Questions Not Worth Asking

March 12, 2010
I push that front door in, using my knee as leverage to get it to turn on its rusted hinges. Mentally I remember to ask the landlord to get it fixed, but I know that I will forget to ever do that, and I am unwilling to trudge down the stairs yet again just to ask a favor that will not be done. Instead I slip into the dark apartment overlooking the China Wok restaurant and I drop my things on the floor with no intention of putting them in their proper places. My coat still on, my hat pulled down over my ears, I go to the fridge, mind absorbed in the single goal of finding nourishment. That scarf my aunt bought me two years ago for Christmas clings to my neck and I dig my thumb under it to loosen it. Scratchy against skin. Wool. Why did I wear that stupid scarf anyway? Why did I come to Chicago? Why did I live above a Chinese restaurant? Why this, why that. All senseless questions. None are worth asking because none of the answers are ones I want to hear. As soon as I begin to question myself I feel myself crack; so I stop questioning why I had chosen the life I had and I started to search again for food. That small inquiring rap at my door startles me and my train of thought is lost. So easily distracted nowadays. So hard to get things done. How I wish for the days when I had nothing more to worry about than school and my parents. What I would give for that now… I will myself to stop thinking of that as I go to answer my door.
Pull up first, then inward to open. That terrible creak again and then the dim light of the hallway before me, my eyes adjusting to it as opposed to the darkness in my apartment. And there, before me, stands a boy. One of my students. Miss Robbins, he says, his eyes almost hidden by the giant hat on his head. Why does my mind go blank at times such as these? I struggle to think of his name and to push all the whys out of my mind for the moment. Joe-Joel! Joel what are you doing here? I ask him. He shrugs and I look down at him. My shadow falls on him awkwardly. Wait. No. The light is from the outside. My shadow goes the opposite direction. So what is the shadow that falls on his face? I kneel down to his level and he looks down, averting his eyes from mine. Joel, what happened to your face? I ask, grabbing his thin shoulders gently. My brow turns down as I study his little face. The shadow goes down his neck. Where else does it reach to? Does the shadow go beneath his clothes too? Down his back, up his arms? Instantly I loosen my grip on him for fear of hurting him. Joel? Please tell me what happened? I ask again, calmly. His chin quivers and the tears come then. Mommy is hurt, he sobs. She won’t wake up. She won’t. I saw you walking home so I followed you because…be-because you always help me at sc-school and I thought you could help me now. My hands reach up and grab his shoulders again, shaking. What happened to her? I ask, my voice cracking. Did your dad do this to you? Did he hurt you and your mommy? He shakes his head, the ridiculous hat bobbing up and down with the movement. Who then? Who did this? I ask, pulling down the collar to his shirt. I gasp. Who, Joel? Who did this? Mommy, he whispers. Your mom did this to you? Did she hit you? I ask him, disparity in my voice. He nods and wipes away a stray tear. Mommy won’t wake up, he said. She won’t wake up. She said she was going to sleep and now she won’t wake up. I’m scared, Miss Robbins. I’m scared, he cries clinging to me helplessly.

Joel stopped coming to school after that. What happened? Why did it happen? How could someone do such things to their child? senseless questions. None are worth asking because none of the answers are ones I want to hear. But still I ask them. Still I wait for the answers I know will never come.





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