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Good Girl

June 14, 2012
Mississippi River

It’s hard to see solutions when we’re on the same level as our problems. Once we can look down on them, things seem easier.

My best girl came in Monday morning and needed to talk. She’s 16, 5’11”, beautiful, driven. She used to fight, but doesn’t any more. She just started dating a new boy who goes to our high school. He got shot 13 times right after Mardi Gras this year, in the arms, legs, and shoulder. He’s been in rehab since, and he says he is trying to change his life around. His ex-girlfriend says she is pregnant with his baby, but we think it’s just a ploy for the attention (since he got shot and wasn’t able to impregnate someone). My student has a lot going on, and now her mom wants to move them back to the country. It’s safer there, and cheaper.

Lemme tell you what happened. See, my mama? She ain’t gettin’ no money. Our food stamps got closed. We don’t know why. My gramma moved out, went back to the country, says it’s too hard ’round here. She went back to Opelousas. And now mama says we gotta go back to the country too. Can’t pay our rent. Gramma went, that was my mama’s work, she took care o’ her. Got paid for it. But now she got no income. Mama says we have to go back to the country but that we’ll come back for school next year.

What about your step dad. Does he have income?

My step daddy? No. He stingy. He got diabetes all over his legs, sore, they puss. He just sits all day. Or, see my people? They go to the casino.

How does he get cash for the casino?

He sell drugs. Like his prescription ones. Xanibars? That it? Yeah. He sell drugs, all his drugs from tha doctor, then he go to tha casino and think he can win more money, but he never do. They all come out the casino cryin’ and stuff. Every time think they can win somethin’. Never do.

So what are they going to do? No income and no food stamps?

That’s why we gotta go. We ain’t never lived like this, Ms. Summers. Never. No beds. Termites. They bad. The washer flooded the house and they ain’t fixed it. Things got bad since we moved. Real bad. We ain’t never lived like this before.

What are you going to do?

Nothin’. Just keep going to school and gettin’ my education. I don’t wanna be stuck like them.

Good girl. You know the only way up and out is by education. The more educated you are, the more choices you’ll have in life.

I know.

She shakes her head at me and smiles, hearing me say that for the millionth time. If they’ve learned anything, they know that education equals choice, and in a world that places color and class limits, choice is more than can be hoped for. Education brings choice, and choice equal freedom.

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