Lost for Words
BRRRIIING! rings the bell for the end of the period.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure to have your short stories ready for presentation next week! We will be reciting them in fashion and passion!”
Mr. Belvidere ushers the students out the door one by one, but holds his hand up when a young Jennilee tries to exit.
“Ms. Farrow, would you stay a few minutes to speak with me?”
The students empty the classroom, until it is only Jennilee and Mr. Belvidere. A slight chill replaces the warm stirring of minds.
“Please, sit.” Mr. Belvidere takes his chair behind his hand-me-down desk, while Jennilee pulls a seat from a nearby table. She folds her hands into her lap, and her eyes are drawn to her feet.
“Ms. Farrow, I trust you know why I’ve asked you to have this dialogue with me.”
No response, not even a flinch.
“Jennilee, I have not seen a single document with your name on it. Now, I don’t know why you are holding back your work for grading. Perhaps you think that this class is graded via portfolio, which you would be assuming correctly, but I do ask that I see some effort.”
It’s as if Mr. Belvidere is looking upon a sculpture or statue, lifeless and still. Her grey shawl hanging over her slumped shoulders adds even more to the immovable and unresponsive nature of Jennilee.
“Is everything alright, Jennilee?”
For a split second, Jennilee twitches her finger ever so slightly – an easy miss for the layperson, but not for Mr. Belvidere.
“Is something wrong at home or between you and your friends?”
The twitch relapses, but grows into a fully metastasized tapping against her lap.
“Jennilee, you can tell me if something is troubling you. Though I am just your teacher, you can trust me to help you through your problems-”
She jumps to attention and glares into Mr. Belvidere’s eyes. Her cheeks are paved with streams of tears, and a look of despair and anger screams from her visage. A swing of her arm, and her chair flies into Mr. Belvidere’s aging desk.
“Poetry can’t help me through my problems, Mr. B! And neither can you!”
Jennilee grabs her bag and storms out of the classroom, vacuuming all the joy from Mr. Belvidere’s spirit. He sits in awe and bewilderment, unable to deduce anything from the last few minutes. Bereft, he stares into the work on his desk, hoping that the words from his students will jumble and form a semblance of a clue.
But nothing comes to him. Nothing. Only silence.