age, but I'm not even thirty.)
Thank God I made the call.
Authoritarianism is a disease. It is not just an "alternative lifestyle" or a "different personality type," it is sick and wrong and it kills people. (Yes, I'm stealing this kind of language from other people, but I need it and they don't.) Thank God it's not a disease I have. Thank God I broke the rules. Thank God I made the call.
And thank God LS was willing to break the rules too. I knew he was into T&F, but I had no idea he was so fast.
Poor Mr. Big Stuff. I hope he's learned a lesson. Self-doubt is a good thing if you are an idiot.
I have to end this now. I really, really, really don't want to think about what could have happened.
And I almost helped. That's the worst part. I almost helped it happen. Is he ever going to forgive me? Should he?
THANK GOD HE RAN.
THANK GOD I MADE THE CALL.
P.S. TO is doing much better.
Dammit, I know LS is hiding something. But at least he's still willing to talk. I wasn't sure he would be after Tuesday.
Tomorrow, Blue Eyes and I are going to do something different. We're going to watch LS at the track meet. I feel like I owe that boy something after Tuesday.
Well, this was unexpected. LS is here, in my apartment.
He's asleep right now. Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to hide this.
P.S. He was so cool when he met Blue Eyes. Very proud of him.
The good news is, LS never found this journal.
The bad news is, I'm pretty sure he
comic books "graphic novels" while we were asleep. If he
anybody we let him read those, I'll be in more hot water than I can
God he doesn't talk.
Everything going to hell all at once. LS, JR, TO — all of them hurt or in trouble today. No time to explain. More later…
All this time I wondered what LS was hiding. I don't know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn't that.
More later, I promise…