I recently came to the decision that I would like to meet my third grade math teacher again.
Why, my parents ask, why after so many years? Closure, I say. Mom asks, Forgiveness? And I can’t tell her, can’t say everything that I thought, sitting in the shower.
Forgiveness. Closure. How interchangeable are these terms? Mom says that forgiveness leads to closure. I’m not so sure.
You do not humiliate eight year olds. Not even if they find it hard to add two three-digit numbers. Not even if they gave the wrong answer in an inter-class quiz- or you think they did, anyway. Not even if you think their stomach ache is a sham, and their tears are tap water, and their red eyes are a little more ingenious, achieved by violently mashing their knuckles into their eyes. Even if you don’t trust the eight year old, you do not tear into them in front of their peers, and use your tongue as a shovel to scoop them out of themselves.
I remember crying, a little. But mostly, I remember fear, Fear of math classes, fear of getting answers wrong, of not remembering my tables. Fear of the half-hour between her entering the class and leaving it. Fear of being left alone if my new best friend- protector, helper, sister- were suddenly sick again. Eight years old, and so much fear.
Hunched over, holding my stomach, tears dry and sticky and shiny on my cheek- “I’ll give you one tight smack if you don’t go back to class now”.
Shaking pencil lead, and what if I’m wrong- “Always wrong, and so untidy, why do you even come to school?”
Nearly screaming that it wasn’t me, that I had been right, Diya had given the wrong answer, the captain didn’t remember- “I made a huge mistake choosing you in the quiz team.” And everyone staring, and Diya silent.
I still hate her for that, a little. Just unfriended her on Facebook. Oops.
Eight years old and teaching myself not to cry, to hold back tears because she mustn’t see them; thirteen years old and slicing my arms into sections, a veteran at being (faking) strong; nineteen now, and knowing where it all began; Because, from before that, I don’t remember pain. I don’t remember the tears.
Before 3-B, I didn’t know fear.
I want to meet her, because she is the first and most potent demon in my life. She took my self-confidence, and my happiness, and my joy in schooling, chewed it and spat it back in the form of venom that burnt into me, and has left its mark on my soul. When I second-guess myself, when I feel that I’m less than I am, I know that that is the part of Mrs Mitra that I carry around with me, eleven years later.
I have these moments of euphoria where I go, Yes, Goddamnit, I’m fucking hot!!. I want them to be more than than moments. I want them to be my whole fucking life.
I need to see her, not even to ask her why (though I will). I want to talk. I will talk to her. I spent all that year, I’ve spent all these years Iistening to her. Now she’s going to hear it all- she’s going to know exactly what she did to me, and how she isn’t going to do it anymore. This will be my closure.
A reason may come. It doesn’t matter, really. And by some miracle, I receive an apology (I’m not fool enough to even hope)- why, maybe I can even forgive.
They aren’t the same thing, you see. But they do both bring peace, in their own way. Sometimes they do go together. But not for me.
Because I’m not even sure I have any forgiveness left for that woman anymore.