Pandemic Pandemonium

My mayor stepped onto a plane headed for Mississippi to visit his family for Thanksgiving in the midst of a level-red, please-don’t-travel-Denver pandemic. My mayor graduated from the same high school as me. My mayor worked to shut down the high school he graduated from. My mayor told me I was racist for walking along a picket line after fighting for fifteen years for a decent wage. My mayor thinks education reform means shutting down the only good thing that most students have: a public, comprehensive school that accepts all students regardless of ability, ethnicity, or work ethic.

Is this why my Sleep Number tells me each morning that I have a shitty sleep score, that I have been restless most of the night?

Or is it because I brought an immigrant boy into my home, a boy who had never laid eyes on a computer, who, two months later, was forced to do online schooling for the duration of his time here because people like my mayor keep getting on planes?

Is it because I have four teenagers in my house, all at one level of depression or anxiety after nine months of pandemia, and I worry that if I don’t let them see their friends I am going to wake to their wrists slit, them hanging in a garage, a bullet to their head? That I spend my early morning hours walking my dog and playing, replaying every fucking scenario. If we get tested today and are negative and promise not to go anywhere or see anyone for two weeks, can they see their friends? But wait… won’t their friends and their friends’ families have to do the same? But wait… my husband has to go to work every day, so… But wait… I have to buy food for these endlessly hungry mouths, so… But wait…

I’m sure my mayor was thinking along the same lines when he threw our elected school board and our teachers under the bus for our superintendent’s sudden resignation.

During the strike, I was in charge of Valentines on day three. We were writing love notes to Susana Cordova. My job was to censor, to ensure no cuss words were present.

“But wait,” a teacher held up her, I’m-gathering-the-class’s attention-now finger, “What if I want to say, ‘Susana, I fucking love you'”?

And how could I say no? How could I explain to my mayor that Manual High School changed my life and opened my eyes to what the world could really look like, and why did he think he needed to shut it down?

How could I explain to my mayor that I, too, am a DPS graduate, and DID YOU EVEN HEAR WHAT WE WERE STRIKING ABOUT?

How could I explain to my mayor that I fell for his Democrat-reformer propositions, that I sent two of my girls to his beloved charter schools, that they were put in lines and held silent in the hallway and had to write essays in their hour-long detentions for forgetting a fucking eraser on a pencil???

That if you weren’t academically the best, you were just forgotten?

Maybe he wasn’t there with me last night, tossing and turning. Maybe he didn’t follow my girls to the public high school where the teachers take the time to get to know their students rather than teaching them a rote routine of conformity. Maybe he doesn’t understand that test scores–how he measures success–are meaningless to a teacher of immigrants whose students carry two languages, two cultures, two views of the world, two experiences in America, two lives insides their souls.

Maybe he’s never been outside of the bubble of Denver, the whitewashed, integrated Manual, the real world for our kids.

Maybe he hasn’t seen a sixth-grader have a panic attack because she forgot to put a proper MLA heading on a piece of notebook paper.

Maybe he haunts me in the night, two days before Thanksgiving. Maybe he has another agenda in his third, lame-duck term.

Maybe I should have Thanksgiving with my parents who live fifteen minutes away.

Or maybe I should just sit down. Breathe. And be grateful that I will always apologize when I have made a stupid choice, as a parent or a teacher, and not try to blame my mayor for taking away a wink of my sleep.

The Only One

I don’t really believe in the idea of regret. I think that the choices we make, good or bad, have consequences, good or bad, that we either learn from or don’t. Most of the time, I’d like to say I have learned enough from the choices I have made to know what to do in the future.

It’s been ten months since we took this boy into our home and just shy of seven since a global pandemic has more or less shut down the world, but in particular, the school we all attend. The combination of these two events has culminated into nothing less than utter exhaustion on my part.

I’m exhausted being the translator for and from a language I’ve never perfected myself. Being the only one in the house who can communicate with him the good and the bad. Why haven’t you done your chores? Thank you for the note. Why did you miss tutoring again? Thank you for being strong enough to lift this. Why do you not care one iota about your education? Thank you for feeding the cats when the girls again ignored them.

I’m exhausted being the only person who gets to hear his positive or negative reactions to everything. With trying to make him feel at home when he doesn’t seem to want to be here. With trying to show him the world when all he wants to do is play a video game on his phone, not look at the Grand Canyon, not get out of the car to see the ruins of an ancient church, not wake up early enough to hike to an alpine lake, not paddle the board in the heat of the day on a pristine and still reservoir, not take a walk further than five blocks. With trying to show him the things I love only to be disappointed that none of them matter to him.

I’m exhausted with his lack of interest in almost everything. Speaking English. Doing schoolwork. Setting his alarm. Fulfilling commitments. Reading a book. Watching a goddamn movie in English, for crying out loud. Listening to a single song in English.

I’m exhausted that we’re not at school, that he doesn’t have a place in our home, that his only place in this country is with his people, fellow Spanish-speakers, and that most of his friends from last year have dropped out or disappeared, and his two cousins and their families who lived in Denver have moved to Nebraska, and why am I still driving him to 76th and Pecos to get a haircut every three weeks when they no longer live there?

I’m exhausted that my kids could care less about his presence in our home, never including him unless asked, never just thinking that he’s here, that he could come too, that he might want a Starbucks drink or a Wendy’s hamburger, or to visit the mall or the ice cream shop. Never sitting with him to help him read or sharing their favorite Anime tales with him.

I’m exhausted with my husband telling me to stop thinking about him as a part of our family and instead as just what he is: a tenant waiting for the courts to determine if he’ll get deported or get a work permit, which is a three-or-more-year, interminable wait. An interminable weight.

I’m exhausted with him taking his $100 in cash every month and blowing it immediately on chocolate bars and soda or scammy credit cards to buy more upgrades for his phone game, then getting mad at me in the store for not buying him a bag of Halloween candy.

I’m exhausted from just being the only one. Is this what it feels like to be a single parent? The only one to communicate everything, the only one to bear the burdens he carries, his cousin dying, his stepmother dying, his family’s extreme poverty, his father’s endless work for almost no pay, his brother unable to find a wife… The only one who can listen to him, the only one who can try to understand, the only one who will never understand.

And I keep thinking about that Monday morning, ten months back, where I sat in that meeting with the caseworkers and social workers and the interpreter and the head of the department of human services, and they asked him if he’d rather go to Leadville with a Spanish-speaking family or with me, the only kind-of Spanish-speaker in my home, and he chose me because of his friends at school and his cousins nearby, and now he has none of those things, no English, and still no real connection to what he knows and loves best.

And wouldn’t it have been better in Leadville? Wouldn’t he be happier there in a small town, speaking Spanish, learning English, probably never traveling or hiking or camping or all the things he hates? A place where he could see the stars and maybe have a chance at truly understanding the ladders he must climb to make a life here?

Would we all be better? A little less tired. A little less lonely. A little less depressed about the decisions we make in this life that seem to benefit no one, really.

I will never know. I only know what I have now, and it is just. Utter. Exhaustion.