Her face shattered my peaceful Saturday morning. How is it possible that after all this time the very sight of her made me come to a full stop. Dead still. Heart beating out of my chest. Stone cold.
I had to admit that my naiveté made me laugh. How stupid was I to have assumed that never again would her name cross my mind…never would I have to think about those days ever again.
Boarding school had it’s own set of standards. They sat at the front of the class not the back, at her command, so the light of her favoritism could shine brilliantly upon the children she had deemed smart. I only realized much later that children having trouble in school normally sat in the front so that the teacher could encourage them along and provide additional help or guidance. Not here. My desk was at the back.
I purposely slowed my breathing as I gazed at her now aged face. The jet black, close-cropped hair was now silver, the lines of her face deeper, the hawkish chin and forced smile…the same. Her perch had been on a freestanding stool at the front of the class. She was so thin that she could cross her legs and then wrap the foot of the crossed leg back underneath her other leg again. Contortionist, perfectionist, antagonist. Rhonda-hater.
You don’t deserve my help she told me once, because you will never figure it out and I refuse to waste my time on you. Go back, sit down and shut up. I was standing in front of her asking for help with fractions. My mind, fully capable of grasping English and Geography was having spasms at unlocking the mystery of math. Stomping my foot I shouted at the top of my lungs, “You HAVE to help me. You are the teacher and if you don’t help me who will?”
The cold cement floor met me hard as she hurtled me out of the classroom. No one had dared ever stand up to her in that manner and I was going to pay for a long time. From then on I was not allowed to answer questions in class, my tests did not have feedback on them, I was a silent presence of evil rebellion in her classroom that would never again have a voice.
Add a friend? No. Forgiven, yes. I went back to wrapping my head around a complex deal I was putting together for a client. Life was indeed full of irony. Who would have guessed that I would be working in the world of finance after making a personal declaration in Grade 6 that I would never be able to understand math? Not I. Certainly not her. I smiled, satisfied.