Κυριακή, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The Regard of Silent Things




A couple of months after her eleventh birthday Eirini stood hiding in the hallway of their appartment, refusing to go in, crying her heart out.
They've just come back from the hairdressers.
''Please mum, no'', she had begged and pleaded with her before. 'Please not this time.''
To no avail, though. Her mum was adamant , hair must go.
''Your hair is too weak and thin'', she reasoned with her. ''If it's cropped short, it is going to get stronger and thicker in time''.
''No, you are doing it to spite me! '' Eirini cried out, watching the golden strands of her hair falling on the floor, under the hairdressers deft hands.
Sobbing like a fool, she looked at her reflection. Hair cropped close to her head. Hideous. Pathetic. Transforming her into a boy, she thought, despair dripping from her every pore. No, not even a boy, because boys were strong and big and she was pathetically scrawny . Too small for her age. Too thin. And with closely cropped hair that made her look even more pathetically thin.
She's 'been begging her mum to let her grow her hair all her childhood.
''Please mum, can I , this time? Please mum!''
But she wouldn't listen. Hair must go.
To be fair, most other schoolmate girls didn't have long hair either because it wasn't fashionable back then, but none wore them as short as her mum insisted she did. And she was eleven, a preteen. Though she looked like nine, being short and frail, she was painfully aware of how small and , well, childlike , she still looked, when most other girls have started growing taller and getting a feminine figure, And to add insult to this, that hideous hair.
Being new in a new school didst help much either. Or being a shy, introvert girl that preferred books and cats to other kids' company. Or being thought of as 'gifted' by her teachers, thus somehow excluded from the 'normal kids' club. Feeling like a weirdo , not fitting in.
And now this hair thing.
How could she face school tomorrow???
The teasing. The laughs. The agony of feeling the odd one out.
Crying didn't help much, though it lasted , intermittently, for an hour or so.. But somehow, it made her so tired , that she didnt have the energy to feel desperate or worry anymore. So she finally made for her bed and slept. Good excuse to skip dinner too.
The next day at school wasnt so bad. She kept to herself mostly, so it was ok really. Until recess, when her teacher called her over to his desk and handed her nine pages of small print , of something that looked like a speech. And it was a speech. The long speech sort , that teachers deliver for National Day celebrations at school.She looked up at him, not knowing what was expected of her.
''Read this at home'', he told her. ''You are going to deliver it next month on our national day celebrations.''
She gulped hard. Reciting a poem, was one thing. But delivering a speech? That was unheard of. And she knew she couldn't do it. Not with this hair. Not in that school, in front of 250 kids that made fun of her. Hell, she hated being the center of attention so much so ,that when it was her turn to say the morning prayers as was customary every morning before school, she pretended she was sick and stayed home. Didn't he, her favorite teacher , know that she couldn't do the public recital thing?
He seemed to respect her peculiar ways well enough in all other respects. ''90 percent of the time in my class she spends daydreaming, she lives in a world of her own'', he'd told her father who came to ask after her progress.''But when I ask her a question , she always answers as if she paid attention, so I let her be'', he added, laughing. So how could HE do this to her, he of all people??
She took the papers and left. She knew she couldnt do it. All she had to do was find a clever way out of it. But she could think of nothing. After a torturous rest of the school day, when the bell rang and everyone had left she approached the teachers desk, sheets of paper in hand
''Sir...please. I cant possibly do this recital thing. Please give it to someone else.
He looked up at her, not in the least surprised.
His eyes were kind.
''Why not, Eirini? You recite better than anyone in the school. Better even than me, I swear, he added, smiling he said, making her flush a deep red of pleasure at the compliment. ''This is a 16 minute recital, he added. I timed myself when I read it yesterday. If anyone in the school can deliver this, it's you and no one else. '' ''I picked it specifically with you in mind, '' he added, staring intently with me.
Eirini shifted uneasily in her feet. The bastard! So he knew of her fear of public speaking/reciting/whatever, but he was still making her do it!
