Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Blood on the Floor
I’ve seen a few fights in my time at Shitty, but nothing that left anyone more seriously injured than a black eye or some bruised ribs. I’ve heard rumor of some pretty ill behavior, broken bottle stabbings, dudes getting jumped six-on-one, and then there was last year’s infamous hallway gang-rape (or gangbang/initiation, to be more accurate, since according to reports the female student involved was a willing participant.) Somehow, though, I’ve managed to avoid witnessing any of the real violence that certainly does occur in the halls and stairwells while I’m busy collecting worksheets and telling kids to take their hats off. Until last Friday.

Friday morning before my first class I was standing in the hallway outside my basement classroom waiting for the bell to the ring. I had gotten there early, as I try to do every day, in order to avoid the crush of students who come down through this particular hallway every morning before third period when they are let out the back of the auditorium.

Why are they in the auditorium, you ask. Perhaps these students are all members of a Shitty theater or chorus club? No, they’re just the 300-odd students who didn’t get through scanning on time for second period. They are told to arrive for school an hour early in order to go through the metal detectors, it’s worse than the airport. For some senseless reason all off these kids are sent down through the basement, through a narrow hallway and an even narrower door, and off to their various classes. This is bad enough but is made worse by the fact that there are classes in this hallway and students and teachers trying to come the other way through the door, causing a massive bottleneck where everyone is screaming and hollering and pushing and shuffling their feet forward inches at a time.

God forbid someone were to step on someone’s Jordans. It’s a fight waiting to happen, and one did. It wasn’t like that, though, spontaneous and heated. This was cold-blooded.

I heard it before I saw it, about 10 feet down the hall as the crowd of kids was filing by, a general commotion and a collective inhale of excitement. I craned my neck over the crowd, a good thirty-something kids packed in the close space between me and the fight, and I saw a former student of mine right there in the fray, leading the pack.

Steven is a tall, skinny, Dominican kid, he’s over 17 and speaks English pretty well, but I had him in a freshman Level 1 class because he’s never to come to class enough to pass. He’s quiet and respectful, and even kind of cute when he bothers to do some work. He’s half-blind but way too cool to wear glasses, so he pulls his desk up right in front of the board and leans forward, squinting hard, then licking his pencil tip and painstakingly copying down the Aim and the Do Now.

I could see Steven, head and shoulders above the crowd. Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam. In rapid-fire, highly professional, precision he swung something yellow at someone’s head, connecting every time.

I had just enough time to yell into a classroom for another teacher to call security before it was over. Steven and his boys scattered and the victim did too, I guess. I never saw him. I checked out the blood splattered on the hallway floor and then went ahead and taught my morning classes.

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