I almost threw up all over my students yesterday.
I had picked up the girls from pizza-lunch, and we were going back to the classroom to quickly drop off lunch boxes, get coats, and head out for recess. My patience was already a little tattered, but I kind of thought we could get done what needed to get done without a whole ton of ridiculousness.
I was wrong.
I ducked into the 1st and 2nd grade room to get them moving putting their coats on, and while I was absent for a mere 20 seconds one of my students decided to fill our classroom with as many burst of fruit scented body spray as she could manage. Assaulted with the smell of Everclear and Gatorade (because let’s be honest, that is what that shit smells like), my stomach heaved, my eyes watered, my throat closed up, my head started spinning and I had to grab the wall before I was completely knocked out. My student took my being doubled over and clutching my mouth as an endorsement of her behavior.
“Doesn’t it smell so good Miss Francois?”
“No. It smells terrible. Don’t do that again.”
“It smells great!!!”
Here I had to pause to bite the inside of my lip so I wouldn’t scream. I bit it so hard it started bleeding and my mouth filled with blood. As she jumped around proclaiming how wonderful she had made our classroom smell I tried my best to marshall my meager professionalism and line up the classes. The other girls, seeing my obvious physical distress, followed instructions quickly, and we got outside where the clean winter air did wonders. Wonders for my body at least, if not really my soul.
Because I didn’t really mentally recover from what shouldn’t have been too big a deal. There were plenty of factors at play: tiredness from the week, the fact that the student in question is the one whose mother I am determined not to call Bitch-Mom, a longstanding fear I have of being physically incapacitated in a public place, three nonstop days of horrid behavior from this student and her clear disregard for the well being of others. All of those things would have been enough to just put me off for the rest of the day, to upset me and make me wish the whole thing never happened.
But what I really couldn’t get over (and still haven’t) is that she made my classroom, the center of work that I take seriously, am very proud of, and is completely separate from my drinking life, smell like a trashy college Halloween party. Without any warning, or need, my senses became swamped in memories of humiliating nights at Deep Ellum clubs, throwing-up off balconies (which a host of one party called “watering the bushes”), screaming fights with friends when I was too drunk to open my eyes, various suicide fantasies when I wouldn’t just pass out, and countless other dangerous/depressing events from my past that I would rather not think about. All of a sudden things around me seemed tainted, as if all my mistakes had found a new place to take up residence. On the odors of cheep rubbing alcohol and chemically concocted “fruits” a past I haven’t fully made peace with invaded a space where it is most unwelcome.
I’m trying not to harden my heart against this little girl, but I admit, it’s getting to the breaking point. Watching her revel in my pain, it was impossible not to think “Thanks kid for dragging my psyche through the shit today. Please, be proud of yourself that you more than got back at me for all those times I told you to sit up straight. Tell your mom, she’ll get a good kick out of this.” I can rationally remind myself that she is in no way responsible for my choices, my memories, my alcoholism, and I know completely that that is true. But I know myself. I know from here on every time she acts out the image of her gleeful face while I tried to stand will come to my mind and I will have to fight that much harder to be generous and forgiving. When she needs my empathy I will have to ask for even more grace in order to give that because I will never be able to separate her future behavior from this time, when her desire for attention resulted in a confrontation with my vulnerability and shame in a place where I was unprepared.
And obviously I’m sending an email out to the parents that any body spray I find in the classroom will be immediately thrown away.
(1 Year, 3 Months, 16 Days Sober)