Last week I gave a test over Mitosis. One of my students entered the room smiling.
"Ms. LaFata," he declared. "Watch me ace this test."
"Yeah?" I said. "That's great."
Two days later I placed the graded test on his desk. A 79 percent.
"Okay then," he chuckled. "Next time. Just watch me."
I started running recently. It hasn't been pretty and it isn't remotely enjoyable. On the first day, I tried for once around the block in our very long and very hilly neighborhood. I made it halfway before texting a friend.
"I think I'm dying. If not, will you kill me?"
She replied. "Stop stopping."
And so I did. It took me about an hour, but I jawled (jog slash crawled) the rest of the way home. And when I made it through the front door I collapsed, and your brother asked if my face was going to explode but I made it. I stopped stopping.
This past year I've stopped so many things. Partial. Interrupted. Lesson plans and diet plans and books on nightstands and blinking cursors on pages of words half empty, half willing. Halfway.
And I'm not sure why.
I think it's because sometimes I think what's the point. Because I can run or write or teach or not, and you're still dead and that still hurts. That still hurts.
But then there's the other part of me that feels this need to finish. Everything because you can't and because I promised you I would. That day as I held you I promised you I would try, and no matter the MAGNITUDE of the apathy I can't forget it.
Yesterday there were flowers beside the highway. We were driving to the mall and there was a little white cross and daffodils just beyond the shoulder.
It made me think of an article I once read. A teenage boy was killed in a car accident and his father was describing the place he died. Just a patch of grass on the highway, how he'd tend to it weekly. Drive an hour out of his way to tidy the area of discarded coffee cups and candy bar wrappers. How it was always loud and busy, but so very silent. How this place, this five foot block of pavement had become significant to him. Sacred even. How it both comforts him and haunts him to be there. How it hurts to drive away.
And I remember wanting a space like that. To go and to be near you for a time. To cry all my tears and watch the people pass, and to leave your sacred place better than before. To gently lay the daffodils and make my way to work.
Only the place you died isn't somewhere I can leave. There are no shortcuts to escape its confrontation. I visit this place with every breath. Every mirror.
I've done my best to hate it for you. Hate that it killed you. Hate that it took you from me. Hate that I never knew and hate that there was no stopping. Hate that I have to stay here, in this place you died, when you couldn't stay. Hate that it wouldn't let you.
But I can't hate it anymore. I can't hate it with what I eat or don't sleep or can't say. I can't hate it anymore, because the hate makes it ugly. So very ugly and because it's hard to hold onto all that hate without growing numb to everything else. Because it's all I've got.
So I've started running. And going to bed earlier and drinking more water. I've made time to read once a night and I've even tried Yoga a few times. I'm looking into therapy, and meditation and volunteering, and I'm going to try those things too because I promised you I would. And because I'd rather leave the flowers.
MOST days now, I can get two miles without stopping. I haven't made it to three but that's my goal, by the summer.
Just watch me.