I was checking my email, my work one. I was scrolling through the junk when I saw a dreaded letter.
The subject read, “In Sadness”, code for the death of a retired co-worker, usually people I didn’t know since I’ve only been here three years.
I opened it, running all of my ‘older’ coworkers names through my mind. There was no point though.
“I am sorry to have to pass along this message. One of our students, Danielle Oakley, has attempted to kill herself.”
I stopped reading. My breathing became heavy, my body was heating up, I didn’t move. I didn’t try. I sat in my chair staring at my computer screen, praying to God this wasn’t true.
Deep down I knew it was, but there was still a sliver of hope. I couldn’t believe it, I had just talked to her yesterday. She seemed okay to me, maybe just a little on edge.
I couldn’t fathom this, this was any teachers worst nightmare. And here it was, happening to me. I didn’t want to read the rest, but the email had said, attempted. So, maybe she was okay.
Maybe she was just about to, and someone caught her in time. Yeah. Maybe this was all just a misunderstanding.
“She is currently at St. Joseph’s hospital in Springfield in critical condition. No visitors are permitted as of right now. As soon as I hear any word, I will be sure to let you know.”
That’s it! That’s all the information he’s gonna give me!? Really.
I scrolled down just in case. Nothing.
I wanted to throw my computer across the room, punch something. Anything, except sit here, feeling helpless.
At this point I was angry, I was angry at Dani. How could she do this?! I mean she came to me and told me about this. We talked about it.
Well, I was open and willing to listen, but she was put off, it was almost like she was afraid of me. It made me feel insecure and question my ability to bond with my students.
Everyone else seemed to talk to me, but she always had this look on her face of a cautious, haunted, individual. Don’t get me wrong I liked Dani, she was probably one of my favorite students.
She did her work, respected me, and never interrupted my class. I liked her personality, she was nice to everyone and always seemed to try and cheer everyone up. Everyone, except herself.
It was almost like she was afraid to open up to people, I’ve tried to break through to her, but her walls were too high.
About three months into the year, she started coming in. According to Harley and Ellie she wasn’t eating, and it wasn’t uncommon for her to cry almost everyday.
I started to grow concerned about her well-being. She tried to hide it, tried to silently cry, but I could always see her trembling shoulders.
I knew she was hurting but I never dreamed she would do this. She was too smart, too open minded. I just wish I could have stopped her, wish I could have helped her.
Her parents, myself, and the rest of her teachers were going to meet later this week to discuss ways to help her. But, I guess we were too late.
I didn’t know how long I’d been sitting like this, staring at my computer. Looking for answers between the lines, trying to take this all in.
I was frozen in terror,this has never happened to me. I didn’t know how to react, didn’t know how to deal with news like this.
I haven’t cried since my younger years but, I felt the tears sliding down my cheeks. I couldn’t stop them, but then again, I didn’t try.
You always hear of news like this, in other schools. You never think it’s going to happen to you though.
I just sat there, wondering why. Why couldn’t it have been any other student than Dani. I know that’s awful to say, but I meant it. I couldn’t even bear the thought of losing her.
It was unimaginable.
The truth was, she was more than a student to me, she was like a daughter to me. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing her and here she was, in a coma.
The doctors say there’s a good chance she won’t wake up.
The Next Morning
I couldn’t teach today. I couldn’t go up there and talk about science when Dani was in a coma. But I had to, because she would have. She would have put on a brave face, so that’s what I did.
The bell rang and students started filing in, everyone, except Dani. Everyone walked by her desk, as if she was just, away for the time being.
Which makes sense because we never told anyone, only a few people in the whole school knew. All of her teachers knew, and everyone in the office, but none of the students.
Of course Harley and Ellie knew but, that was it. Her parents wanted to conserve her social standing, as if that would be Dani’s main concern. I sighed.
I was tired and exhausted from worrying about something I had no control over. I just feel like I let her down, I mean, she chose me, out of all of her family, to tell.
And I failed her, because she did it anyway.
“Would you please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,” the speaker blared.
I couldn’t focus on the announcements though, all I could focus on was Dani’s empty chair.
I just wish I could have helped her, I wish she knew how much she meant to people. How much she meant to me.
I looked at her seat and silently prayed, not that I knew how to pray, but I wanted to help in some way. I was picturing her sitting there, trying to remember the signs.
I was rudely interrupted by the back of a shirt though. One of my students, Dani’s classmate, had moved to her seat, as if her empty desk was convenient. It made talking to her friend easier.
Ironic as it was, it happened to be one of her friends. It was Hunter, of all people. She’s a good kid but right now I had to leave the room to prevent myself from doing something stupid.
I went to the drinking fountain, about a fifteen second walk. That’s all I needed to compose myself. Or, at least, I was hoping.
I took a couple deep breaths and reminded myself that they had no idea what was going on. I took a couple sips of water.
As far as anyone else knew she was just visiting a college in Indiana. I paused before stepping back into the classroom, thinking about the long day ahead of me. One filled with fake smiles.
All of her teachers would have them on today. I know I wasn’t as brave as her, but I had to try. I took another deep breath.
They had no idea how hard it was going to be for me to stand up there and teach.
I took a sip of water and headed back to the hardest day of teaching I will ever face.