I've been at this school a long time now. Fourteen years this September. And I know it sounds corny, but all I've ever wanted to do is make a real difference. Since the day I arrived, nothing has motivated me more than the thought of helping—really helping—a troubled young person who might not know where else to turn. Sure, I know part of my job is getting people ready for the SAT or giving them advice on selecting a college, but there's so much more I can do. I can turn a student's life around, I know it, if one of them just gave me the chance.
I mean, for Christ's sake, there has to be one kid in this goddamn school who's been molested, right?
Do the math: Two thousand students at Martin Stanford High School multiplied by 14 years. That's tens of thousands of vulnerable teenagers over the course of my career who could have reached out to me, who could have unburdened themselves of the dark secret that has haunted them their whole lives, trusting that they were finally in a safe place. But no. Never happens. Not even close. I'm lucky if I get two kids in here each year crying about their parents' divorce, let alone a student who's been fondled by an uncle since she was a toddler. And don't even tell me that might be because the sexual abuse isn't happening because I know the statistics: one in four girls and one in six boys get inappropriately touched by a relative or authority figure each day. Well, where's my one, huh?
I would be shocked—absolutely shocked—if Erica Johnston hasn't been molested by that young history teacher at least four or five times by now. Erica, if you're reading this, my office door is always open.
Look, I know some deeply disturbed kid will eventually come into my office, desperately needing my help after years of sexual abuse. And I can't wait for that day to come. It's just that I'm getting mighty tired of waiting. Every single morning, I sit down in this stuffy office armed to the teeth with skills that a trauma victim can benefit from. I've got a bachelor's in psychology from Tufts and a master's in educational psychology from George Mason. Oh, did I also mention that I'm NCC certified and had to put in 3,000 hours of counseling to get that prestigious credential? And for what? So I can help some junior fill out the FAFSA? Whoop-dee-doo.
Just once I'd like to discreetly take out one of those tissue boxes I have in my drawer when a student can't hold in her pain anymore and begins to weep. Just once I'd like to look a frightened student in the eyes and say, "You listen to me. He can't hurt you here. No one can hurt you here," like I've heard in my head a thousand times. Just once, I want to be the friend these young victims didn't think they'd ever have.
And what the fuck is so wrong with that?
You know, I've had a four-step abuse protocol ready to roll since the moment I got here. It's called "LERN"—Listen to the student, Empathize with the student, Refer the student to appropriate outside resources, and Notify the appropriate authorities—and it's a magnificent goddamn protocol that's just wasting away while I explain the pros and cons of early admission or suggest that some dum-dum who's flunking algebra get a tutor.
That reminds me: The other day, Brittany Englebright came in here with her face welling up with tears and said she really needed to talk to me. Something about her, the way she was trembling, made me think, "This is it. It's happening. Jackpot." But, of course, she just whined about a D+ she got on a biology test. Another false alarm, just like Bryan Turner, Phong Nguyen, Jessica Mears, and all the other visitors to my office whose innocence had not been stolen by anyone. I mean, Jesus, with a faculty member as creepy as Coach Reilly, you'd think I'd have half the track team lined up outside my door.
I just have to be patient, that's all. I have to tell myself that there are students out there who were groped by their stepfathers or penetrated in some fashion by their babysitters, broken young people who will have no one they can talk to but me. And when they do, I'll be ready.
Oh man, you have no idea.