A First Time for Everything

I really don’t know how to start this post, so here goes.

Thordora over at Spin Me I Pulsate has this thing she does called the pulsate olympics. She gives us a topic, asks us all to write about it and link to her in the post, she reads them all, and some lucky someone wins a prize! This time, I really want the prize, so here I am.

This event is about the first time for everything. She wants to hear about the first time we did something, felt something, etc. You would think that would be a pretty easy thing to come up with, but I had to give it a lot of thought. I finally decided I would write about the first time I stood up for myself. Warning! This one’s long, long and twisty.

From reading the blog, you probably think I’m pretty bitchy. But really I’m not. There are even times to this day where I haven’t stood up for myself when I probably should. But there was a time when I was very shy, very silent, very timid, unlikely to say anything at all. I would just watch what was going on. If somebody picked on me, I was more likely to think it was my fault, feel shame, and not tell anyone.

All through school, there was a teacher assigned to me to teach me braille, how to get around the school, typing, all things blinky. She would draw raised diagrams in math class so I could understand what they were doing, she would braille out the worksheets so I could do them, later she would try and teach me how to cook and stuff. From kindergarten to grade 12, she was there. She knew my mom and dad, in the summer, she would invite me over to swim in the pool, I knew her daughter. She became sort of like a second mother.

Then, slowly, all things started to go to hell. As I got older, she started getting me to braille out the instructions for my own assignments, ostensibly so I could have better computer skills. That meant I had to write out the instructions, and then actually do the work! She always wanted to pull me out of class, keep me with her. She wanted me to graduate later, take less classes so I could have more one on one time with her. But I didn’t want that. I was a teenager. I wanted to be with my classmates! They already made fun of me for missing so much class time. They would ask me if I was really in school.

She always like to pull power trips on me. I didn’t recognize them as such when I was a little kid, probably because back then, everyone had a lot of power over me. Remember how I told you she liked to let me swim in her pool? Well I didn’t really know how to swim. So her idea of teaching me how to swim was by letting some of the air out of my water wings so they didn’t do their job completely, and then releasing the pool-cleaning sucky vacuum thing into the bottom of the pool. So if I started to sink, I would hear that and it would scare the living daylights out of me, and…look! I could swim! Isn’t that evil?

She would watch me from afar, and laugh at me when I did stuff wrong, like if I got lost. I love this rationale. When I would get lost, she would quietly take me aside, saying how dependent I was, and I should have really been able to figure out where I was myself. But she wouldn’t try to help me learn how to problem-solve or think things out, so I would just feel inadequate and crappy. Way to help someone be more independent. Keep in mind that some of this lecturing happened when I was 7 or 8. Shouldn’t that be the time when I’m, um, learning this stuff? Are most 8-year-olds perfect at things yet? I don’t think so. But I would think she was right, feel like crap, and not tell a soul.

Later on, she would spy more on me. I think she liked the fact that I couldn’t see where she was. Then one day, I was teasing her, saying I knew when she was around because I could smell her perfume. Um, Carin, how dumb are you? The next day, there was no more perfume.

She would take me outside to her car to listen to Mozart. Why? I don’t know to this day. She would preach to me, try to force religion on me. She would take me to see another student of hers who had a brain tumour because she felt it brightened her life. What did it do to me when she died, which she did? It wasn’t pretty. I don’t mean to sound like people with cancer shouldn’t have visitors, but I only met her after she was pretty much terminal, and I was brought to her so I could help her, like a puppy or a flower. It wasn’t my idea to do this, it was decided for me. I don’t know, there’s something twisted about that that I can’t seem to put into words. I remember my dad being furious that she was doing this. I remember the day he stormed into the school, hair full of sawdust, and gave her a royal chewing out over it. Stupid me, at the time, I defended her and was disgusted that he had come in so dirty. I thought she was doing something nice. I look back on that, and want to thank him for what he did for me.

