They come to me at night, I can see them when I close my eyes. They are still children, while I have grown old. They were my classmates when I was a child and I knew then that they were in trouble, but I didn’t save them.
There was a boy, his name was Michael. In fourth grade we had a teacher who was a fanatic about penmanship. Michael was the class clown, everyone laughed at him. But I knew even then, his jokes were a cover up for the hurt and sadness that lied beneath the surface. I don’t know what his home life was like, but I think it must have been difficult. I should have been his friend, maybe I could have saved him. He should have been safe in school, but he wasn’t. He was the butt of everyone’s jokes. They changed his last name to “Fairy-ola” and made fun of him. They encouraged him to do things that would get him in trouble and then they laughed at him when he suffered the consequences. Our teacher’s way of handling disruptive students was to take his ten inch eraser full of chalk and bop the child on the head with it. Then the student wore his “Scarlet Letter of chalk” to his embarrassment until the chalk flaked away. Michael was in trouble so often, that the teacher moved his desk to the front of the room next to the blackboard so that he could bop him on the head continuously, all day long. A few years later, in high school, Michael got into a fight with another boy. Michael took out a knife and stabbed the other boy. The boy wasn’t seriously injured, but Michael was arrested. A few years after high school I heard that Michael’s mother had turned him in to the police for possession of Marijuana. While in jail, Michael hung himself. I should have tried to save him.
There was a girl, her name was Dana (she is the inspiration for the character, Heather, in The Tin Box Secret). She had a hole in the floor of her living room. She was my friend, but I still couldn’t save her. In elementary school, Dana used to choke herself until she passed out. This was entertainment for our classmates, so Dana did it for their attention. I don’t know where her father was or if she even had a father. I suppose her mother was at work when I visited, I don’t know. I only know that Dana was always alone. She moved from rented home to rented home. When we were younger, she had her grandmother, but then her grandmother passed away. Dana had to move away in sixth grade and I didn’t see her again until she moved back when we were in eleventh grade. Her mother had died and she had come back to our town to live at a friend’s house. We instantly wanted to see each other, we had been so close when we were little. But now we were different girls. We no longer had anything in common. So after the initial reunion, we each went our separate ways. I should have stayed her friend, maybe I could have saved her. I heard that after we graduated, she went to the cemetery where her mother was buried. She cried over her mother’s grave and asked, “Why did you leave me?” Then Dana left her mother’s grave and walked in front of a truck and she ended her life. I should have tried to saved her.
And so I write. I write for Michael. I write for Dana. And I write for so many others. Maybe, just maybe, there’s someone I can save.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy