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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

the playground

E comes home from school on Friday, and her normal smile of relief is not there. She is usually out of her school clothes in minutes, curled on the couch asking me what we are having for lunch. Today, she stands in the dark corridor, her shoulders hanging low. Her mouth opens, closes, nothing coming out. I ask her what happened.
"A boy, a boy from our school." She begins. "He died."
"How?" I ask. 
"There was a man in the playground, he gave him some gum and it had poison on it." She explains.
Her mouth twists around. 
"You knew him?" I ask. "What grade was he in?"
She nods once. 
"Seventh." She says at one point.
E leans against me for a bit. I rest a hand on the small of her back. 

Later, we will talk, as I make sure she knows not to take anything from anyone but of course she knows that but I say it anyway. There are calls to find out more about what happened, what there is to know. It turns out that none of this is on the news, that there is no police investigation, no hovering presence of guards on the school playground although there are hordes of them in the metro. The mothers are all sharing information, talking in private secure chats. But there is no official statement. 

The boy died and nothing changes. 

Nothing will happen except for stern words from parents to their children. There is talk that there is a gang behind these acts, that they have been doing this all over the city. But there is nothing in the news about it. Well, the news stopped being the news a few years ago. 

E is processing things. There are no tears, no nightmares. I wonder if living here has insulated her, or worn her down until she simply accepts whatever random act she is presented with as inevitable. 









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