She looked at her shoes, stuttering.
''Please...I cant...''
She wanted to tell him that she could do it because the kids were cruel and hated her. Because she was scared of being ridiculed, of being the odd one out that didst fit and having an entire school of kids grabbing the opportunity to cat whistle at her. She wanted to tell him that she felt ugly and insignificant with that horribly short cropped hair, in that pathetically thin body , with that strange mind that So a few weeks ago I asked you guys
what you'd like me to write about,
as a treat to you all for my birthday:
a confession, a secret, a personal experience?
Keeping our word is important,
makes our self-respect muscles stronger.
So here it is.
It is an experience, a confession and a personal experience, all wrapped up in one.
It's a confession, because I'm going to tell you an embarrassing thing from my past, way back into my childhood.
It's a secret, because it's about the very first time I fell in love,
which even I myself (have done my best to) forget about
And of course it's a personal experience,
because, though written in the third person, it's me alright
Enjoy
A couple of months after her eleventh birthday Eirini stood hiding in the hallway of their appartment, refusing to go in, crying her heart out.
They've just come back from the hairdressers.
''Please mum, no'', she had begged and pleaded with her before. 'Please not this time.''
To no avail, though. Her mum was adamant , hair must go.
''Your hair is too weak and thin'', she reasoned with mher. ''If it's cropped short, it is going to get stronger and thicker in time''.
''No, you are doing it to spite me! '' Eirini cried out, watching the golden strands of her hair falling on the floor, under the hairdressers deft hands.
Sobbing like a fool, she looked at her reflection. Hair cropped close to her head. Hideous. Pathetic. Transforming her into a boy, she thought, despair dripping from her every pore. No, not even a boy, because boys were strong and big and she was pathetically scrawny . Too small for her age. Too thin. And with closely cropped hair that made her look even more pathetically thin.
She's 'been begging her mum to let her grow her hair all her childhood.
''Please mum, can I , this time? Please mum!''
But she wouldnt listen. Hair must go.
To be fair, most other schoolmate girls didnt have long hair either because it wasnt fashionable back then, but none wore them as short as her mum insisted she did. And she was eleven, a preeten. Though she looked like nine, being short and frail, she was painfully aware of how small and , well, childlike , she still looked, when most other girls have started growing taller and getting a feminine figure, And to add insult to this, that hideous hair.
Being new in a new school didnt help much either. Or being a shy, introvert girl that preferred books and cats to other kids' company. Or being thought of as 'gifted' by her teachers, thus somehow excluded from the 'normal kids' club. Feeling like a weirdo , not fitting in.
And now this hair thing.
How could she face school tomorrow???
The teasing. The laughs. The agony of feeling the odd one out.
Crying didnt help much, though it lasted , intermittently, for an hour or so.. But somehow, it made her so tired , that she didnt have the energy to feel desperate or worry anymore. So she finally made for her bed and slept. Good excuse to skip dinner too.
The next day at school wasnt so bad. She kept to herself mostly, so it was ok really. Untill recess, when ther teacher called her over to his desk and handed her nine pages of small print , of something that looked like a speech. And it was a speech. The long speech sort , that teachers deliver for National Day celebrations at school.She looked up at him, not knowing what was expected of her.
''Read this at home'', he told her. ''You are going to deliver it next month on our national day celebrations.''
She gulped hard. Reciting a poem, was one thing. But delivering a speech? That was unheard of. And she knew she couldnt do it. Not with this hair. Not in that school, in front of 250 kids that made fun of her. Hell, she hated being the center of attention so much so ,that when it was her turn to say the morning prayers as was customary every morning before school, she pretended she was sick and stayed home. Didnt he, her favorite teacher , know that she couldnt do the public recital thing?
He seemed to respect her peculiar ways well enough in all other respects. ''90 pecent of the time in my class she spends daydreaming, she lives in a world of her own'', he'd told her father who came to ask after her progress.''But when I ask her a question , she always answers as if she paid attention, so I let her be'', he added, laughing. So how could HE do this to her, he of all people??
