On Thursday afternoon, there was a noiseless explosion in my classroom. Accident? Malicious calculation? I will never know. What I do know is that before fifth period, my carpet was spic and span. Post fifth hour, there was a large, neon green splatter spanning a foot and a half next to the bookcase.
I hate when shenanigans go down in my classroom and I don’t see them happen. My room is not large, and I am on my feet walking it each entire 50-minute period. Still, I am one in a sea of 35, and juniors are tall and opaque types of people, so I guess I can’t see everything. But it’s just the sort of thing to make you feel helpless, or incompetent, or both.
Was it a busted highlighter? Possible. A broken glow stick? Likely, considering the ever-present Deadmau5 t-shirts that plague my hallways (no offense, Zimmerman). The point is, if someone had told me what had happened, I would have dealt with it with a level head. But no, I got to discover my stained carpet all by myself, at the end of the day, when I was desperate to leave.
How angry I was (very) is not the point. It was compounded because I knew that when I asked what happened the next day, I would be met with quickly-set blank stares and wide eyes. I knew that the chartreuse blotch on my pretty ballet flats (what a great way to discover the situation) was there to stay. And as I got on my knees and scrubbed, scrubbed until the sweat gathered and my bangs turned to concrete on my forehead, I knew that I was going to be stuck with a large, lime-colored firework on my carpet forever.
Behind a closed door and in between thin walls, I had a breakdown beside trapezoid tables and the school-issued bookshelf. I’d been down and out, feeling sorry for myself, and then my grandma had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. I had bided my time through Open House the night before, staying at school until 9 and missing visiting hours. I didn’t want to wait to see her any longer. She had gotten out of heart surgery, and I was in a rush after school to visit her. Angry, frustrated, and sweaty, I gave up on the stain and left.
At 6:40 the next morning, I unlocked my classroom door to find that my floors had been vacuumed, and there was a new scent in the air: synthetic lemon. The stain on the carpet was gone, obliterated, completely erased.
We have a new janitor in my building. I’ve seen her every day after school. She gets to my room between 3:30 and 4pm. We smile awkwardly when she comes to take the trash — and she always asks me how I am. She’s mended a busted leg on a desk table, takes out my recycling for me, and breaks down my empty boxes.
She erased the explosion that brought me to tears, and I haven’t even bothered to learn her name.
This week, I’m going to learn her name. I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to think about how my grandma is doing better. I’m going to leave work at work and hold my baby because he’s beautiful and take him on walks and laugh at his goofy crawl. I’m going to hold my husband’s hand and make dinner and help Derrick with his homework. I’m going to find something red for my grandma’s new room at my mom’s house.
I’m going to remember that people can make a huge difference by acting in the simplest of ways.