Wednesday, October 13, 2004


I so do not want this blog to be me cataloguing the negative things. There are lovely moments. But right now, I guess because it's so new to me, the scary things are more in my face and consuming. Today a kid, who was hallwalking during my planning period, used his pen to poke through the duct-taped hole in the door next to my desk. It was a shock because there'd been no noise outside, nothing, then suddenly this loud sound of the kid's pen trying to bust through the duct tape, and me on the inside, seeing the duct tape bulge, right next to my face. Then he went to the other door and broke through the taped window pane. And it was loud too. I jumped up and ran after him the second time he did it, but he got away, though I did see him. I said, "I've got your face, little brother," and he said, "I don't give a fuck." Of course I'll never see him again, so big deal if I've got the little brother's face.
After that I sat at my desk trying to concentrate on reading papers but kept expecting another assault, as I always expect (and more often than not get). I cannot concentrate there. And so then I think about my students and that they live like this, waiting for something to happen, 24/7. I swear, and I'm a little embarrassed about this, when I walk past my papered up glass-paned door I'm quick about it because I fear a gun going off and an inadvertent bullet through the door. I would be willing to die for someone or for a cause, but not as an incidental casualty of someone else's bullshit, bullshit, bullshit meaningless war. Like a former student of mine, Wayne Williams, a big precious gentle guy who worked hard to graduate, who got caught between two bastards shooting at each other at a bar in Slidell and died, just a few months after he graduated.
Oh, I could get maudlin. But I won't. It's not the point. The point is that even though I want to discuss the beautiful things and the beautiful students, I am distracted by the violence. Things are always on the verge of blowing. I saw my friend, Tracy, this weekend, someone who knows me, and she says she sees something different in my face. I see it too. And I feel different. I feel on the edge, anxious, and in danger. I get to leave this place every day and go across the tracks and park in my special, saved little spot in front of my house that I and my two neighbors civilly agreed upon. But I do look around me a lot more lately than I used to. And I don't smile much anymore. And I cannot sleep well. And I'm having nightmares.
And that's only me. Imagine living in it every moment of all your life.

Disposed of: the remains of the lilies



Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

I have been reading these posts on a regular basis and have often wanted to respond but felt inadequate. How could I possibly comment on Melanie's eloquent words? What right do I, living here outside of Covington, have to comment on a situation that I can not really even conceive of?

But today's post touched me. I have lived a lot of my life in situations that other people would find intolerable. It was always an adventure. But it was only an adventure because I KNEW that I could always get on a plane or a boat or a train or a bus and leave. I was not doomed to live the rest of my life there. It's easy to be brave when you know you don't really have to be.

We, those of us who are white and middle class (or approaching middle class even) and American, have the bounty of being able to come and go just about wherever we want to. This is a privilege we all too often take for granted.

Imagine not being able to leave the neighborhood around Douglass. Imagine not being able to leave the poverty and violence EVER. I have lived in similar kinds of situations for extended periods of time but I cannot imagine what it would feel like to not have an option. I do not want to imagine it.

Mel, you are in my thoughts every single day.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melanie, I'm very very concerned about you, about your safety, of course, but also about your feeling this affecting you to such a point that your friend can see the fear on your face. I thought of your trip to Russia and what happened in Lennigrad, and I remember how I understood the fear having gone there myself when the KGB was following us around. And this is American, land of the free and all that. And you seem even more frightened in your own country.

I do know that you want to write about the lovely moments, and that they exist is a miracle in itself. You've always been brave, a person who took risks, that is YOU. But you pay a price, and I'm concerned that this time the price is so exhorbiant. I want for you a talisman, something that you can touch and feel love and support when these terrible things happen. I know this sounds simplistic, but it's better than nothing. What can you bring every day that says love and beauty to you? What part of your life can you put in your pocket to remind yourself that you're about love and peace, not violence and hate? This idea isn't a grand one, I know, but it's all I have to offer right now. Your inner beauty mustn't be lost; it has to shine through your pain. So many of us love and admire you, and I hope that helps in some small way.

Easy to say sitting here in my comfortable office, scribbling a new novel that doesn't mean much in the big picture. So you may say, don't try to describe the ocean if you've never seen it, and you'd be right. But I just wanted you to know how I'm feeling after reading your blog titled "Violence."

10:04 AM  
Blogger KarenM said...

How can we, in this country, live with ourselves knowing this violence is what we offer daily to so many of our children? What little would we have to give up to keep our children and our teachers safe in their schools? What kind of craziness has us worrying about and comparing test scores when we are not even willing to provide physical, much less emotional or psychological, security? Fear freezes the brain. And, oh, what it does to the heart...

4:32 AM  
Blogger leslieg said...

I’ve been thinking about all of this turmoil at your school and in the world—probably more than I should. This glimpse into human behavior is giving me the creeps. I can understand why you are hesitant to record it, but it’s truth, and it’s your struggle right now.

I’ve been thinking about the numbers. The number of students, hallwalkers, circlers, and mean girls must be overwhelming. Then I imagine the numbers reversed. What would happen if the number of Melanies and French teachers outnumbered the kids screwing in the stairwell and breaking windows? If they were just inundated with sane adults, would the behavior change? How would mean girl behave in a different environment? I’m not suggesting anything, really—just wondering about it. Would I have survived in that world? Could the teenage me have succeeded at anything beyond survival with so much shit surrounding me?

I’m worried about you, too. I know you can handle this, and I know you don’t require my concern, but I want to tell you anyway. I hope you are finding ways to rid yourself of the poison you swallow every day. Maybe it’s not possible right now. Maybe the only way to do your job is to be consumed by it, but I hope that’s temporary. The wonderful moments have to be enough to keep you sane.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Beautifully written! I've worked in public schools for almost 20 years and I can really feel much of what you write.

6:50 PM  

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