She took the papers and left. She knew she couldnt do it. All she had to do was find a clever way out of it. But she could think of nothing. After a torturous rest of the school day, when the bell rang and everyone had left she approached the teachers desk, sheets of paper in hand
''Sir...please. I cant possibly do this recital thing. Please give it to someone else.
He looked up at her, not in the least surprised.
His eyes were kind.
''Why not, Eirini? You recite better than anyone in the school. Better even than me, I swear, he added, smiling he said, making her flush a deep red of pleasure at the compliment. ''This is a 16 minute recital, he added. I timed myself when I read it yesterday. If anyone in the school can deliver this, it's you and noone else. '' ''I picked it specifically with you in mind, '' he added, staring intently at her.
Eirini shifted uneasily to her feet. The bastard! So he knew of her fear of public speaking/reciting/whatever, but he was still making her do it!
She looked at her shoes, stuttering.
''Please...I cant...''
She wanted to tell him that she couldn do it because the kids were cruel and hated her,( or so it seemed to her back then). Because she was scared of being ridiculed, of being the odd one out that didnt fit and having an entire school of kids grabbing the opportunity to cat whistle at her. She wanted to tell him that she felt ugly and insignificant with that horribly short cropped hair, in that pathetically thin body , with that strange mind that couldnt find pleasure in anything the other kids did. She wanted to tell him all those things and many more besides, but words failed her, because she was just an 11 year old girl who had no words for such painful emotions.
All she could do was flush a deep red of agony, hoping he'd understand . Hoping, also, that he wouldnt realise that she was hopelessly, desperately, romantically and puppily in love with him, him, her favorite teacher.
Oh, she was careful about it alright. When all her girl friends blurted out names of boys they liked , she dutifully offered an indifferent name of a boy, feigning adoration and coyness. But it was him she harboured romantic thoughts for. When he spoke- he had a nice , deep voice-she'd block out the meaning of the boring things he taught and just concentrate on the music of his voice. Of the rhythm of his speech. And that made lessons more bearable, less boring. He kept telling her she was special. He kept telling her, ''one day you re going to be a writer, Eirini. Mark my words, because I very rarely get these things wrong''.
She stood there, crimson red, begging silently''please dont make me do this,''.
He was silent. He was wise enough not to offer banalities like ''I know you are scared, but you need to get over your fear of public speaking. I'm doing this on purpose, to make you overcome your fears. You'll thank me for this one day''. He said no such things. Instead, he remained silent for a while, picking his words carefully.
''Eirini..look at me, now, LOOK at me!''
She looked up, expecting a lecture.
Instead, he leaned closer to her over from his desk
( and by God, to this day, though I have almost forgotten his face, I still remember the look in his eyes, to this day...)
and peered straight into her eyes and said:
''You think the other children dont like you much, and maybe that 's true, or maybe it isnt. Doesnt matter. What matters is that you have a gift with words. And when you express yourself..
''That's only in writing!'' she protested.
''I may have a gift of expressing myself in writing, but not when I'm..''
''No'', he interrupted. ''Doesn't make any difference. Speaking or writing, when you express yourself, other people listen. They will always listen. And you better get used to it''.
''You promise me to remember this?''
She nodded in agreement, stunned at receiving such a compliment, because he used them sparingly.
''Now, when you are up there , reciting this thing, pretend you are reciting it for someone you like. Just for them. Pretend nobody else is there, just them, ok? Maybe you're reciting it just to that cat of yours you wrote in your essay about the other day? ''he added, smiling.
(''You'', she cried silently in her head, ''I'll pretend it's just you listening to me...'')
''Oh, and before you go, promise me one last thing.
A favour. I need a favor from you.''
''Anything, sir'', she promised fervently.
''When you write your first book'', he grinned at her, ''promise to write a special dedication to me, your teacher , who told you so''.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We both left the classroom grinning.
On that day, I knew what I wanted to be when I g

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