Eating a pack of fries at the moment. (My logic: dentist said doing salt gurgles every twenty minutes would help get rid of my toothache. French fries is salty. Ergo, french fries will help me get rid of toothache. Suck it, logic.) I started thinking if there’s any legit reason why I like these wonderful and unhealthy Mcdonald bits, aside from the obvious.
Well, I can think of one reason.
Which is still pretty pointless now that I roll it around in my head. Maybe it only really ever mattered to me.
(Now here’s where I go off tangent to reason it out, and hopefully it all coagulates into one big cause and effect at the end because I really don’t understand it myself.)
You see, back in first grade, I had a favorite teacher like all kids do. Sadly unlike most kids, I didn’t develop any genuine favorites after her. ‘Favorite’ would actually be an understatement. I really did like her. The like you give to best friends, parents, and siblings. The kind of unconditional like that you experience because you just do; liking the way she is, liking the way you are when she’s around, that kind of sappy stuff.
I can still spell her full name, a feat that I can’t even manage with my professors from last semester. I vividly recall her voice, her mannerisms, her face (before and after) as if I’m expected to attend my first grade classes the next day.
It was a small public elementary school. There were good teachers, bad teachers; spartan teachers, compassionate teachers. All kinds of people in one institution cramped in a room for a maximum of eight hours a day with at least thirty kids screaming and playing and angsting it out with each other.
You only ever truly know them when they’re angry, these teachers. And I remember her anger. Partly because I never wanted to disappoint her again, partly because I thought, “When I grow up, I want to have that kind of anger. Anger because you cared, anger because it’s needed. A calm but fierce anger that made the one you’re angry at feel sad and loved at the same time.” Of course not that eloquently thought, but such thoughts I had all the same. She gave french fries in private after I confessed my sins and cried my eyes out.
I was occasionally trained for quizbees, oratorical contests, spellingbees or some other academic stuff. I was pretty involved back in elementary now that I think about it (until I deteriorated into… well, me.)
She was my mentor most of the time. My parents were there, proud of course. Pride for me that made me happy and crushed me, suffocated me all the same. She was different. She was proud not because I won contests. She was proud because I liked to read and draw, two things that meant the world to me back then. She tucked me in the school clinic bed when I fell asleep over some tests during after-school review sessions.
She dropped by McDonalds and gave me fries while we chatted about this or that. I was five then, but she talked to me the same way she talked to any other adult with enough sense. I thrived in it. She didn’t coddle me, she appreciated me.
Eventually I grew up and advanced grades. Had different teachers and different lessons to take.
Every teachers’ day though I’d be there, waiting. She was the only one I remembered and willingly gave a gift to. Not that I’m ungrateful to my other lecturers, but I’m the type of person who’s not very keen on keeping track of special occasions, nor comfortable with giving out presents. Up until now I willfully forget even my best friend or my parents and other siblings’ birth dates. I remember to make a small gift though, every teacher’s day.
On regular days when I had the time, I’d drop by her classroom; always that classroom at the first building, first floor, beside the stairs. I’d sit in the back and sometimes take care of the kids when she had errands to make. After each class, she asks me to have lunch with her. A variety of meals she’d choose, but each and every time I’d pick fries on the side. I assumed that she thought it was amusing. Years later I’d come to realize (when there wasn’t much time left) that she laughed because she was happy, happy that even after years there are some things that didn’t change.
When I was in my first year of high school, she got sick. She had to do dialysis and went on sick leave. She couldn’t teach anymore; she couldn’t do the one thing she’s dreamed of doing all her life.
I visited her at home with another female face that was part of my childhood as much as hers was. I realized why I never met a guy in her life all those years I spent with her. She looked fragile, but more than that, afraid. I told her she was the best (the only– I didn’t say, she wouldn’t have approved) teacher I went to each teacher’s day. We talked more comfortably after that. They held hands, and I missed her teaching me again. She still looked beautiful and fierce, the teacher that showed me my worth wasn’t based on my achievements but on who I am. Beautiful, despite the darkening of her milky skin due to the constant blood transfusions. Beautiful, even if she couldn’t sit up nor walk anymore. When I went home, I bought myself some french fries and stared at it, not really eating any.
In my second year of high school, I thought it was cruel. It was that point in my life where I blamed and thanked God for everything and anything, as if everything really does happen for a reason and I should just take things as they come. God must have known, I thought. He knew. So why her? Why now? Cruel, cruel, cruel.
I was a day late, see. I just got home from the province, a day after teacher’s day. I had everything I wanted to give her; I wrote something quite like this, a chronicle of those days that only she and I would remember and laugh about. She would like it, she would laugh despite her pain, I think- and they tell me I need to attend her funeral the next day. It was more painful for her partner. Those days she looked as if in between entertaining the other mourners, and handling expenses, she never ate or slept and only cried.
People thought I was probably going to cry during the funeral too. I didn’t. It’s been my way of telling when something really, really matters. I know it the moment I try to cry and no drop comes out. It’s like I’ve shriveled up from the inside and something vile is trying to claw its way out of my chest and burn my lungs. Like I want to scream but I can’t. I usually pull a blank when I try to recall whatever was happening around me at that time. It’s always blank. When my sister got confined to the ICU for a month. When my grandfather died. When one of my best friends died. When I accidentally injured another kid out of sheer blind rage, the blood blossoming on his chest and I thought he was going to die. When they cremated my favorite teacher who was the only person in this world who never told me I was lazy, or that I was a waste, that if only I tried hard enough when I was already doing my best. She smiles that exasperated smile and says I worry too much about making mistakes, and how I shouldn’t because I make wonderful things when I don’t worry.
I hated myself for being selfish. She’s dead, she’s gone, she can’t ever talk or love anymore- yet all I could ever think about is what do I do now? How do I do this without her?
I didn’t want to look at those stupid fucking french fries that still dared to exist on this stupid fucking planet when she didn’t anymore. Anything remotely similar-scented made me vomit for a month.
I felt a little closer to okay eventually though. She would have wanted that.
I hate writing about death-
but hey, sometimes spewing words without having to think is the only way to cope, when something happens and you try to find that person who can make it better- only to realize you won’t ever be able to find that person again. That you’d have to make it better on your own somehow.
It’s an elaborate reason for liking fries. A stupid reason, if you will. But when I wonder why I like fries so much, why it’s the food I usually eat alone when I feel angry or worthless or mad- she’s the only one that comes to mind.
Wow okay that got gloomy real fast. Have a nice day folks.