Through the Cracks

He looked- I can’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t sadness. Sadness was the girl in front of me, Rosemary; her big eyes launching tears like projectiles. No, what was in his eyes, written on his face that day was something different. I should have realized. Disturbed, that was it. That was the look.

James Channing. A quiet kid, kept to himself. It turns out he had fifth period lunch, but I never noticed him in the cafeteria. Wait. There was the first day. I saw him come in at the beginning of the period, but- I was helping Kyle with his summer reading paper. By the end of the period, James left and I don’t think I noticed. Should I have? Was I obligated to?

I never really saw him much beyond that over the last two years. Sometimes, we’d catch each other in the halls. I would always say hello; I couldn’t ignore a former student. He had me his freshman year for Biology. It had been a while, but I remembered. He sat in the back, the 29th kid in the class, by himself. He never had a lab partner. Always refused my suggestions to join up with another group. But every day, at least once in the period, he’d raise his hand and answer a question, usually the hardest one, with a smile on his face and a witty joke tagged on to the end. The first day he did it, the entire class looked shocked, as if they hadn’t expected him to speak. I rationalized it, saying he probably just loved Biology, but, deep down, I always liked to think that he liked me: that I had affected him. I guess that makes me selfish.

But how could I be accused of selfishness? The whole reason I didn’t see him was because I was helping a student. And sure, Rosemary crying about how Jenny Neto called her a “b****” on Facebook the night before might not have been the most pressing matter, but I figured anyone who was being bullied deserved a helping hand. Most of them just complain about silly catfights, but occasionally I get someone who is really having a problem.

Rosemary will probably be back next week, crying again. It’s odd, because I didn’t see her crying this morning, when the news came over the loudspeakers. Funny. No one really seemed affected, not even the kids in his grade, his other teachers. It was just another case of “Poor kid, what could we have done?” They only like to make examples out of the “promising” students. The Rosemarys. A kid like James was expected to go down the road he did. He was a troublemaker.

I can’t imagine I was the first person he came to. He must have gone to others. No one liked to listen to kids like him. They’re the type of kids that you watch when they come into your class. Because they’re the bad ones. I remember when I told Janice how good he was, back when I had him in Biology; she acted like I was crazy. James Channing? Lucky you!
All he needed was one person who wouldn’t ignore him. But Rosemary got to me first. So I told him I could see him in a few minutes. I didn’t know how long her story was going to be, but before I finished with her, he left. Dejected, rejected. I was right then, I guess. He did like me. Back in that Biology class; I did affect him. But I wasn’t there for him. He slipped through the cracks. James Channing. All I had to do was reach out. Help him. I haven’t seen that wry smile since that class.

I never will.





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