“Bye, Mrs. Haley!”
“Thank you, Mrs. Haley!”
The fifth-graders hugged me as they left summer enrichment camp. Their parents, present for camp graduation, made a point to speak to me, too:
“Thanks so much for this experience. My son loved it – he wants it to last all summer!”
“My girl wants to come back next year!”
I laughed, shaking hands with the gracious parents, all the while basking in an inner glow: I did it! I successfully organized and taught this thing!
Just then, I spotted a student’s notebook left on the floor.
Oh, no! She’s going to need this – the whole point of compiling it is to have a resource in sixth grade!
I glanced through the glass lobby doors. My student was with her mom, getting into a blue Honda. I snatched the notebook up from the floor. If I hurried, I could catch them before they pulled away.
I sprinted for all I was worth across the crowded lobby and – BAM!
For a nanosecond, I wasn’t sure what had happened. That sound was immense. Then I realized: I was the sound.
I found myself lying on the cold stone of the lobby floor.
There were loud gasps, maybe even a small scream.
That’s when I knew: I had run full blast into the closed glass door.
In a lobby full of parents and kids.
I sat up. Deep, throbbing pain spread across the bones of my face. I quickly ran my tongue over my teeth – were they knocked out?
No, they were intact.
Get up! said my brain. Before anybody comes over here.
Squaring my shoulders, I popped up from the floor, grabbed the notebook I’d dropped, OPENED the glass door, and scurried through to the blue Honda.
My student and her mom looked at me dubiously as I approached the driver’s side. The mom slid the window down.
“Um, your daughter forgot her notebook,” I said, holding my nose with one hand. Blood seeped through my fingers. I extended the notebook with the other hand.
“Uh – thanks,” said the mom, taking it from me.
“Hey, Mrs. Haley, your nose is bleeding!” said my student, craning over in the front seat for a better look.
“Yes, I know,” I answered, “but it’s fine. Enjoy the rest of your summer!”
I slunk back into the building where people stood, gaping. Giggles rippled through them. Without making eye contact, I marched past them into the bathroom to survey the damage.
I didn’t look too mutilated. The nosebleed was already slowing.
The bathroom door opened and one of my colleagues came in.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I think so,” I said. I leaned closer to the mirror. “Oh, no – look! My nose is turning black already!” How bad will the bruising be? Will I have two black eyes?
“Let me see,” said my colleague. She came up close to scrutinize my nose. She touched it gently.
A grin spread over her face.
“That’s ink from the newspapers you were holding!” She doubled up with laughter.
This is just great. Assured that my nose was going to be fine, I had no choice but to return to the lobby after I washed away the ink and the blood.
Most of the folks had cleared, thankfully. Only my colleagues remained; they’d propped open the offending glass door. “You need to see what you did to the door,” one of them told me.
I went to check it out, wondering if I’d somehow managed to hurt the door more than it had hurt me.
And there on the clear glass before me was a perfect mask of my face, thanks to the foundation I wore. An oval with two eye-holes, a complete set of lips in faint lipstick, even the little vertical lines in my lips, all captured there on impact better than any artist could have painted.
As I stared in horror at this specter of my visage, one of my colleagues called, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
They all howled while I frantically wiped my phantom make-up mask from the glass.
“One thing’s for sure,” one of them said, wiping her eyes, “no one will ever forget this camp graduation!”
Indeed. The success of the camp itself is not a topic of conversation anymore, but as for me – I’m legendary.