Monday, July 14, 2008

Snowballs on the Avenue

I promised them snowballs.

It was bribery, really, from last Friday
when deep in July, I wanted them to act like October
because new teachers were observing.
They rose to the moment (put on quite a show)
which had us, today, after lunch, strolling over to the frozen cup guy.

The plan was to go to Mr. Benny's, behind the school.
But he's sick and not open for the summer.
Our second option around the corner, was closed.

So they wailed, "Let's go down the avenue. Pleeeeaasssse."

The avenue is a few blocks away and the Baltimore blue lights flash their reminder that you need to be extra careful.
C'mon. They have better snowballs there.
And against my better judgment, I said, yes.

And so it was, that waiting to get snowballs, a girl walked by and ran into Teya.
It was rude,
it was intentional,
it was completely unacceptable
and Teya would not, in a million years let it go.
The back and forth began.
The girl in the black and white striped shirt cussed and Teya made a threat.
They volley back and forth.
The rest of the girls rose to Teya's defense.

You don't need to be a chess master to see how the next moves are going to play out.
Teya had already had a tough day.
Her hair was only half done and the boys had already teased her.
Now the girls on the street.

It's like the match to a short fuse,
the spark on a California desert.
The waving gun on the 4th of July.

We build a school-world where good choices and I-statements are valued
and we want them to transfer that to the neighborhood.
Today, I thought, it was an impossible task.

I talked Teya down (barely)
knowing this would be repeated
on other afternoons
without the conflict-resolution preaching teacher
standing nearby.

The Baltimore Sun tallies up the homicides so far this year at 106.

Maybe it's too big a leap in logic
connecting my girls to that swelling number.
Around here, even the little things explode--
and turn violent.

I'm sorry, Ms. Emily Teya said as we walked back to school. She made me so mad. That was wrong.

I know one hundred stories about Teya
giving her reasons to be angry at the world.
The other girl probably does too.

Teya is lovable.
Her heart is good.

But this afternoon on the avenue
I didn't need to be a chess master
or psychic
to look down the thin path
of her future.