The day began like any other day. There were no new surprises; no marked differences that made it seem out of the ordinary. Coffee was brewing while everyone talked and chatted before it was time to start working. Like every other morning where they were forced to wake up early, the atmosphere was muted and disconcertingly quiet to others who may not have been used to it. Indeed, there was nothing about it that seemed strange.
Lucy Perkins entered the teacher's lounge. Compared to some of her colleagues, she was still considered new. She had begun teaching two years ago and had yet to feel jaded about her job. She politely greeted some people, inquiring about their past days. She made the appropriate sympathetic responses before continuing her daily routine. She poured herself a cup of coffee, closing her eyes to enjoy the bitter, comforting taste that mentally prepared her to start teaching. As much as she loved it, it was draining at times. She stood there for a minute, prolonging the moment until she finally admitted that it was time to go.
An entire day passed and Lucy was exhausted. Dealing with high school students all day was not for the faint of heart. Today, in particular, was difficult. None of them had paid attention and not even her best students had listened to her. She grimaced as she remembered Nicole Holloway, an otherwise diligent student, stare out the window during the duration of the class. Opening her pint of ice cream, she contemplated the several ways of killing them. Beheading was far too medieval while wringing their heads out required too much effort. After several spoonfuls of ice cream, she was resigned to the fact that she was powerless. Perhaps this was karma for all of the times she had done the same in high school. God had an awful sense of humor.
She turned on the evening news, not expecting anything new. She had heard most of it throughout the day, pierced together secondhand from conversations. She stared idly at the TV, almost falling asleep. Her eyes had closed but then opened once she heard the name Anna Wesley. Her eyes had opened even more when she heard that it was a suicide. Stunned, she sat back on the couch trying desperately to comprehend the situation.
She had taught Anna in her first year of teaching. She was an intelligent girl, gutsy and always ready with a searing comeback. She was certainly the last person Lucy would have expected to die so early in such an intentional way. She had always imagined that Anna would succeed to become a writer of some sort, using her wit to gain an audience. Her mind tried to dimly recall any events that might have led her to this. Nothing came to mind. She tried to dig deeper but it ended up frustrating her. She spent the rest of the night, on the couch, trying desperately to recall any signals that should have warned her.
Going to school the next day was brutal. The administration had called a meeting, telling the staff about the details incase a student should ask and the procedures if the person was upset. Apparently, her death was from an overdose of prescription pills with a bottle of wine found nearby. Nothing was known about her motivations except that she had suffered a break up with a boyfriend and was denied by a college or two. Lucy tried to spend the rest of the day delivering
the information with as much emotional detachment as a robot. It didn't work. When she saw Jessica Rowlings sobbing during first period, her heart broke a little.
Later that night, all she could hear were the sobs.
A couple days passed and eventually, it died down. Those who didn't know Anna moved on from the event, unscathed. Lucy couldn't blame them. After all, they had nothing to dwell over, nothing to connect them. She wished that she could do the same. She envied them. Still, her connection was frail compared to others. She was silently thankful for that.
It was Friday, 5th period. She walked into the lounge before slumping down in a chair. She closed her eyes, rubbing her head to try to force the headache out of her head. She was exhausted, physically, mentally and every other way that involved a state of being. She slumped down further, desperately wanting to be at home so that she could fall asleep. Thoughts came back to her, and events that had occurred over the course of the week were now uninvitingly running through her head. Scenes came to her like a bad movie, from the wake and consoling the Wesleys to the newspaper's official report. Then suddenly, without warning, she started to cry.
The tears came as a huge relief to her. All week, she had wanted to do so yet never allow herself to actually do it. She felt lighter than she had in a long time. In the midst of this, she heard someone clearing his throat. She had forgotten that she wasn't alone. Embarrassed, she tried to wipe her tears but failed to do so neatly.
"I see someone's having a hard time," the person whispered.
She looked up, her red eyes glistening. "I see someone's observant, Tom," she said, tightly.
Tom Watson was the opposite of her in terms of everything, gender, age, appearance, and even personality. While she in many ways was still new to everything, he had little left to learn with nearly 30 years under his belt. He was a taciturn man. He hardly spoke to any of his fellow teachers. It made him the loner. The only time he ever seemed to be truly alive was in the classroom, extolling the virtues of Shakespeare or discussing the implications behind the words of Chaucer. It was like light and day and made many of the faculty wish he would show that side of him more often. They couldn't believe the two were the same man.
He sat there, quietly. The silence between them grew, eventually making her uncomfortable with the heavy mood. She internally questioned why he would even say anything to her when he hadn't previously. She was about to ask when he interrupted her.
"I knew her too."
She didn't need to be reminded of who he was talking about. It was the same person that had caused her to finally cry.
"She sat in the first row, on the far right. She never let me lose an argument and if I won, she never seemed too happy."
Lucy smiled despite herself. She opened her mouth to talk but nothing came out. He nodded his head, understanding.
"It hurts doesn't it? To see the ones with so much potential lose it? If I could count the amount of kids like that…" and he stopped, sighing wistfully.
She pondered that. It was too early for her to start wondering where her former students went in life. She only taught freshman English so most of them were still in school.
Finally, she spoke, "Do you ever wonder where the rest of them end up?" Her voice sounded foreign to her ears.
He sat there for a minute, not answering. She feared that he never would until she heard, "All the time. Sometimes I entertain myself just thinking about their paths, their futures. Not all of them succeed of course, life would be too easy then but I wish they all did. Every single one of them."
"Yeah," she whispered. She cleared her throat, asking, "So what do you do when something like that happens?"
"You grieve; you go through that entire process of wondering what you could have done until you realize that you could have done nothing because you didn't know. Then you try to move on while always keeping her in the back of your mind, tucked away in case you feel like you're dishonoring her memory by not remembering her. You almost get to that point where you don't think about her until something tragic happens again. The process repeats itself."
She straightened and stated without question, "This has happened to you before." By this, she meant a suicide of a student.
He nodded sadly, "1989. Jimmy Hardifer. He hung himself."
"Wow," she breathed. She looked down at her hands, a feeling of shyness overcoming her. "Why are you telling me all of this? I mean, not to be rude or anything, but you hardly speak to anyone."
He chuckled, "Yeah but I figured you needed to hear that. You were the most obviously upset out of the entire faculty so I thought I'd tell you rather than bother another colleague."
She almost smiled. Then she asked, her voice in a soft murmur, "Does it ever get easier?"
A pause and then an answer, "No, not at all."
This was another story born from my thoughts about teachers and students. I always wondered what teachers think of their students after they're no longer obligated to teach them. This just happened to take a sad turn. Thank you for reading.