Thursday, January 22, 2009

Three Women

Went to my tutoring gig at the rehab a night or two ago...while trying to figure out who I’d be working with, was told I wouldn’t be seeing Mandy [names and other details are changed]...who I enjoy for her unstoppable sarcastic, irreverent sense of humor...who’s seemed lately, at last, like she’s starting to believe that she might be smarter than she thinks...who slipped out and did a massive amount of coke, and was now back, in the infirmary...though thankfully, she wasn’t sent back to prison...for now, at least....

Janie wouldn’t be there either, though she was brand new....I’d met with her just once, was surprised at how young she seemed...in fact, well under eighteen...and that she seemed to know something about poetry, and coasted through the reading comprehension practice GED test with little trouble...I was gonna dig out some poems from my shelves at home for her...but there’s not much point in that now...her pimp came to pick her up a day or two ago....

Then there was Sophie, who’ll be leaving before I’m there again....who, in my experience, rarely smiles, and is strikingly reticent to speak, and only ever does so in a guttural mumble...any expression at all seeming to dribble up from beneath layer upon layer of impenetrable scar tissue...any attempt at encouragement I gave her received as if it were some vague insult....Recently, one of the therapists suggested that we make up a certificate for people who are about to leave, formally signifying what they’d accomplished with me, on paper...which, in her case was significant...even if it’s hard to say how much that was a matter of improved ability, and how much simply realizing that she could do more than read the most basic words...not that, practically speaking, that distinction matters much...so, I had this cheesy piece of paper to give her, stating that she’d completed some tutoring...wasn’t sure what to think about that...

...but, oh god, opening the folder I handed her and seeing it...she glowed like the rising sun....

16 comments:

svasti said...

Wow. My heart just melted into a puddle of happiness and gooey-good-feelings reading that last line.

No doubt, sometimes your tutoring must be heart-breaking work.

But every second (I'm sure I don't need to tell you) must be worth it. Just for those moments of opening like that.

[wipes tears from eyes and beams]

Lydia said...

Not so cheesy afterall, eh? More like life-changing. You never know what a simple acknowledgment can mean to another.
Janie's exit is heartbreaking.

Aggie said...

It's funny how what we all take for granted sometimes makes a world of difference to someone's life. Way to go.

the walking man said...

Comprehension of the pain in the worlds we inhabit leads to some mysterious results in the pained.

Bird said...

What a beautiful post. I'd like to get you together with my friend who teaches literacy and numeracy in a psychiatric prison unit. You would have so much to talk about.

Wondering what the hell will happen to those people you don't get to see again is part of the job I think I'd find pretty hard.

Shea said...

What an amazing feeling that must have been for you both.

I was asked to present certificates of completion to the women inmates when they have reached certain mile-markers in their yoga practice. This story you've shared highlights exactly why I will make sure to do just that- and make a big deal out of it too.
Thanks.
Shea

Brunhilda said...

Ah, Janie broke my heart, but then Sophie melted it. Good work and great post.

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow...that's very cool. Amazing what the smallest pat on the back can do sometimes, eh?

Seeing Eye Chick said...

All that work, and frustration. And wow what a moment of transformative bliss. Who knows how long that will last for either of you, but still. The light came on, therefore, we now know--you, her, me, readers--that there is indeed a light. We witnessed it as she experienced it.

That also is something.

As for the other two. Know that for a moment, you, were a positive male role model in these womens lives, who didnt belittle them, abuse them or otherwise treat them less than human. You are a light too. Even if it doesnt always feel that way, outside of your presence, they will remember your warmth and compassion. And someday maybe even desire to surround themselves with good, productive people, and rid themselves of the users and abusers.

Homo Escapeons said...

Aaaaah!
It is sad how many people discard themselves and how even a little recognition can change their countenance.

Bravo!

If only the Human mind had a self esteem governor that revved up when low and pulled in the reins when the ego tried to elbow through.

The current schadenfreude-fest of reality TV clearly demonstrates how lazy we are..instead of helping everyone work through their issues, we sit back and gloat at the misfortune of others..the ubiquitous path of least resistance. We prefer the LCD angle.

Kim said...

Oh, that was so sweet! I about died at the end there. Good for Sophie!

DaisyDeadhead said...

:)

Ed T. said...

Wow, what you can say about that? You must have some great emotional stamina, Dr. Jay. About Sophie - still waters run the deepest I guess, that's great. Reminds me of junior year in my high school English class. I handed my teacher a notebook of poems that I had been working on over the course of the semester. She handed them back to me one day pleased and somewhat baffled, I guess because I am not really that expressive of a person sometimes, at least face-to-face.

Karin said...

That's truly wonderful. I'm always amazed at how the seemingly smallest gestures can have the biggest impact, creating a ' holy instant' - how rewarding it must be to have a part in their healing...

Rhiannon said...

It gives me great joy to read how your helping these women out. Reading about how Sophie "glowed like the rising sun" was so heartfelt.

It's amazing how any little important gesture might make the world of difference in someones day or even life!

Bless you

Adria said...

That's magnificent! My soul just lept from hearing that.
I think that I would love working with people in the capacity you do. Lord knows I have seen my bottom of where drugs can take a person.
You are special for doing such work.