“I had only been four days in Iraq” Jamie began, “when I was walking back to my barracks one night and was suddenly surprised by a group of guys surrounding me saying things like, ‘I’m getting’ a piece of that…we’re ALL getting a piece of that, aren’t we?’ I wanted to laugh it off and just keep walking because they had to just be messing around, and I kept thinking that until I was pinned on the ground as each man took his ugly turn while the rest were holding me down and egging him on until I finally passed out. Broken, bruised, and barely able to function, I practically crawled to my supervisor’s place and explained the whole thing, but in a whirlwind, he had me ‘escorted’ to a storage facility and locked in there with armed guards carrying uzis. After about three days, one guard, Ali had a nice face, and seemed to feel for me, so when I begged him for the opportunity to at least call my father, he handed me his own cell phone. From the moment of my call to my father contacting our senator, to the senator gathering a rescue crew to save me took about five more days to the best of my estimation, but when I got back to the U.S. I couldn’t even bring them up on charges because there was some clause in the fine print of my contract.”
After hearing this, the Congress was asked to vote over not giving contracts to companies who have these clauses, THIRTY (Republican) Senators voted against it, because regulating business is such a ‘Liberal’ idea.
It’s little known on the outside that teachers don’t often call each other by their first names –even off hours, so every afternoon Mr. Casey and I would stay a while after the students left and share poetry that we had written, or bring in movies for each other to watch, but sometimes we would just talk and share stories.
Once he told me, “I thought white people invented boxes and they were so important to them that I called them ‘box people’ when I was younger. On the reservation, my brother and I would run around outdoors all day; often when we ate, we ate outdoors; and in warm enough weather, we slept outdoors. But the white people ate and slept in their box houses everyday, as if they liked them. I really understood one day when I went to the white post office off the reservation; our mail was handed to us, and their mail went into perfect little boxes.”
Mr. Casey got laid-off and I moved on to teach in a university, but I miss our communal exchange.
Teaching High School English provided a wealth of experiences for me, like when the principal tore down my display of my students’ poetry because it didn’t rhyme and heaven-forbid there was a profane word on one of them! I refrained from walking out of the school that day because I thought about the students, and the chances that it seemed only I gave them.
There was this Mexican boy, Danny, who signed up for my journalism class, my poetry class, even my Irish History class, and he excelled at all of them. He became my go-to reporter, my best photographer, a great poet, and he always brought me these jalapeño suckers that I just couldn’t bring myself to try.
One day, Danny wasn’t there, and one of our police officers told me they found him that morning in the middle of the street, in a pool of his own blood with his head completely smashed but they assured me no drugs or theft was involved. The local news came to me and I told him about what an amazing talent he was (–the word was hurt) and I went to visit him a few times with hundreds of cards from his friends, but he was in a coma for 39 days, and they wouldn’t let me in.
Danny can’t function on his own, he can’t write anymore, he can’t hold a camera, he can’t feed himself, but the guy they caught running from the scene got 18 months in a minimum security facility with time off for good behavior.