Then there were other strange things that she did that I still kick myself that I didn’t tell mom about. One spring, when I was about 12, I was in a musical. The day came when we were supposed to try on our costumes. Since I’m so short, alterations always had to be made to my clothes, so they told me to try the costume on and see what they had to do. I took the costume into the little private room where we always did braille and computer work, and decided to change there. Why did I not just go into the bathroom? I don’t know. Why did I change in front of my teacher? I don’t know. I guess I thought of her like a mom, so I felt comfortable. As I was changing, she said to me, “Wow, you’re developing nicely.” Look, there goes the trust I had for my teacher. There it goes. Fluttering away. But I blamed myself for changing there, I totally blamed myself. I never told a soul. Eventually I came to terms with that, told myself it wasn’t sexual, she knew that I had medical problems that made development slow, so I chalked it up to that in my head. But it still felt wrong.

Every year, because of the blink factor, my parents, my teacher, and some officials from the special ed department for the board of education would have a meeting about what was going to happen the next year. One year, I think it was in grade 11, after a particularly heated exchange between my mom and my teacher, where my teacher tried to have it so I didn’t have as many classes, and my mom stood up for what I wanted, my teacher really really started to go loopy. In the course of a meeting, she told me that I would not be successful without her. Like usual, I said nothing. But that started a fire somewhere in me. It bubbled and boiled and brewed silently for months.

A few months later, she started on a few power trips. She would watch me go places and laugh when I asked for help. She would tell me to carry too many binders and ask me how I was ever going to make it if I couldn’t carry the binders. One day, she walked into the public computer room where I was working and was acting particularly arrogant, and, without warning, I fought back!

I felt like some other force had taken control of me. I said to her. “And how are you going to humiliate me today? What will it be? Will you laugh at me for asking a question? Maybe you’ll just watch me fail, or set me up to fail, or tell me I can’t do it. What’ll it be?

She had always been so poised, so eloquent, but today, it was gone. She said, “Would you like to talk about this in private?” I agreed, and off we stormed to the room where she did some brailling. It felt like I was taking her outside to have some words.

We sat down, and I started naming off all the stupid things she had done this year, and demanded to know why she was doing them. She tried to explain them, amid telling me I shouldn’t hold grudges. Finally, I demanded to know why she said I would never be successful without her. Stunned, she asked me when this happened, and I gave her a rough estimate of when I remember it happening. She stammered, stuttered, said “there must be some mistake.” As she finished this sentence, I heard an unmistakable click. What was that click? It was the click of a stop button, a tape-recorder being turned off. She had been taping me!

Ooo you don’t want to see the red I saw. I jumped up, asked her why on earth she had been taping me. She didn’t have an anser. without thinking, and I’m surprised I did this to this day, I grabbed her hand, placed it on the rewind button, slammed it down and ordered, not asked, ordered her to rewind it all the way and erase every blasted thing that had been recorded. Then I decided to do it for her.

I sat in that room, holding my hand over the record and play buttons, making sure the wheel went around and around and around. I said nothing.

I remember her saying to me, “So how are we going to resolve this?” after things had been taped over. I don’t remember what I said. I was drained. Drained and in shock.

I wish I could say that the transformation was complete that day, that I had grown a voice and a spine and all that, but I hadn’t. I, again, felt shame at my outbursts. My teacher had always taught me to watch my tone, not get upset and mad, and I certainly hadn’t watched my tone that day, oh no. I didn’t tell mom what my teacher had done for years, for fear mom would go to her and then she would tell mom what I had done and then nobody would believe me. But I think it was the beginning, the beginning of something I had to learn, the beginning of me growing up , in a weird way.

I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget how something else took over and I was running on pure adrenalyn. I don’t know if my teacher remembers that whole incident, but I don’t think she does, since she emails me as if none of it ever happened. “how are you?” She writes. “Do you have a job yet? Are you married yet? How’s your new dog?” She thinks I want to answer!

That day was a big one. It was the day she lost her status of being infallible. Why she didn’t lose it long before that, I don’t know. But I never looked at her the same way again. It got a lot easier to tell people what I thought, and not blame myself for my feelings because as time went on, I realized they had their reasons, damn it!

I wish I could end this by saying I’ve been strong ever since, but that would be a big fat lie. The other day, she emailed me and said she wanted to phone me. That email still sits unanswered. Why? Because I’m still working up the courage to say no. Come on, it’s an email, and she’s 300 miles away. Why can’t I just tell her I don’t want to talk to her? I guess it’s because I’d have to explain why all over again. And she’ll say her usual. “and you want to hold a grudge this long?” Hell yeah I do! Maybe it would be easier if she just read this. It would save my breath, that’s for sure.

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