First Grade


In my memory of 1st grade, I am very excited on the first day of school, and I am wearing my light-blue uniform with the white t-shirt for the first time. I insist on getting my hair done by mom, and not the maid, to look extra special.

My Entrance
We enter the huge school together (my mother, little brother and I) My mom talks to the kindergarten teacher and admits my brother in. ‘Where are you going?’ my brother asks with terrified looks, and I decide that I would never forget how he looked like. ‘I will get your sister in her class and get back to you. Go on now’. The teacher gives my brother a wide smile, the same one she gave hundreds of children before him.

We climb the long staircase to the next floor, where my classroom is. I am older than my brother, and this mere fact must explain why we are separated by different floors. My mother stands in front of me while she talks with the teacher. I am on the last step of the staircase and a while later, I find myself half falling backwards as I hold on to mom’s Abaya, she pulls me back. The rush of adrenaline excites me more then ever, making me forget what might have happened.

I get into my class and sit on the seat. My mother peeks in and says goodbye. I do not cry, I think we are not supposed to cry in class so I hold back my tears.

Downstairs, my mom passes by my brother’s opened-door classroom. He runs towards her as if she was gone for ages. He says ‘I do not want to go back’, and he never did after that day.

Weird Little Girl
On one of the lunch breaks, I walk by students playing football on the field and before I know it, a bomb slaps my face so hard that I do not have the time to absorb what the hell just happened. I give the guys their ball back, and they give me curious looks in return. ‘Why isn’t she crying?’ they must be thinking, but I do not cry then either.

One day, a maid comes out of my friend’s house and shakes her head, an indication that he is not coming to the bus. Little did I know what she meant was he is not coming back ever again. He is dead, and you do not see dead people anymore. On that same day, one of the teachers announces the death of our little friend. He asks us to recite the fatihah so I do as I am told without realizing why.

Extra Role
Through the year, I was having an extra role besides being a student. I was a social helper of B; A girl with physical disabilities, and the teachers appointed me to take care of her. I do not know how it all started but I have been feeding, carrying, taking care of her, writing both her class work and homework and other sorts of things you expect from a paid social helper to do, except that I did not get paid.

During the classes, the teachers used to call me if B needed to go to the toilet. I would help her walk, open the toilet door for her, seat her and clean her. I used to do all of this when I was only 7. When I finish my class work, I would do B’s. Whenever B needs to get out of the class, I would follow her, as a lifeless shadow.

At the end of the day, I would carry two bags; B’s and mine. Children often made fun of B’s bag as it was Pepsi’s brand so they used to push me down the stairs, and calling me all sorts of names. I did not respond because I knew I had another mission to accomplish next; Walk B to her bus then head to my own. I would make sure she is safely seated on the bus seat and place her bag on her lap, then run as fast as I could to where my bus is. Scolding fits from the responsible teacher of the bus was a routine I had to get used to along with the others.

Except The Unexpected
On the few, last remaining days of first grade, I told my parents about my second job as a social worker. Dad was in rage and Mom asked me why I have kept this down for so long. I could not bring myself to answer the question I have never known. Dad asked me to simply say no when a teacher asks me to escort B anywhere.

I made up my mind and did exactly what I was told but perhaps I was too young to expect a response.

Why not?’ the teacher asked me the other day for the first time, I repeated what my Dad told me to thinking it was ought to end the discussion ‘Because my Dad said so’. My teacher hesitated for a while as she registered what I just said. She too, did not expect this particular response from me. I was her loyal student, she must have thought. After seconds of building up a way to say it nicely, she said ‘do not you want to go to heaven?’ Why is she asking me a stupid question now of all times? What has this got to do with what we are talking about now? I thought. ‘Yes...’ I said, blindly. ‘Then you should help others’ she was right, for all I know. ‘You are right, but my Dad said don’t...’ My Dad has not asked me to say anything other than this, so I just repeated it again, stupidly. She, eventually, called a teacher to escort B out. My teacher was taken aback by what I said, and the mere thought saddened me.

Lightening Strikes
The bell rang announcing the end of the day. I ditched B that day, but my conscious won over me, so I stood somewhere beside the staircase to make sure if B is fine. What I saw next struck me like a lightening and it all happened so fast, as if you’re forwarding a movie just to know what would happen to the lead actress, except this was reality.

B couldn’t help but slip over and roll down the staircase till she hit the floor with a loud thud, with her bag caught in between her legs. She was a mess, and the look on her face was as if she were holding for dear life. I did not know what to do next so I ran to save my own life as well. It was the end of first grade, and as weird as it has started, it ended.

Confrontation?
6 years later, I was shoe-shopping with mom and that’s when I saw B for the first time after that horrible accident. She was walking perfectly fine, with the help of her sister. She did not recognize me, but I did, for sure. She has not changed much, although she grew taller.

I wanted to say hello, then thought better not to. What would I have told her, anyway? Remember the girl who made you roll down the staircase on first grade? The girl who caused you injuries just because she got fed up of walking, carrying, and taking care of you, and the fact that this girl was the same age as you were and it was you who ruined first grade’s memory for her? No, I could not say this, when in fact, I kept quiet for so long and eventually wanted things to change. Things were fine before that day, to B, of course. She was safe for a whole year, and someday, based on an irrational choice, she did not know what hit her.

Over the years, the guilt of what I have done haunted me. It made me know what the word regret really means. For years, I thought I had done the right thing at the wrong time, but now, things have changed and I think of it the other way around. I should have helped her till the end. It’s not her fault that she has physical disabilities, and it sure wasn’t mine either. However, it was my fault to have left her alone that day. I can’t imagine how badly injured she was when all I did was watch and run, afraid of my own safety.

I was a selfish little first grader.

7 comments:

Degoat said...

The sequence is put very well :D

The past is what makes us who we are now. Perhaps if you didn't go through that back then, you'd be a selfish person today..

G

Rummy said...

Very well written. I loved it mittens..!!

I don't think you were selfish. It's just that it was a life changing thing for you. Plus, you were more mature than many of the 7 year olds I encountered.

Mohammed Al-Asmar said...

I understand that you stopped helping her after your dad told you to, but may I know what the reason of helping her in first place? if you contributed, then I think you are guilt free, although what happened in that stairs scene

Kitten said...

D & Rummy: Thanks for stopping by.

Mohammed: I was the odd one out, the tall first grader who seems to be old enough to handle that responsibility, I guess.

Arab-esque said...

A well-written emotional piece.

black N white said...

very good job !!
i think that its the teachers fault not yours ..

Texan in UAE said...

This story is very well written, of course. You did the normal thing, a seven year old would do. Don't be so hard on yourself. (((hugs))))