Pulling kids out of class to teach them English in the midst of making copies and running and translating.
Rushed words and mistaken conjugations.
Two sweet girls just trying to survive middle school, survive between cultures, and survive adult problems.
I didn’t realize that Daniela* was crying behind her thick glasses and her long dark hair.
¿Que pasa? What's wrong?
Her caring friend asked as she wrapped an arm around her. I could learn a thing or two from their no-personal-space culture.
But I shushed them as we walked into the library.
I had worksheets to do, and I just wasn’t prepared for another story. I sometimes cringe a little inside when they begin to tell me a story. Maybe because my heart is overwhelmed already...
or maybe because I know that if I hear of a world that is a lot more complicated and painful than mine, I hold some level of responsibility.
Thanks to his love that came flowing out of me when I had nothing, I reached for her hand and began the game of 300 million questions.
Was someone mean to you? nothing
What did they say? nothing
When did you start feeling sad? nothing
Please tell me why your sad. nothing
Were you thinking about something sad? a microscopic movement that resembled a nod.
I continued the probing for an uncomfortably long time until between sobs and big tears over things middle schoolers should never cry about, she told me how she thinks about it all the time and can’t stop.
It is her uncle who was shot by an off duty police officer who just happened to be his ex wife’s boyfriend. Daniela was just across to street and ran to the scene with her grandmother when they heard the gunshot— a sight she will never forget. I sight I see in her glazed over brown eyes each day.
She lived with him and her grandmother. It was the most stable and secure sense of family she'd ever had. It leaves me in shock. How can I even comprehend something so, well, incomprehensible?
But there is more. This isn’t the first uncle she has seen killed. She saw her other uncle after he was killed by el matador, a mean man who later killed himself. She pointed to her face, and neck and chest— that’s where he was shot.
Most of what I've seen of death was in caskets, wearing makeup, nice clothes and surrounded by flowers.
Not Daniela. She has seen more than I probably ever will. I wonder how she will be in 10 years. Who is going to listen to these stories or even believe her?
How will she work through all the hate and racism and violence that is part of her childhood?
Who will speak up for her and tell her story? Will she ever escape her cycle of poverty, lack of education and violence for a better life?
This didn't happen in a foreign country. It happened right in our city, in one of our neighborhoods. We drive past streets like Daniela's all the time on our way to the grocery, to meet up with friends, or to go to church.
*names changed for privacy