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.


Blogger Katie said...

oh em...i'm so glad you wrote again...and my heart feels the injustice of it all...i miss baltimore...

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emily, I'm glad Teya has you for a teacher. And I know that it all seems so hopeless sometimes but you have no idea what ripple effect you have. Poor Mr. Benny, I still think you should try to publish that book! : >)
love you

9:42 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

oh man...i can see it so clearly...the whole scene.
but you know...the other girls had her back. and that is saying a lot.
of course, i too would hope that they would have her back in the talk-her-down kind of way...

we can only hope.

just imagine what it would be like if they didn't have you at all? ever?

crazy that they are going to be in 7th grade next year. i still can't believe it.

also. love the photo. hee...

12:05 AM  
Anonymous anna said...

thanks for bringing your words back. and my heart just dropped a bit with the weight of that last stanza truth. how beautifully you have written it. as a window into the streets of sandtown.

5:06 PM  
Blogger hele said...

I think whatever her future holds you have changed her. She will meet her future with an awareness she would not have had otherwise and will process her experiences differently than the other girl. The one who ran into her.

And maybe her inner life will be the richer for it.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

I always enjoy my visits here - they are inspirational. In all the mess of the world, there arestill gems to be found ... and you and your words are in that category without a doubt.

6:32 AM  
Blogger snowsparkle said...

your writing let me feel all the nuances and sharp edges of that moment... i just keep thinking over and over what a gift you are to these girls trying to survive their world. i admire your courageous and creative soul. thanks you for sharing this with us here. big hugs,

12:13 AM  

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