memory / student / surprise / writing

The Unexpected

My son and I walked up the concrete steps after spending about an hour walking around a nearby pond, taking pictures of action figures, and watching a woman and her sons try to get a frisbee out of a tree. The sun had come out from behind the clouds turning the air sticky. The walk up the steps from the water had worn me out and I was out of breath.

At the top of the steps I saw a student who I’d not seen in a year. She’s a facebook friend, but she didn’t post much. I hadn’t kept up with her except for the comments she left on my photos. She’d always been polite and earnest if a bit odd. The other students never liked her much.

Of The Great Gatsby she’d said, “But why does he cheating if cheating is wrong?” and a few minutes later, “He must leave his wife because Daisy is very beautiful.”

So I see my student at the top of the stairs and I’m out of breath and my son is running up ahead, and I realize, just as my student sees me, that she is in a wheelchair. And as I cheerfully say,” Hello! How are you doing?” I realize that she no longer has one leg.

And my brain dashes about wildly trying to process this information as if it could cram this news into my skull and out would come the correct response in 3 seconds.

Haven’t you ever been in a situation where you desperately and quickly want to say the right thing and you know you’re going to fail?

On the bright side, I can use that feeling in my writing.

5 thoughts on “The Unexpected

  1. Oh my goodness, how awkweird! And so totally something I would do too. The only way I know how to deal with that thing where my mouth moves faster than my brain is to just not open it sometimes. Trouble is, people think I’m aloof, when I’m not really, just trying to keep from making a fool of myself.

    What happened to her leg? Diabetes? Accident? Poor thing.

    • I’ve had people think I’m aloof too. As they say, “Better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

      I have no idea what happened in my student’s life. Hardly seems like one can ask. I wanted to express sympathy but act normal. Err. Life.

  2. I know that feeling- that happened to me recently- a slow motion “oh no, I’m about to say the wroooong thing” which made me smack my own forehead right after (fortunately I was on the phone) and you’re right, it would be great to put that feeling in a story.

  3. Maybe that’s why we started writing in the first place! I think I started reading, in large part, to escape crazy situations, and started writing in order to grapple with them.

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