When I arrived at Juvie today, I was told that they weren’t sure I could teach.Two of the girls had a really big fight earlier and everyone was on edge.They thought they might be on the verge of violence.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m good.”
“I’m not so sure. It was ugly,” the PO said.
“They probably will not want to come and I’m not sure it’s a good idea!”
“I am sure it is a good idea,” I say. “Maybe they can work it out.”
I see the laughter in her eyes. Like yeah. Right.
“We are a little worried. We want you close, so you have to be up here near the office,” she adds. “Okay,” I say.
They are scared, not for the kids, but for themselves. No one wants a big fight or something that could turn into a riot on his/her watch.
“Whatever you need. I’m good. Really, I got this. Just bring me the girls. I’m sure they will come.”
“I’ll be right here,” the PO answers.
The girls walk in. The two who are in the fight sit down on opposite sides of the room.
“We okay?” I ask as I look directly at each of them.
They have the tightest mask on.
They have every ounce of attitude out on display.
I take a deep breath.
Actually I take about three.
The tension is very high.
Call me crazy, but I am not scared. I am sad.
They came, so I choose to trust.
“Thank you for coming. I know you didn’t want to.
I know you have shit going on,” I say.
When I want to get their attention, I throw in a baby curse word.
“Do you want to talk?”
They shake their heads, no.
“Can we please try?
Let’s use what we learned in class.
Start with an ‘I’ sentence.”
I am carefully pushing.
One looked straight at the other and says,
“I miss you. I am sorry. Please.”
I almost fell off the chair.
Her eyes were teary and genuine. She was so vulnerable.
It was silent in the room.
The other one didn’t move, didn’t look in the direction.
Hard as a rock.
Closed and shut down.
“COME ON!!!” I yell.
She looks at me and I imagine if she had a gun I’d be dead.
I look at her.
“I am going to fucking kill you.
How can you not respond to what she said ?”I add .
And, for a second, she lost her guard when I said ‘fucking.’”
And she laughed.
Only to go right back to the tight, mean looking attitude.
“Did you think I didn’t know how to say that word?”
She turns her head away, because she knows I just might make her laugh again.
“Will you say something to her?” I ask
She shakes her head, no.
“Did you hear her?”
She nods, yes.
“Are we okay?”
She nods, yes.
She is not going to give in, but I can tell something tiny shifted, so tiny you could barely see it.
Actually, if you didn’t pay attention, you would have missed it.
We continue the class ,we work with masks.
When do you take off your mask? Is one of the questions I ask .
My tough one writes Never!
Really? I ask her.
That is so incredibly sad.
And it is so exhausting!!
She is distant and far. She is busy being tough and proving that she won this round.
I want to tell her that she can stop.
I want to tell her it’s okay.
I want to tell her that whoever hurt her should not make her close herself to the rest of the world.
I want to tell her that being tough isn’t winning.
I say nothing, and I watch her in her gang mode. She is HARD core gang.
Of course, one of the worst ones.
“You know,” I say to the group,
“I know it’s scary to take your mask off, but when you allow yourself to just be, and to be honest and dare to be vulnerable, that’s when you start to change.
I look at her and I wonder if she will ever change. Maybe not everyone can.
In the car on the way home I remember something someone sent me a few weeks ago.
It was written by Goethe.
Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem,
see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.
My tough gang banger came to the class.
She didn’t have to.
She sat through it.
She did the writing prompt.
She didn’t fight with her enemy.
She didn’t kill me when I pushed and pushed and pushed.
And for a split second, she lost her guard when I said “fucking.”
The cup might not be half full, but it isn’t empty either.
Maybe for now, that is enough.