There is this girl in my English class. She sits at the far end of the room against the wall. She has long red hair and pale, pimply skin. She has a roller bookbag with a Neopet attached to it. She sits pin straight, her back curved with a little u because she is so skinny. She raises her hand high in the air to comment on a poem that has nothing to do with the actual poem. She never takes notes and she always notifies us that she was raised with chickens in Florida. She wears the same thing everyday.
I thought this girl was strange. So strange that I never thought to talk to her or pay her any attention. I normally don’t associate myself with strange people but one day this girl came up to me before class as we waited for our teacher to arrive. She reminded me that she grew up in Florida and I remembered that there was a shooting at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School. I looked at her then and I realized she had clear blue eyes and a heart-shaped face. She’s quite lovely- for someone who has a roller bookbag in college.
I asked her if she knew anyone who was there and she replied that her sister’s friend went to that school and her dad was the lead surgeon who worked on the injured kids. She told me that she had been up all night- and that’s when I noticed the bags under her eyes, behind her squared glasses. She heard of the shooting but no one in her family had called to tell her they were okay; not until the next morning. She assured me that they were fine, that her dad was busy saving a teenager’s life.
I had never thought about politics or trying to change the world in any small way that I could. That day I looked at the girl from across the room as she bounced on the balls of her feet and tapping her fingers against the wall. She checked her phone. She looked up and her pale face drained of what little blood was there. She hastily got up and left the room. I thought she really had to go to the bathroom or something, so I waited for her to come back. She didn’t.
Our teacher was talking about William Blake. Kids were writing notes and paying close attention. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even hear his words over the loud buzz of electric charged fear running around me. I waited fifteen minutes for the girl to get back before I got up to find her. I found her in the hallway, pacing back and forth, tears pouring out of her small face, as she pressed the phone to her ear and listened. I knew something was wrong- anyone could see that. I sat on the bench and looked at the old man judging both the girl and I for missing class.
I shot him a glare.
My eyes traveled back to the girl and she sniffled and breathed heavily. I thought something horrible had happened- a friend of hers had been shot- but as I listened to the one-sided conversation, I realized she was asking for reassurance. Reassurance that everything was okay with her family. My heart broke.
She got off the phone a little over twenty minutes later. I had averted my eyes to the ground so she didn’t think I was staring, even though I was. I felt like I needed to wrap my body around hers and shield her from the world. I felt scared for her, and sorry. She sat next to me and wiped her face clean. After a while she said that she got a text from her sister saying that her school was under lockdown because her teacher heard a gun shot. Her sister’s school was near Douglas HS Kids from each school had grew up together. Her sister said “I love you.” and nothing else after that. The girl turned to me and I looked at her.
“Well?” I asked. I had never spoken more than ten words to this girl and I was already mothering her, helping her, feeling for her.
“The teacher mistook construction workers for a gun shot.” She whispered it to me, like she was afraid it wasn’t the truth. She wiped another fast runaway tear from her face.
She replied with a swift nod. I glanced at the old man across the hallway, who was unashamedly staring at the girl. I swallowed back bile.
“And you?” I asked her. She gave a small smile at my two-worded conversation.
She thanked me for staying with her. I sat back against the wall and breathed a heavy sigh of relief, maybe a bit of anger too.
“In times like this, we need to stick together, no matter who you are.” She laughed and said this world was going to “shit”. I silently agreed.
At this point, there was only ten minutes left of class. We went back into the classroom, gaining a few glares from annoyed students who are on they’re high horse, not knowing that I had just saved a girl… just by being in her presence.
It was that day when I realized that there needs to be a change in this country. One that protects kids from being killed in schools. One that protects kids who are scared, like the girl. One that keeps people alive. That was the day that I decided to take a stand. And I do support the second amendment- I believe in our founding fathers. What I don’t support is handing out guns to our educators. I don’t support the loosely constructed gun laws that allow the wrong people to have a piece of metal that can kill 17 kids. I support the people who are defenseless- emotionally and physically. People like those kids from Sandy Hook. People like the girl. And even people like me- who are just trying their best to help, but aren’t really sure how.
The girl continues to sit on the far side of the room, pin straight, with her roller bookbag. Everyday we say hello and smile at each other. We support each others comments, even if they’re somewhat wrong. Because we hadn’t just become friends that day, we became something more like guardians angels. That day changed everything for me. For her.
That girl is Ava.