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Friday, April 5, 2013

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 with the supposed allergen, 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 bawls 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 remember 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 and 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.

40 comments:

Teresa Evangeline/Bayou Summer said...

Great post, Pearl. Beautifully written. We all walked round then afraid to say anything... lord, how I hope she is still alive, healthy and happy, somehow.

The Savage said...

Parents, or anyone for that matter, who abuse children should be drawn and quartered or suffer any medieval type torturous death. Swatting a behind is one thing but bruising a child or breaking bones very, very wrong...

Geo. said...

Elegant. A beautifully written piece, Pearl.

joeh said...

We may have gone too far in many regulations and concerns today, but when we ponder those extremes it is good to look back to why many regulaions have been put in place and remember how awful things were when we just looked the other way.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I think that all of us,at one time, chose not to see. However, isn't it quite something that we never forgot.

Thoughtful post.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

We know when something is wrong, even at that tender age, and it stays with us forever...helps form us into who we are today.

Perpetua said...

Beautiful post, Pearl, saying something important. Perhaps the pendulum has swung a bit too far in the direction of over-cossetting, but better that than unfettered risk and danger. Neglect and brutality are sadly still with us, but at least we don't accept them as facts of life any more.

I doubt you could have done anything, but it's sad that the system failed her.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

bravo and amen, Pearlie.

Eva Gallant said...

As kids, we don't always realize what we may be seeing. I hope she's alive and well somewhere, too.

Eva Gallant said...

As kids, we don't always realize what we may be seeing. I hope she's alive and well somewhere, too.

Craver Vii said...

The story about your classmate from 7th grade-- that really tugged at my heart strings. It bugs me to the core, and I wish so badly that I could go back to that time and intervene somehow. I hope she pulled through to rise above her circumstances, and I hope she found healing and dignity.

My wife stutters. She was hurt when she was a little girl, and this amazing, brilliant and beautiful woman still suffers from the scars of her youth. The consequences remain from someone else's sin. It's not fair; it's not right.

Goldenoldenlady said...

I had a little friend in the First Form (your 7th grade, the beginnings of secondary education in the UK) who had made it via competitive testing to grammar school by dint of her smarts, but whose navy blue regulation knickers smelt of pee because no-one at home washed them, or if they did, not nearly often enough.

I remember her name.

When I was a teacher, 25 years later, I had in my classes neglected children with grubby cuffs and collars, and smelly armpits, and that was just their shirts...

And yet THIS government, this alleged coalition, is attacking the poorest 10% or 15% in the UK as feckless, idle, clueless and undeserving.

And their children with them, it seems. AND THEIR CHILDREN WITH THEM!

Excuse me while I barf.

jenny_o said...

Sounds like even at that tender age you were using far more of your brain than the woman at the bar ever will.

When we're young, we have no way of knowing how to help something that far from our personal experience. Surely the teachers or others in the school system must have suspected something. That poor girl. I hope she got away.

Joan said...

I like your last line. :)

Shelly said...

I ad to gather myself before I could reply. I've taught 29 years and this made me cry-

middle child said...

I loved the words and visual of you sentence about the bras and odd lumps of confusion. Perfection.
I think the woman at the end of the bar needed to be told that it must be nice to be perfect and not care for anyone but herself.
As for the child. It is hard to address the issue and for children the same age as you were makes it literally imposible.

Red said...

You deal very well with a very important theme. We don't care enough about each other. Your loud mouthed bar patron is a typical attitude in some quarters...ignore anything that is opposed to your opinion.
Yes I was legally required to report injuries children showed up with when I was teaching. usually it was cross checked with the councillor coming to me and asking me to look at some injury.

fishducky said...

This is the first time you made me cry!!

Joanne Noragon said...

We allow the world to desentisize not only ourselves, but our children. I know of a young girl who broadcast her intention to kill herself via social media and text messages. Friends responded in droves, begging her not to. Not one single child told a parent, a teacher, anyone in authority. Not one single child. It's as if she would be alive at the next level of the game; or perhaps they all wanted to buy a teddy bear and cry for an afternoon while the stuffed toy pile grew higher and higher.

Ian Lidster said...

Brilliant and poignant piece. Gives much to ponder and I reckon we all remember that girl's equivalent in our school days. How terribly sad. I wonder what happened to her, and her equivalents everywhere.

Susan Kane said...

I think I know that lady's name and all her relatives' names. They live here too.

The Bug said...

The good old days never really were...

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Bravo Pearl. As others before have noted, we all can relate in some way to this.

Yes, 'correctness' has become another method of "whip the people and fine (tax) them". Society needs a lot more reminding the way you just did, as to why it's necessary. Sadly though, as G.O.L. points out, it never really changes. Just shifts and reasserts.

There will always be a need. That's what really stinks.

Jackie said...

As I read this, my throat lumps up and my eyes water. I have unspoken compassion and deep heartfelt love for those who are neglected and/or abused. I pray that they will all be protected in a miraculous way...finding love from someone that will take care of them in the way that children should be taken care of. God, please take care of these children...near and far.
This touched my heart, Pearl....

Leenie said...

Sad. But true.

Daisy said...

A post to spread far and wide Pearl.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

An unsettling post.

cynk said...

I really enjoyed this post. I want to invite you to link it up with a writing community I hang out with.

http://yeahwrite.me/moonshine-103/

It's a no pressure blog hop that runs for the weekend. This post is just the kind of well-written story that the group appreciates finding.

vanilla said...

Oh, what a blessing it is to be able to turn off those who are talking but saying nothing!

Gigi said...

i had to share this one with the Twitter-verse.

We all remember incidents like that. What a shame.

Jeanie said...

The woman at the bar said nothing, and in a few words you made our hearts break for the little girl who said nothing and those like her.

Daisy said...

Well-written post, Pearl. I don't know, but it seems to me that we could all use a little more coddling instead of less.
Very sad about that girl from your childhood. I hope that life got better for her later on.

River said...

This reminds me of a line in a Martina McBride song - "some folks whispered, some folks talked, but everybody looked the other way".
It's a sad situation which still happens today, although these happenings do get reported more often these days.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

What a great post, and you are so right some people talk a lot and say nothing and the so called good old days often only seem good when the rememberer is drunk.......

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

What a great post, and you are so right some people talk a lot and say nothing and the so called good old days often only seem good when the rememberer is drunk.......

Rose L said...

Not only neighbors and teachers, but often those battered children and women would see doctors and no one every questions broken arms, cracked ribs, black eyes, and such. I feel the doctors should have been the ones to step up to the plate.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

You're an excellent writer and person, Pearl. This story is very sad and powerful. Even with the laws in place, too many people - including professionals who are paid to protect children from harm - don't use their brains.

xoRobyn

jeanie said...

I have a girlfriend that was that girl, Pearl. She, too, wishes that there was someone who had noticed - a lot of years have passed and she has grown herself up into a warrior of a woman, but the little girl she was still wishes SOMEONE would have said something.

Elephant's Child said...

Saying nothing, very loudly. And sadly there are still far too many people who do not open their eyes to the uncomfortable.
Brilliant post. Uncomfortable - but brilliant.

Diane Tolley said...

You always say it best, Pearl! You reminded me of a little girl in my grade seven class who often showed up with black and purple stripes across her back from her dad's belt. I remember how shocked I was. It was the very first time I realized that everyone's life wasn't like mine. I'm still in touch with her, one long and traumatic life later.