The security camera whines as it follows teacher who just hurried into the play yard.
I try to push myself even further behind the sand table against the wall. I squeeze my eyes closed and try to ignore the teacher calling me. Tasha had right away run off to find the teacher! That’s not what she was supposed to do, she was supposed to give me the shovel. And she looked so surprised when I hit her. Mom never looked surprised. She just got very still and looked down. And Grandma would yell for a bit and then it would be done. That’s what’s supposed to happen! When Tasha picked up the shovel and I wanted to use it, it was just like when mom had the remote and Grandma wanted it. At least I didn’t take off my slipper and hit her on the head with it like Grandma does, I hit her with my hand like my dad used to.
But I feel bad. I didn’t know hitting people made you feel bad… Grandma never felt bad. And mom didn’t cry! She just got still and let Grandma have the remote. Tasha just didn’t know how it was supposed to go – she’s stupid.
I can hear teacher calling me: ‘Dustin!’ Suddenly the sand table moves and teacher is standing right in front of me.
‘Dustin open your eyes, we need to have a talk’.
Nope – I am pretending I can’t hear him either.
‘Dustin, Tasha says you hit her. We do not use our hands on other people Dustin, you know that! Please open your eyes and let’s talk about this’.
‘I’m not opening my eyes’ I blurt out anyway. ‘I don’t have to. I wanted to use the shovel and she grabbed it so I hit her. Stupid Tasha. I’m not her friend anymore’.
‘Okay Dustin, let’s go inside. You’ll have to be in a time out until you can apologize for your behaviour’.
Teacher pulls me to my feet. I make myself as heavy as a rock and keep my eyes firmly squished shut. He still gets me up on my feet. Darn it.
‘I’m not looking at anyone till my mom gets here. She knows it’s okay. She’ll hug me and she’ll tell me: ‘It’s okay honey. Come on, we’ll go home and watch some TV’’.
Teacher is very still for a moment, he squats down and takes my hands, ‘It’s not okay for anyone to hit anyone else, Dustin. People need to respect one another. Hitting doesn’t just make the other person hurt, it makes us feel very bad inside too. Hitting is bad for everyone’.
I can’t help it – my eyes pop right open. I see Mr. Michael’s face right in front of me. His brown eyes look very concerned and his forehead has those worry lines on them… wrinkles my mom calls them.
‘When my Grandma hits my mom does she feel bad? She doesn’t apologize… she just yells till she’s done and mom says it’s okay, she doesn’t mind. It doesn’t make her cry and go get the teacher.’ I suddenly remember that Mr. Michael is married. Mom says sometimes when people are married or living together they hit each other just because they get frustrated. ‘Do you feel bad when you hit your husband? I felt bad when I hit Tasha…but I don’t think I’m supposed to…’
I watch his face very carefully to see what he might say – I want to know if this was weird, this horrible feeling, or if I was just weird. I would grow up to be a man and I needed to know if I was going to be the right kind of husband, the right kind of dad. The kind of dad that made people listen and do what he said. The King guy; the worker man. I don’t feel like someone who could be the King guy right now if I have to hit people all the time… I don’t like how it makes me feel one bit. I was sorry as soon as I saw the surprise on Tasha’s face.
Mr. Michael’s face looks even more worried. He sits down on the ground, right on the ground, and pulls me into his lap.
‘Does your Grandma hit your mom, Dustin? Do you see her doing that?’
I push my head under his chin so I can’t see his eyes anymore. I nod. His chest rises as he sucks in his breath. He hugs me.
‘I’m sorry that you have to see that. No, I never hit my husband because I love him. We have to be gentle, especially with the people we love. It is not okay for anyone to hit anyone. Ever. No matter how mad we get. No matter how angry we are. No one should ever be hit’.
I shake my head. I am confused. ‘My mom says it’s okay…’
Mr. Michael stands, scooping me up with him, starts towards the door. It feels good to be held and safe like this. The ground seems very far away. I see Tasha standing and looking at both of us, tears in her eyes. I feel very bad for those tears. She is still holding the stupid shovel.
‘I’m sorry’, I whisper. Mr. Michael stops ‘what’s that Dustin?’
The knot in my stomach feels a bit better so I say it again ‘I’m sorry I hit Tasha.’
The security camera whirs as its glass eye follows us to the door leading in from the play yard. The thought pops into my head that if we had a camera at home, Mr. Michael could see how it is with my Grandma and mom.
“It’ll be okay Dustin’ Mr. Michael says.
I look up at him quickly. I feel confused. I don’t think he understands what that means.