What do you say when a twelve-year-old asks you if we’re dying?
Three doors presented themselves. The first stately and indifferent, through which I’d feign disinterest and parade my selective hearing. The second scientific and nonchalant, which promises a cocktail of truth without feeling, shaken not reassured. The final, pulses red and glows pink like wind bitten cheeks, the heartfelt response. I moved as a shadow through the third; my response fluctuating clarity and grit, several shades of grey.
The teacher in me finds comfort in the pronoun ‘we’. For it means we are not dying alone and ‘dying’ being in the present tense suggests we are living too. Although, how are such sentiments conveyed to a teenage mind flitting through a kaleidoscope of death, judgement and laughter? With faith. Too often many assume the hormone driven cannot understand the equally hormone driven adults.
I breathe a ‘Yes’ and smile. ‘We are all dying. It is odd, isn’t it? Being born to die.’ She nods and titters. The gravity of death has left her atmosphere; unspoken we agree to face death as we do life – head on and not alone. I wonder as I close the third door behind me if I should worry. Is her curiosity morbid or merely feline? – ‘Miss, what is in the point in homework? Teachers hate marking it anyway and it never really helps us learn.’ My thoughts are hijacked by new, bubbling curiosity and again I am presented with three doors. It’s 8.40am.
The Milk of Human Kindness: