One day Mr J, her Physics teacher asked (let’s not get into why a creative type had been shoe-horned into a science class) – Just what the heck is wrong with you anyway?
At the end of the day, at the end of the last class of the day. He was fresh enough at teaching to still be completely optimistic. She was in the first class he ever taught. Right out of university.
In that moment she trusted him enough. To tell him about N.
She cried and he cried too. For her. With her. Tears rolling down his cheeks, openly. Such gentle empathy expressed in his eyes. Kindness. Shock. Disbelief.
She told him how empty and desperate she felt. Not in those words exactly, but he got the gist. And she told him how sad and lonely she was – none of her friends could understand, and no one talked about it at home. Like it never happened.
Except the impact was ongoing for her. Made worse by the silence, though she couldn’t speak of it. Til now, years later. Still confused by what happened.
And still overflowing with feelings there wasn’t really a place for. No one wanted to know. But it was with her every day, all the way through high school. She felt dirty and didn’t know how to feel better.
Then, a teacher cared. He saw her, beyond the bravado, the joking around, the silence. He saw her struggle and he cared enough to ask.
And they talked for over an hour, and somehow, just saying it out loud, it helped.
Thank goodness for Mr. J!
His reaction showed her it wasn’t weird she felt the way she did.
But then, as much as it helped that night, she realised giving away her secrets made her feel even more vulnerable. So, now when she sat in Mr. J’s classes, or saw him looking at her, she knew that he knew.
And she couldn’t stand it.
So she distanced herself from him, she wouldn’t let him get that close again. Not all the way through those last two years of high school.
Between her brother’s daily torment, and her heartbreak, the wheels were coming off. So slowly, no one noticed. And she just tried to keep going. School. Swimming practice. Friends. Trying to avoid her brother. That was life, that’s all there was room for.
But the whole school it seemed, was shocked when she failed her final year of school. How could that happen?
Everyone knew she was smart. Really smart. But her smarts, if properly assessed, would have been better off in English Literature and Drama classes, instead of Maths and Physics. She tried to tell them, but no one listened.
Not even Mr. J, who perhaps, just wanted to keep her in his class.
But as hard as she tried, her Physics and Maths grades just got worse. Her parents’ response? Hire a tutor, who hopelessly attempted to explain things that refused to compute. She wasn’t coping in the least, and still, no one listened.
Then, final exams. And she was stressed, knowing those two subjects for her, were doomed. Then, she messed up another one, not seeing the final page of the exam til it was too late. Ensuring a poorer grade than she would have gotten otherwise.
She failed year twelve.
And all those plans made on her behalf, dreams of university (though she had no idea what she wanted to study) were gone. For now.
Very little was said at home. No one asked her – what happened? Although it was a complete surprise to everyone.
Her parents’ first assumption – she’d repeat the year. No question. She agreed, for a while.
But she wasn’t going back to her old school. Way too embarrassing. Everyone knew she’d failed – the news whipping round the student body like wildfire.
One of her old school friends (a very loose term) incredulously said – Wow, so I passed and you didn’t!
To this layer cake of torment, sadness and heartbreak, add shame. A cream filling of feeling stupid. And the icing on top – incredible embarrassment, just for being who she was.
Please note: I am writing here about the past, and mostly its in the past. I do this to help shine the light and illustrate where I was, and how I got to this point. This is no longer stuff that torments me.