Out of respect, all the names of the people I work with & for have been changed.
Somehow the stars aligned, along with the cast of employees, and I got my job back. The shuffle played in my favor, I broke even… welp- kinda. I missed two weeks of work in the process, which translates as negative several hundred dollars. Meh, effit, I’ll go with breaking even for now.
“Does everyone know why today is special?”, announces Ginny to the classroom. “Noooooo”, replies the gang. An unwanted smirk graces my mug while stacking $120 chairs onto the knee-high tables. Attention can be good, pending on the circumstances, however with this one I was hoping to make a swift & silent exit today. No goodbyes, no realization this will be the last- just a brisk strut cross the parking lot to the most dilapidated car within a mile’s radius of the school building.
“Today is Toussaint’s last day with us. He’ll be leaving for a new job when we get back from Winter-Break,” Ginny casts the cloud over the clan of 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Few of them absorb what she’s saying… except for Sid. His head peeks above the crowd like an Ostridge stretching for a view out of a prairie of tall grass. “What?” Sid replies. Ginny explains it more simply, which inversely makes it less simple for Sid. It’s not literally what she’s saying, it’s the intent she’s saying it with that Sid receives. It sets in, Sid gets it, Nolan gets it, soon even Neil gets it, but too preoccupied with generating a genius mind to care- Neil’s been caught staring at the lights, staring into the distance, staring into the vast amount of square footage the classroom occupies since several kids newly enrolled into our program. The increase in class population has spun his attention into all directions. Neil looks at me and mouths something… I tell myself its “goodbye for now, see you in the next one.” Yeah, something like that.
The look on Sid’s face won’t let up. “Can he be back after Christmas? Can we do that?” Sid resists the reality. I smile, distribute my attention towards a stack of papers left atop the toy shelves, and sit with the rest of the gang. The chairs can wait, it’s my final day, what of it.
The gang groups at the door, exits to loaf their jackets on, and disperse into the arms of parents and bus drivers. I gather the papers from the top of the shelf, strut to the most dilapidated car in the parking lot, hit the radio to npr, and I’m out. Job done, job over, on to the next. Not departing without giving Sid a giant hug, I’ve learned far more about the capacity to be simply nice to someone through Sid’s progress since I’ve met him than I have ever experienced throughout my lifetime. The basics of being a good person lie within the day-to-day of a pre-k genius named Sid.
Wheels squeaking, belts clapping like an encore applause, engine shittily sputtering towards oblivion, I park Honda a half-mile from 25th & Nicollet (the winter headquarters for the time being, the Spyhouse Coffee Shop). I pull the key on the series of explosion of compressions and sparks to a stop. Honda lay silent, I glance to the papers atop the passenger seat. I am afraid of them. I’ll escape them momentarily in the Spyhouse to write for the mixtape, but in time there will be no evasion. The papers are the schedule for the month of January. Having worked so well between the Pre-K department and the middle school, I’ve been offered a position as a paraprofessional, once again, in a one-on-one. I can’t find it in me to go into major details, as there is an exceeding amount of confidentiality in this situation, however the palpability is enough to strike a presence even through thin papers mentioning its details.
Not to say the youth I’ll be taking on is more a challenge than any other kid, but for me- for me it’s more of a challenge. As we assess another’s humanity, we must assess our own. What are our bending points, sticking points, Achilles heels, cracks, crevices, baggage going into this? Any chips on the shoulder could halt my January tenure short. Looking in the mirror, asking yourself the same questions you dole out, standing next to the flame of accountability you hold everyone else you respect, measuring your character by a higher standard than the one you did before; all these elements of decency… I learned best from Sid.