At lunch, we share our stories. What did you do? When did you do it? Who was it with?
She is still in my care, but the time when I must let her go is ever-present. I don’t want to think about her truly being gone, but … alas, high school is the stepping stone to adult life.
I was sixteen… I could drive… and it was with someone I wish it wasn’t.
I was nineteen… and I regret it too.
I was fifteen… And I learned from it, and grew from it, so it’s all good.
The loss is so close to me I can taste its bitter tears on my tongue. Hours earlier, she left her backpack in my classroom to meet him upstairs in the cafeteria. Normally she gets her tray, a smoothie or a sausage sandwich, and returns to eat in my room.
Today, she only came back to retrieve her backpack. No boy trailed behind her, and when I asked, “Where’s the boy?” she gave me her leave-me-alone look, and my two Nepali students giggled and said, “Miss, I can’t believe you’re going to allow her to date. You’re so much nicer than our moms.”
But what am I to do? Whether she sees him for a month or five minutes, could I really put a stop to the spinning wheels of time, to the carousel Joni Mitchell sang through my childhood?
This is the child who, at two and a half years old, stayed up longer than me at my cousin’s wedding to dance until the band. Went. Home.
This is the child who, at nine, learned how to speak Spanish even though she’d ignored all lessons in America for the previous four years, because once we were in Spain, Spanish was required to. Make. Friends.
This is the child who, at age fourteen, stomped off into the wilderness with three of her fellow Girl Scouts and adamantly told them that they weren’t lost, only to call me ninety minutes later and declare, “We’re lost. But we’re together.”
I certainly can’t tell her, “Stop.” She’s been spinning since she was a little girl, and I am not the world she spins around.
I was sixteen. I was in love with a loser.
But I didn’t marry him.
Isn’t that all that matters?