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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Talking Loud and Saying Nothing

There's a woman at the end of the bar who can't believe the way we coddle people these days.

Car seats for children. Food stamps. Half-way houses! All of these things confound this woman. To hear her tell it, allergies could be cured with repeated contact, asthma is an excuse for those who are "afraid to try", the addicted can get clean in jail and seatbelts are "stupid" because "if it's your time, it's your time".

"Nobody wore a helmet in my day," she bawled over her beer, "and we all turned out just fine!"

Sure you did, lady. Except for those of you who didn't. The ones who didn't wear a helmet and suffered avoidable traumatic brain injury because of it didn't make it to the bar tonight.

And then I remembered the girl I can't fully forget...

There was a girl in my 7th grade class. Try as I may, I cannot remember her name, not even enough to fictionalize it; yet I remember her face, her manner. She was pale and thin, looked like she didn't sleep. Her clothes were dirty and may have been from another era. She was disheveled. Not in a cool, hipster sort of way -- hipsters had yet to have been invented -- but in a forgotten and clothing-as-cover-only sort of way. Everything she wore was too big, matronly even, right down to the 50's style bra discernible under her inevitable white cotton blouses. The unfilled cups of those bras collapsed under the weight of the material, becoming odd lumps of confusion.

There she sat in the row next to me, head bowed, mute. She didn't speak, ever, even when the teacher asked her a question, something that blew my mind every time it happened.

How do you not answer the teacher?

She showed up one autumn day with a black eye. Later in the year her arm was in a sling.

I avoided her, just as, it seems, everyone else did. She was marked somehow. I think we were afraid that she was contagious.

In retrospect, I can't help but wonder about me at that age and speculate as to how much of my brain I was using.

I can't help but wonder if mandatory reporting on the part of the teachers and doctors in her life might've changed things.

The woman at the end of the bar blathers on, but I've turned her off.

She's saying nothing.

22 comments:

Katherine Thomas said...

This is a well-written, but depressing post. It's so true, what you've said about the typical mentality of many Americans. And it worries me! In my own classroom, I always report even the slightest suspicions that a child isn't being treated right at home. Usually it turns out to be nothing, but a few times, there was a serious problem at home, and it was taken care of! We all have that responsibility to take care of the children in our world!

CatLadyLarew said...

There but for the grace of the goddess...

Beautifully written, Pearl! Your words speak volumes, unlike the blather from the woman at the end of the bar.

blueviolet said...

Your message is loud and clear and so well written. Great one, Pearl!

a Broad said...

Beautifully written and the message comes through to me anyway, that if you see something ( like that little girl in your class) then do say something.

Just this past week, someone I know , walked past a car with 2 dogs in it, windows only cracked open a bit .. in the US South where it is a bit warm for locking dogs in cars in no shade.
The lady stood there for about 5 minutes pondering what to do, went to a couple of nearby shops and checked to see if the car/dog owner was inside.. then she went back to the car.
The dogs were lying down panting heavily.
She dialed 911.
The police were just about to jimmy the car door open when the woman came running ..
She was given a summons and my friend who is really a quiet spoken person, told this woman off in no uncertain terms about leaving animals or children to die in a closed in car .. the woman skulked away .
I don't think she will make this mistake again..

I wonder if she was at the bar jabbering away while the dogs cooked in the back seat ...

Douglas said...

I think the answer lies somewhere between "let `em figure it out on their own" and "we must take care of everyone and keep them safe"

Mr London Street said...

This is one of my favourite posts by you.

Sam Liu said...

So true, Pearl...this was a heartbreaking story and so achingly poignant. We should be doing all we can to help the disadvantaged in society, providing a voice for those too afraid to speak, because; just because we can't hear them, doesn't mean they are not there. I agree with Mr London Street , this is one of my favourite posts of yours to date.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

It's the voice of privilege saying people have it too good...not the voice of experience. That poor girl. Ditto what Mr. London Street wrote.

Madame DeFarge said...

Good, thoughtful, post. Pity there's more like her and less like you.

Zaedah said...

Stunning and poignant commentary. We love your humor but we admire your sensibility.

powdergirl said...

In my town, her name was Angela.

I reported to my Dad, and it got much better. But thats the small town thing, I guess.

Ruthibelle said...

It's the voice of privilege saying people have it too good...not the voice of experience.

Ditto that.

f8hasit said...

This was quite the somber post from you...away from the usual. But truly well written and very thoughtful. Thank you...

Jeanne said...

I once worked with a woman who would intermittently come in to work with bruises (fell over the coffee table) and sprains (ran into a door). And I have even less excuse, because I was an adult.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wonderful post, Ms. Pearl.

Silly Girl said...

I found your blog by chance. It was wonderful and touching post.

Warty Mammal said...

Criminy. I wonder what ever happened to that little girl?

陳芳 said...

一定要保持最佳狀況呦,加油!!!期待你發表的新文章!.................................................................

Pat said...

Well done, Pearl. I am glad that (at least in CA), teachers are required to report possible abuse to an administrator, who must report it to CPS (Child Protective Services).

Great post!

IndigoWrath said...

Wow, that's quite upset me. And already my brain is pestering me to think about something else. And therein lies the problem. Poor kid. Hope she made it.

Sarah said...

You were too young to realize abuse like most people. This is a great post--short and to the point.

chlost said...

I work with kids like that little girl. Even more depressing is that even reporting it does not always change their life for the better.
I happened across your blog. Love it. Glad I visited.