giving directions

in preschool one day, they sat us all down in the room together to talk to us about strangers. this was a confusing day for me; it would be almost two decades later that i'd learn that all of my teachers seemed like strangers to me because i was faceblind, and never knew who i was talking to. suddenly, i was being taught that it was never okay to speak to someone i didn't recognize.

one of the teachers, a woman i thought i'd never seen before, called me to the front of the room. i shook my head in fear, and then the other teacher encouraged me to step up. i tiptoed my way out of the crowd of seated 4-year-olds, being careful to stay out of the first woman's reach. anyone can grab you if you get too close, they'd repeated.

'hey, kid, where's the library?' she asked. i didn't know what to say. i didn't know where the library was, and i didn't know why she was asking me. the other teacher, who might have been the regular adult for my class, stage-whispered me a cue.

'takearait,' she hissed. what? why would i ask her to take a ride? wasn't i supposed to avoid strangers?

'hello? the library? where's the library?'

i finally mumbled, 'take a ride,' still uncertain about this charade.

'what? speak up, i can't hear you!!' she yelled at me.

'take. a. ride.'

'come closer, i still can't hear you!'

i leaned forward. 'take a--'

'AND THAT'S WHEN THEY GRAB YOU, PULL YOU INTO THE CAR, AND DRIVE AWAY,' she shouted, wrapping an arm around my head and yanking me off my feet into her chest, pantomiming wildly steering a car around me. 'you never, never talk to a stranger!'

the other teacher, who'd fed me the offending line, shook her head at the class as i was released from the fake kidnapping. 'just point. if someone asks you for directions, just point.'

i walked back to my spot on the floor, not understanding what i'd done wrong. these days, though, it seems i can't go a week without someone pulling up a car next to me and asking for directions. i've lived in this city for twelve years; i can't resist helping someone find their way around.

29 May 2018 22:59

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