Who Do They Go To?

 

I close my eyes.  The cold, hard surface of my desk props my elbow as I lean my head into my hand while automatically rambling off the conjugated forms of hacer.  Hago, haces, hace, hacemos, hacéis, hacen.  On and on and on.  I open my eyes again and they begin to glaze over as I stare at the clock.  It’s only 9:13 am and I mentally groan from exhaustion when Greg accidentally kicks the back of my chair, snapping my attention back to the chalkboard.  A few more swift kicks follow and I suddenly realize Greg’s kicks aren’t an accident.  Principal Connor pokes her head into our classroom and calls Mrs. Amore into the hallway.  “Look at exercise 2C in your workbooks, class,” Mrs. Amore instructs. Her heels clink against the tile floor and she closes the door behind her.

The class erupts into sudden chaos before the latch even clicks into the doorframe.  The girls clutter and begin giggling over the new Heath Ledger movie, while the boys discuss the much anticipated Xbox release in November.  I pull out my Walkman from my desk and raise the headphones to my ears when Greg kicks my chair again.

I turn to face him. “What’s that about?” he asks, nodding towards the door.

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

We look at the door, out the small rectangle window, seeing half of Mrs. Amore’s back.  She is stiff, as if cold water has been poured over her, but then her shoulders begin to rise and fall as Principal Connor rubs her back, trying to calm her down.

“It doesn’t look good,” I point out.  “She’s crying.”

We look at each other and back at the door.  The heels of Mrs. Amore’s palms wipe vigorously at her cheeks, erasing any sign of sadness.  She then takes a deep breath as she tries to regain composure and reaches out for the doorknob.  I shove my Walkman back into my desk and face forward.  Greg places his hands folded on top of his.  Mrs. Amore walks back into the classroom with puffy, tired eyes.

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Counting

For the first time in my life, I was running late for work.

This was a bad omen.

I blame my mother for my time-keeping obsession.  Since her watch ran seven minutes and twenty-three seconds slow, it was always difficult trying to get anywhere on time with her.  And once I discovered her inaptitude in time management, I tried ever so desperately to get her to set it to the right time. But she never listened to me. So I was always late.  To soccer practice, piano lessons, even school.  I was late to my middle school graduation because my mom swore we had enough time to go to the closest Dunkin Donuts and grab a quick coffee.

Constantly having to wait for her outside the car created my habit of counting to a certain number. It helped alleviate the anxiety my seven-year-old self was holding.  Now no matter what, I make sure I am at least 10 minutes early.

On that day as I sped off to work, I realized my phone vibrating in the cup holder. It was my mother. Probably asking me where I was since we both worked at the same doctor’s office and I wasn’t already at my desk scanning paperwork.  I picked up the phone at the next red light.

“Mom, somehow I lost track of time. Can you tell Lucy I am going to be 10 minutes late?”

“I already talked to Lucy. You’re not going to work today.”  Her voice was calm, but straining.  Something was happening.

“What’s wrong?”

“He’s having complications. You need to come to the hospital now.”

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