Sunday, June 3, 2007

Jeannie, please blink me out of here!

I moved to U.S.A. from India when I was nine years old. I was new to my school, American kids, culture, etc. Fortunately, I already knew English which was my first language, although it sounded a bit British.

My public elementary school, not a base school, was about an hour away because it was the only one, closest to my home, in this county that had an oral program for the "hearing-impaired".

Thus, there was no school bus that could provide transportation for far-away students. This teacher, Bonnie, who happened to live close by, offered to give me a ride.

Eventually, a deaf boy in my third-grade class, Jeff, later joined our "carpool".

Because my mother was a housewife that time, his mother who worked would drop him off at my home every morning to wait for Bonnie to pick us up. And in the afternoons, Jeff would stay at my home until his mother got off from work and picked him up.

Jeff was a sweet blond blue-eyed boy who had cerebral palsy. I was too young to understand the concept of cerebral palsy. To me, he was just deaf like me.

The only glitch in getting a ride with Bonnie was that since she was a teacher, Jeff and I had to stay after school for about an hour while she finished up her paperwork prior to dropping us home.

One afternoon, after school, as usual, Jeff and I sat in the backseat of Bonnie's car to wait for Bonnie to finish up her work. Sitting, with my "I dream of Jeannie", a popular 70's sitcom, metal lunchbox on my lap, I chatted with Jeff. (We mostly spoke orally and lip-read each other as we did not know sign language, at least me at that time)

Somehow, I don't remember how it happened, we got into an argument that became heated. Under an assumption that he might hit me, I quickly defended myself by throwing my lunchbox at his head.




By the time I looked up, I froze.

On Jeff's forehead, seat, and car floor, there was blood! Terrified, I did not know what to do.

I then glanced at my lunch box and saw the picture of "I dream of Jeannie" character. For a moment, I thought maybe I could beg Jeannie to blink to take all this away.

As if on cue, Bonnie came down the front school stairs and walked towards the car. I briefly looked at Jeff and the poor boy was crying in pain. Panicking, I quickly got out of the car, hoping to distract Bonnie.

"Hi... Can I sit in the front?"

Bonnie smiled and nodded.

But, Jeff also got out of the car to show Bonnie what happened. I cringed for what was to come.

Bonnie, shocked, with her hands on her hips, glared at me. She demanded an explanation. I stammered we somehow got into a fight and I was merely defending myself.

Furious, she stated she would have a serious "talk" with my parents upon dropping me off and ordered me to sit in the front.

During the ride, my legs trembled, feeling rubbery, and my hands, cold and clammy. I was absolutely terrified at the prospect what would happen at home when my parents, especially my dad, found out.

The ride seemed to take forever. Bonnie's face's expression looked stone cold.

Upon arriving home, I was hesistant to get out of the car, but Bonnie was out and already climbing the stairs to my townhome. This time, Jeff stayed in the car.

What happened immediately is a blur to me as it was so long ago. Maybe I panicked so much that the incident blotted my memory.

To summarize it, of course, my parents were furious and disappointed in me. But to my surprise, all my dad said was for me to apologize to my school principal.

Can you believe I really got off that easy?

To a nine-year old, the principal looked quite a tall man. He seemed kind and considerate. Craning my neck, I mustered my courage and stammered my apology to the principal. Shaking his head, he told me not to do such thing again.

As for Jeff, the poor boy had sixteen stitches on his forehead. His family demanded that my parents pay the medical bills.

His mother never dropped him off at my home ever again.

One year later, my family and I moved to another town.

Jeff, wherever you are, I am truly sorry for my impulsive and immature action.