His desk was empty. The hole he left sucked the air out of my 4th period senior English. There had been a jubilant pep rally on Friday and on Saturday morning he blew his brains out.
I gave all of myself on that Monday. I made a husk of myself so that my students could cry in safety. So that they wouldn’t feel alone as he did. At the end of the day, I closed my classroom door and lay on the cold tile floor.
I stared terrified at the drawer that held his classroom journal. I gave it to another teacher to hold onto. I couldn’t take it screaming at me from inside the filing cabinet.
The grief counselor for the county came by. She butchered her session with my class. “Does anyone want to share any memories of him? No? Is it because he was so quiet that you don’t really have any memories of him?”
Later a student came up to me. “We didn’t want to talk to her. We don’t know her. Of course we have memories of him.”
I heard a story about a mom that was mad about her kid’s class schedule and she screamed at the administrator that we cared more about a dead senior than her daughter.
I watched his mother thank people for coming to her son’s funeral. In her ultimate, bottomless grief, she was trying to make sure we felt valued. I was nauseous and thought of my own daughter. Would I be able to emerge from that darkness or would I let it take me, like black waves in a wine-dark sea?
I watch my quiet, middle-of-the-road students. The ones who just want to be left alone, not in the spotlight, just-let-me-do-my-work-and-leave kids. Do they know I love them? That on day one they became my adopted children? That I care more about making them whole humans than teaching them proper comma placement?
I have no idea what happened to his journal.