The suicide of her student, it’d, left that mark on her heart that’s, for sure! Translated…
S died in an accident. Her mother had, come to school, to bring back her belongings. As the bell that lets school out rang in the evenings, her mother showed up at the office, like that silent shadow. I’d, blamed myself, for not looking out for S, I’d started, feeling uneasy, started, wringing up my own dress.
What S left behind, stacked, next to my desk—backpack, books, notes, sneakers, the cup, the bowl, the towel, her comb…………S’s mother at in silence, touched her daughter’s belongings one by one, her silence, became, a strong sort of, existence in silence. It was during the summers then, other than the air-conditioning, there’s, also, the fans on, the old fan creaked on, I’d, picked up that stack of graded exams, to walk around, to, help ease that sense of uneasiness of no words being passed between us. I’d felt, that time seemed to have, stopped moving on, the moment that S’s mother came into the door.
There are, so many items she’d, left behind, along with, the paperwork that needed to get, filled out, S’s mother came a couple of time. She’d, turned my office into her own private place. I’d, cleaned up my space first, poured a cup of tea for her, and, this sort of a service, was, a mixture of my regret over not watching out for her daughter. As she got pulled like that shadow, into the office, and every thing slowed itself down, she’d, walked to the desk, started, flipping through her daughter’s books, put them down, selected a couple of items, sat, in meditation in the chair; not long afterwards, she’d, gotten up, walked out, of this, silent stage. During that hour she was there, it’s, as if, a century had, come to pass for me.
Her silence was, infectious, when S’s mother was around, the lights seemed, dimmed, I’d, wanted to say something, but, I felt I didn’t, look after S enough, and, it’d, made it too hard, to talk with her mother. The counselor told me, that, there’s a method of healing, through picking up what the deceased left behind, to sort through our own, emotions, and, what I can do right now, is by accompanying her mother, by not, disturbing her.
S’s mother would flip through her notebooks, her sketchbooks in silence. Her daughter was, quite artistic, with Miyazaki as her idol, she’d, copied the characters from Totoro, Porcco Rosso, and Spirited Away, to almost exact. It’s, as if, I saw S again, in her dark blue jacket, same colored pants, sitting at her seat, concentrating away, on her art, the soft and fluffy Totoro, was in bright colors, totally opposite of how S, the loner was.
As she’d taken away her daughter’s belongings, S’s mother nodded and acknowledged me, turned and left. I can’t figure out, what her nodding meant, was it, a sort of, understanding? Thanks? Or, was she, blaming me, for not paying enough attention to her daughter? Or maybe, she’d blamed herself, for being too busy, that she’d, ignored her daughter’s, cries for help? The silence that passed between S’s mother and I, it’d, made me, decipher a lot more than what, was exchanged between us.
As I saw S’s mother again, it was, on her funeral, the tears, the blood, they’d, filled up her eyes, dressed in complete black, which made her face looked, even paler. She’d, taken the paper crane that the whole class made, the paper stars, along with, accepted my unspoken apologies. The mixtures of emotions I’d felt, condensed, inside these folded paper stars, paper cranes. The chrysanthemums’ light sweet scent filled up the funeral place, with the Buddhist master chanting away………
After the funeral, I had a high fever, my tonsils were, inflamed, I’d started, becoming, hoarse, couldn’t speak, for days on end. As I returned back to work at school, it’s, as if, I saw S’s mother, sitting in the front of my class, bent down, to sort through her daughter’s, belongings.
My moods were, low, for the months that followed, I’d felt that chill, on the days when the sun came out, I’d, gone to work, eaten, shopped, but, my body, my mind, they seemed to have been, on different tracks, and, everything that I saw, was, unpredictable. During the time, my students were in reading class, and read the writer, Ming-Yi Wu’s “Journal of the Lost Butterflies”. In the preface, the writer stated, that every butterfly that appeared in the book had already, died for a long time, but the writer still hoped, that some things, can live on, forever. In the pages, there were, a few nameless, yellowed, petals, like the specimens of butterflies, without the scent of, death, just, staying at that certain point in the book, flapping their, wings.
And so, this, is how the teacher felt guilty, over not watching out for this student who’d, committed suicide, and, this sense of guilt will always stay, until the instructor finally accepts, that the student’s death wasn’t her fault, but, maybe, it’s, how this student had, died, that the instructor found it, hard to, let go.