My second-to-last class of the week is on a Saturday evening and consists of three students. One of them, she is my all-time favorite, Alana. Another, a boy named Len, is beautifully happy and just energetic enough to still be manageable, but the last one–she’s the sauce, Ai (pronounced “eye”).
She looked at me and wanted nothing to do with me, and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to convince her to come in but she moved away if I reached out to her, and if I even spoke to her she would turn her entire body to look away from me. I’m not a monster… I thought.
So I left her alone and continued teaching. I didn’t want it to be a waste for the other students, especially not Ayana, my Princess Ayana. I tried to focus on having a good lesson with her. Just give her a good lesson. And maybe it will help Ai if sees Ayana having a good time. Ai, I thought. She treats me like the devil, but her name means love.
At some point during the lesson the mother had convinced her to come into the room, but she held a strong post at the door, far away from the rest of us in the room. And she still wouldn’t engage, no matter how much I tried.
In the end, I had made it through the lesson. Ai was tough and it was sad, but still I knew she would warm up soon enough. I didn’t expect Ai’s mom to be my bigger problem though.
“Hi Robyn,” my boss approached. Even if it’s good news, I find that I get slightly concerned if bosses approach me–what did I do wrong? “Ai’s mom says you should pick her up and bring her into the classroom and hold her during the lessons.” “Oh really? Okay.” I answered understandably, but something confused me about it all.
I thought about her potential reaction to me holding her. She’ll hate me and cry and probably scream bloody murder and tear her nails into the wall until she bled. I doubt she will find me very consoling, but the pain that it would all cause me would be much worse. I would just hate to make a child cry like that.
It was unbelievable how painful it was actually. I thought about the way she looked at me, the way she made the effort to turn her entire body. Is it because I’m dark-skinned? I know children are often afraid for various reasons, but she looked at me with a perfect fear. And she despised my touch. I could only think of someone so strongly loathing to touch me having been because of my skin’s brown color. But that can’t be the case now, right? But I couldn’t help to think it anyway… I’m not a monster, I repeated in my head. But I felt like I looked like one.
After I had left work, I continued to turn my manager’s words in my head: “Ai’s mom said…”
But… why didn’t Ai’s mom say anything to me? At all? The whole time I tried to bring her daughter into the room, the whole time I tried to include her throughout the lesson, or after class when your daughter left at ease without the fear of death swallowing her heart. She didn’t say anything to me at all, but she went pass me and directly to my manager to talk about me? All my labor to help your daughter, but you can’t even talk to me? Then I had finally placed the worst feeling of it all: I had felt betrayed.