Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Touch and a Smile

Yesterday was my first day of subbing  as a paraprofessional in a class of four autistic children ages eleven and twelve. I took the job because it runs through the end of the semester, a week from now, and I have yet to hear anything concrete from all the things I have floating up in the air. When I arrived, for a moment, I thought they were sending me to assist with the alternative kids, the assholes, that can't keep their mouths shut long enough to hear the conductor saying, "Train leaving for Loserville! Boarding begins in 5 minutes!" I gritted my teeth and hoped for the best, at least this way I could simply, "keep it real".

Instead, I walked into a room with pictures taped on every surface. Pictures of what goes in the cabinets, pictures which tell you to close the bathroom door, arrows that were moved to show where the students were, and so on. The classroom included two large rooms and a kitchen. I wasn't sure what to think, until I looked at one of the little boys who wouldn't stop clapping his hands. I had never wanted to do special ed, not because of the special, but because I'm not qualified to deal with children that have special needs, hell, I'm not really qualified to teach anything but creative writing, and that's for people that pay to be there, but I since I was only assisting I thought, "Okay, I can do this."

The kids themselves look normal upon first glance, but little ticks give them away if you're in their presence for longer than a few minutes. Three of the boys don't talk, non-verbal, one Nicholas, is the most severe and he simply stares at upside down books and turns his head as you talk to him.

Yesterday though, I thought, "I can do this." I took in all the signs on the wall that said things like "Sensory", and "Rest Area" and made it through the day. It's only till next Wednesday I thought. Today, though, today was different. I played with Hector, non-verbal. We played in a make shift sand box filled with red sand and tiny Tonka cars that he simply shook off and shoved to the side. Instead he stuck his hand in the sand and when  he saw the grains running out of my hand he placed his hand underneath and stared at me. The sand was cool to the touch, the way sand is, for him it seemed to be especially great. When I rubbed my hand on top of his so he could feel the grainy touch, the teacher looked up surprised, "Wow, Hector, you're letting her touch your fingers." He simply went back to what he was doing and I tried not to get too happy. I will only know Hector for a week.

For lunch we take the boys to the cafeteria earlier than the others kids, and I sit with Nicholas and one of the other boys. I talk to them, I want to believe they know what I'm saying, "Mmmm you guys are having spaghetti for lunch. Do you like spaghetti Nicholas?" He looks at me with light brown eyes against brown skin,  they are striking against his dark lashes, he hasn't looked at me before, and I'm surprised by the knowing expression they hold, wise. We stare at each other and he smiles abruptly showing me his adolescent crooked teeth and he reaches up and smooths my hair down, twice. I wait, not knowing what to do, and as abruptly as he smiled it's gone and he's back to staring at the thing I can't see. I swallow the small lump that was in my throat, the lump put there by the gentleness of this little boy. I will only know Nicholas for a week.

It is the end of the day and I'm tired, but I feel happy. Hector let me touch his hands and Nicholas smiled and smoothed my hair. For these boys, this is good, amazing, considering they have only known me two days. It's hit or miss, and I seem to have made a hit. As we walk them to the bus, the other paraprofessional says, "Don't you wonder what's going to happen to them?" I couldn't answer. Instead I waved, walked back to the classroom and grabbed my bag. I waved at her and went to sign out. Then I quickly walked to my car, past the kids yelling and playing and flirting, past the girl with pink lip gloss asking a boy to sign her yearbook, to my car, and began to cry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jungle Luna

This past week I embarked on the grand feat of cleaning my backyard. A backyard that has never attracted me, never made me feel welcome, simply never. The landscape is a familiar one, seen here in El Paso lawns with unwelcoming sand and weeds and more sand.

The yard, my yard is worse, because of a dog I inherited, a dog that I have had a hard time loving because I love cats. I love small animals that curl in my lap. Animals that I can cuddle and carry and don't knock me over or roll in dirt. But, this dog which I inherited, a Rottweiler, Luna, has begun to grow on me. I show her affection by scratching her head and giving her all the left overs that she loves so much, she runs past my scratch to savor them. Her favorite are the rib bones from Rib Hut. I'm sure that is not surprising.

But, this past week, while I formed my game plan as to how I was going to clean this monster mess of a yard, Luna hung out with me. She looked on as I tried to clip the low hanging tree branches of the Mulberry tree. Her chocolate eyes looked confused and questioning at the same time as branches dropped from the sky and I strained to make myself taller, strained against the heat, and the leaves that attacked me as they fell. My skin was hot and slick with sweat, my brown skin getting browner, her black fur absorbing heat but still she wagged her tail, although panting at the same time.

So, as I cut and pulled and jumped as bugs attacked me or fled from their cool homes in the ground she watched I spoke with her about nothing and everything. I asked her how her day was and if she gets bored in her sandy jungle home. I apologized for not being a better owner, and told her I wish we had met earlier. I also wish that I could tell you that she licked me at that moment in understanding, but she didn't. Instead she ran off in the opposite direction. I looked up, sweat in my eyes, a little sad, only to see that she had her own friends and had simply grown tired of listening to me talk.

In the air, four feet off the ground, two small white butterflies flew intertwined as if dancing a tango mid-air. They moved beautifully pausing at moments as Luna jumped up and snapped at the air they had just occupied. They leaped up only to glide back down twirling around each other the entire time. I wiped at my forehead, gloved hands as dusty as the rest of me and laughed. A laughter that bubbled up from my center and erupted quickly. They continued this game as a gazed at them through over-sized sunglasses. Then the butterflies flew past me, twirled around my head, and flew off. As if saying good-bye. I looked down at the pile of weeds at my feet, and Luna who sat next to me, face looking up, as if asking, "What next?"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

summer rain

rain. clouds. overcast grey skies.
a cool breeze that kisses my skin, as i stand,
sinking into the million grains of sand surrounding my bare feet.
in the desert, in the sun, in the snake waves of heat that seduce you from the horizon,
this weather, is welcome.
a smattering of rain drops gently caresses my skin, my hair, a stray lands on my lips.
and i lick the sweet saltiness.
savoring the taste.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Quirks.

the quirks that individualize us. 

a beat tapped, wrapped around from index to pinky finger, as if playing the piano on a table, or counter, or ....

the grin, that says everything from extreme happiness to extreme uncomfortable-ness. all teeth showing in their pearly lacquer for the world to read

the shake. the quick shake of a head where fringed bangs dance and disheveled hair is styled

the open hand. the gesture where a pink open palm means anything from "I don't know" to "Whatever you want."

the reiterateor. when silence settles whether uncomfortable or not, he speaks, and speaks again of the same things to fill the space in between

tiny bits of paper. that are eaten in between deep thoughts and conversation, balled up and inserted into the mouth mid word or sentence as if eating paper was the most natural thing.

the smirk. the one that falls upon her lips when she is certain she is right, head slightly raised daring to be proven wrong. 

deer in headlights. the look whenever he is caught in a conversation he does not want to be in. it is deceivingly welcoming.