Rain drips down plate glass like the tears she sees on the
face of the child standing before her.
Words cling to the roof of her mouth like holiday decals stuck to every window: The solemn Holy Family alternated with pictures of Santa
grinning inanely and waving his gloved hand at the classroom—nearly empty, save
She tries to chink the words from her mouth; tries to pry
them away like too much peanut butter taken from a spoon. But she cannot force them out through gritted
teeth. The words stick there, burning
like hot pizza, scarring, hurting, until she swallows them whole.
She turns. Packs up
her things: spelling tests to be graded; her yellow umbrella; the gifts from the
students—homemade cookies, spice-scented candles, a few crumpled ten dollar
bills. She glances at Mrs. Claus: Her arm has come
unstuck from the window. She appears to
be waving. “I’m sorry,” she says,
pushing the wayward arm back into place.
But it’s too late: The child is gone.
She goes to confession; absolves herself, the only evidence
of her sin the small flap of skin dangling from the roof of her mouth and a
sore spot where the purity of the words seared her bitterness. With her tongue, she works away the burned
flap of skin. Spits it out into the palm
of her hand.
At the end of the season, the window clings will be peeled
away and set back into the box for next year.
And the child will pack up her resentments, too, lovingly layering
each between fine sheets of tissue paper.
Perhaps one day she’ll become a teacher.