by Judith Allen
Thoughtless words to a child. Years pass and the words still hurt.
“Oh, my goodness, what is wrong with your eye?" the young woman gasped.
Sarah looked at the substitute teacher and then all around to make sure she was talking to her. Third grade had just started and her favorite teacher was out for the day. She had always loved Mrs. Jamison and felt so happy to be in her class. She sat in the first row and eagerly raised her hand to answer questions. She might have even been a teacher’s pet. But, nobody was mean to her. Her main competition was Donnie, who sat across from her, directly in front of the teacher.
Today when she raised her hand to answer a Geography question the strange teacher looked at her and blurted out the question that would change Sarah’s life forever. She looked away, tears starting in her eyes, the one that was regular and the one with the droopy lid. She didn’t want to look at anyone, or be looked at ever again. She wanted to crawl under the desk and disappear. There was complete silence in the room.
When Sarah got home she went straight to her room. She didn’t want supper. She didn’t want to be with anyone or do anything. She didn’t want to look in the mirror. She didn’t want to come out again.
But of course she came out. She went to school the next day. She decided she wouldn’t sit in front anymore and took a desk in the very back, keeping her head down. Mrs Jamison was back and couldn’t understand what had happened. Sarah saw Donnie talking to Mrs. Jamison at recess. When he didn’t come out to play with her she felt bad. Donnie was her biggest competition and also her best friend. Maybe he didn’t like her anymore. All the kids acted like nothing had happened, but she knew they were looking at her eye. When she came in from recess she couldn’t find her books and papers in the desk in the back. After searching she found that her things had been moved back up front. Mrs Jamison smiled. Donnie smiled. Sarah felt like crying.
The year went on pretty much as it should have. She kept sitting in the back and Donnie would move her things up front. She would play at recess. Her friends liked her. She got tired of the desk moving, and stayed up front. Donnie was her best friend once more and they competed to get the right answer and hold their hand up first. She became happy again.
But, when she met someone new, she wondered about her eye. What were they seeing? Would they say something? She looked in the mirror and tried hard to make the eye open wider. Not much luck there. Then she realized she had a big gap in her front teeth. That didn’t help her image. She looked at her hands. One was a bit smaller. She compared the thumbs and wished the right one would catch up with the left one.
Life went on. Later Sarah would have the gap in her teeth fixed, the eye lid would be lifted and the thumbs looked the same. But, sometimes she still studies the eye, looking for the droop, especially when she is tired. She finds herself studying her thumbs, even though they have worked well all these years. She thinks of the teacher who meant no harm and from the years of living, and making mistakes, and hurting people without meaning to she sees things in a different way and feels sorry for the young woman who meant no harm never knew what she had done.