“I just could not,” was my laconic reply to Papa when he asked me years ago, why I didn’t tell on Mrs. B*****. “I would’ve had a word with her,” he asserted.
I knew that I just couldn’t. I was afraid about what I did not know. I did not know what happens when parents and teachers talk. What do they talk about? They certainly had nothing about me to discuss and talk over because I was a nobody; just one of the forty pupils and a couple of hundreds more. There was nothing about me to discuss, was there?
I’m utterly quiet as I remember Mrs. B***** now. I am not sure why. I have misgivings… A monumental woman; an imposing figure. She is taller than the others. Maybe that was why she was made Adviser of Section A.
Section A. This is the class of the smartest, the richest, the most well-connected, and the cutest pupils. I’m not cute or well-connected or rich. I suppose I was smart enough to make the cut like Maria, Kae, Bryan, Arnold, Allan, Ricardo Q., Ricardo S., Reynalyn, Arvin, Mclynne, and the other pupils of Section A.
Mrs. B*****- the teacher who was proud of her classroom with a tiled floor because it was the first of its kind in our school – that tiled floor. Tiles which were paid for by our parents’ money – Parents & Teachers Association (PTA) funds, so to speak.
Mrs. B***** who loved to place her elbows on the rostrum and lean while she taught Math and chewed, chomped, and gnawed peanuts. She would ask us to stand – those who cannot answer a Math problem.
One afternoon, in one inopportune instance of spacing out, I was caught mid-daze and called upon to recite. Mrs. B***** chewed on her peanuts and ordered me to “remain standing” because I couldn’t multiply fast enough like Maria Kristina. Why, indeed, wasn’t I fast enough like Maria Kristina?
Mrs. B***** demanded that I stand during the entire period. The whole class was looking at me. Some of the boys laughed. Ricardo laughed… Darrell laughed… Justine laughed. Maybe they saw the armpit stains on my blouse… or the beads of nervous sweat on my nose… on my lower lip… on my upper lip.
They did, but not in the way I expected care to be under distressing circumstances. I was on the hot seat and Mrs. B***** chewed more peanuts and called me “Tanga!” which translates stupid or idiotic and is meant as a sharp, demeaning and derisive jab, especially in the pedagogical milieu. I initially interpreted such “branding” as a lighthearted quip from a credible source of knowledge and a well-meaning educator – for the salvation of my nine-year-old self-esteem – but… NO. Mrs. B***** wasn’t smiling; she sneered.
I went home that afternoon, not saying a word. I was “stupid” after all and stupid pupils don’t talk much; they couldn’t, so, I didn’t because I couldn’t.