A Patriot High science teacher accidentally killed a jogger on the way to work Thursday. I heard the bad news the next day when Dean Jake called me over to his computer to look at a story he’d found online. That was the first and last time I heard anything about the situation. Hell, for all I know, Jake and I are the only other people who even know about it.
In a normal world, of course, a colleague killing someone on the way to work would be pretty big news around the water cooler. Not at Patriot. Tragedy blends right in here – like a tiger in the grass.
On Monday, Dave was in a middle of a story about the time another teacher actually tried to run him over, when Dean Maria rushed over, clutching a piece of paper.
“Did you read this letter?”
“Did you know Jerome Franklin?” She asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Not by name at least. Why?”
“He died over the summer.”
I barely reacted. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about a student’s passing at Patriot.
“How’d he die?”
“He drowned. He fell into a swimming pool and he didn’t know how to swim! It’s terrible, no?”
“Yeah, that’s horrible,” I agreed, but I didn’t feel it. “Where’d you get that letter anyway?”
“My assistant principal gave me a copy.”
I looked at the letter in her hand and saw the opening line: “We regret to inform you that over the summer…”
Maria drifted away to get something out of the printer and I turned back to Dave and he continued the story he was telling before. “So, I’m walking to my car and I hear screeching tires behind me. I whirl around and she’s coming straight at me!”
But I had to stop him. “Dave, I’m sorry man. But how crazy is it that we’re not even affected by that?”
“What, about the kid who died?”
“Yeah. It’s fucked up.”
“Listen, there’s definitely a callousing that comes with this job. What can I say? It’s not like we have a choice in the matter. It happens. It’s the only way you can survive.”
I nodded. I knew he was right. We do the best we can in an impossibly stressful environment. The truth is that we only have so much to give.
“You didn’t know him did you?” Dave asked.
“No,” I said, looking away.
“Well I don’t know about you, but I’m not gonna get overwhelmed every time someone I don’t know dies, because I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”