A Kind Hand
By: Ignacio Benito
Her shoulder-long black hair and brown eyes melted with her almond skin, only for her vividly colored top layered with flowers, molas, and creative designs coming from the farthest reaches of the local culture to burst into a deluge of colors. A sharp, vigorous voice resounds across the walls of her class as she rises to explain and delve into the depths of philosophical discussions about the intricacies of modern and archaic literature. Her stance tall and honored, not to be questioned by those watching her intently as she exposes the bitter and heartless existence of nationalism, her thought pure and untainted by social norms and choking smug of disregard and blindness.
Her personality molded by years spent grasping at the wonders of the literary currents which shaped the minds of billions across time, her own life cast by an endless desire to live and exist as an individual not reliant on a governing body. Growing up after a recently deposed dictatorship was not easy, the violence which ran rampant across the streets: gangs, drugs, battered and dilapidated homes lining the edge of every avenue. Her mother, caring as she might be, could not shield them from the brutality which brought death and misery to the one million people which lived in every corner of the vast concrete jungle which she inhabited. Along with her sister, they sought to carve out a living in such an arduous road, she knew that not sacrificing the vices of teenagehood for a chance at a scholarship would lead to her demise, an education was the only way to escape a suffocating cycle. All-nighters, study groups, and the occasional tears were part of a childhood spent working towards a brighter future, one that would eventually pay off as she graduated Panama’s National University with a major in Language Studies, but she will never forget the hardship and pain she witnessed as she grew up.
She sits every day in her red-reclining chair where she would observe those coming into her classroom throughout the day, after all, it was her responsibility to educate these children in whatever way possible. Once the class time came by, she would stand and greet them and wait to hear the response of the 20 or so students who would litter her classroom with their red and black books from an Ecuadorian editorial. The moment her students have settled down, she would stand and hand out the daily worksheet which carried information which, unbeknownst to her students, would most likely help them understand the literature which had been written centuries ago in a country an ocean away, she hoped they would actually read and save what she bothered to gather for them. However, on a more lax day she’ll often descend into a deep discussion about the social and historical context of whatever enthralling novel she was reading alongside her students, and occasionally she would allow them to work on the summative project which so many started the day before it was due, she was sure of that, mentioning it to the class more than once.
Regardless of what they believed, she had work to complete, four different classes worth of essays to grade within one week time was not an easy task. Once she had locked away the outside world and entered her apartment she would slowly approach her maple desk littered with countless unfinished novels, poetic thoughts, sticky notes and occasional empty coffee mugs with a thin layer of dried milk staining the bottom of the ceramic. It would be a tough night, one of many, accompanied only by a sole cat whos attitude was hostile to even the kindest of hands and gentlest of pets and the never-ending sounds of calm music which would wash over her. As she produced a fine, pink pen, the one with a bit of glitter mixed in, and proceeded to grade the endless stream of essays which would inundate her every thought while at home. Even if the never-ending papers stacked sky high, her pens ran dry, or her wrist tired she knew that with every comment and piece of advice she was guiding those in her classes to a future free from ignorance, illiteracy, and grammatical horrors which governed the world, she yearned for them to become what so many had failed to become, leaders in such a harsh reality. One A.M the clock read, with the pervasive sound of clicks and clocks which echo through the quiet apartment, her gaze lingered on the sterile white wall where it hung and she said to herself, “Otra noche perdida entre estos malditos papeles.”
There were few things she detests, one of them is being late, even by a single minute, what kind of example was she setting for her students? Her thoughts always caring and looking out for those under her wing, her strides quick, she walked into the silent class which started at her with contempt. After her routine greeting, she produced and overflowing binder filled to the brim with worksheets of all kinds, grammar, literary devices, historical notes, or whatever else her mind had wondered to during one of those sleepless nights. She swiftly handed a single two page, double-sided worksheet on the rise of the modern novel through the destruction of a stagnated literary genre. Even though her students may not have any interest in such a magnificent topic, she would still stand and echo the sentiment of various authors from all corner of the world.
“New perspectives are essential for your growth as an individual in this asphyxiating society” she’d say.
Even if they did not care, she would never give up on the chance that even a single of these students would rise to a new plain of understanding. However, she was human, and at times she too had to calm her mind and engage in something soothing relaxing, book club it would be.
Few things brought her as much glee as to pick up a novel and delve into the minutia of every literary figure, plot device, the social and historical context which needed to comprehend whatever literary masterpiece she was devouring. Surrounded by like-minded individuals she debated over the endless interpretation of a man’s unseemly transformation into a horrendous creature or the famines that plagued one of the world’s greatest empires during its most distinguished literary times. These meetings were to her what to many can be described as bliss, absorbed in the intellectual debacle stemming from endless nights of annotation and philosophical questioning. Nonetheless, there are those who refuse, no they do not dignify themselves, to pick up a single novel, poem, or even a magazine and to culminate this atrocity they dared insult the most prestigious authors of all time! It was because of people like these that upon returning home she would stifle away her books and proceed to look material for her students, countless hours spent crafting and organizing plans to bring forth new ideas into the bright young minds she taught. If she failed, above all else she knew that at least she had given them the tools to come out as well read and cultured men and woman and whatever they chose to do with the countless worksheets, notes, and advice she provided rested on their shoulders alone.
Her vividly colored tops coated in, molas, bright flowers, and creative designs were a symbol of her loving personality. She spent countless, sleepless nights looking for worksheets, advice, literary devices, and grammatical rules, all tools for her students to use at their own discretion. Her slightly almond skin and brown eyes melt together, a local physique. Her sharp and vigorous voice bouncing off every wall in every hallway she enters. Her stance proud and high, treading through the world on her own accord and her critics keen and concise. Yet, what most stands out is her willingness to suffer for her students, to push them to attain the education they deserve, loving and kind she’s always willing to help.
Our kind hand: Catalina Gomez