English classes in the midst of making copies and running and translating.
Rushed words and mistaken conjugations.
Two sweet girls just trying to survive middle school, survive between cultures, and survive adult problems.
I didn’t realize that Kayla was crying behind her thick glasses and her long dark hair.
¿Que pasa? What’s wrong?
Her friend asked as she wrapped an arm around her.
I led them into the library.
I had worksheets to do, and I just wasn’t prepared for another story. My heart was already overwhelmed and I knew that as I hear of a world that is a lot more complicated and painful than mine, I hold some level of responsibility.
Somehow I dug deep, reached for her hand and began the game of 300 million questions.
Was someone mean to you? nothing
What did they say? nothing
When did you start feeling sad? nothing
Please tell me why your sad. nothing
Were you thinking about something sad? a microscopic movement that resembled a nod.
I continued the probing for an uncomfortably long time until between sobs and big tears over things middle schoolers should never cry about, she told me how she thinks about it all the time and can’t stop.
It is her uncle who was shot by an off duty police officer who just happened to be his ex wife’s boyfriend. Kayla was just across to street and ran to the scene with her grandmother when they heard the gunshot— a sight she will never forget. I sight I see in her glazed over brown eyes each day.
He was like her dad. She lived with him and her grandmother.
This isn’t the first uncle she has seen killed. She saw her other uncle after he was killed by el mata, a mean man who later killed himself. She pointed to her face, and neck and chest— that’s where he was shot.
Most of what I’ve seen of death was in caskets, wearing makeup, nice clothes and surrounded by flowers and Bible verses.
Not Kayla. She has seen more than I probably ever will. I wonder how she will be in 10 years. Who is going to listen to these stories or even believe her?
For her, hate, racism and violence are not elusive topics she hears on the news, but rather a part of her childhood.
Behind every controversial act of violence, there are people like Kayla that you will never hear about.
*names changed for privacy