PORTRAITS OF HALL MONITORS
Mrs. Maryland is posted at door four every day.
I like her. We know each other’s names. She has
stubborn sprayed hair. Her head moves but her hair
stays put. She smiles in intervals. Depression comes
and goes for her. Her eyes sink into their sockets,
tiny gemstones coaxed by quicksand. Sometimes,
when nobody is looking, she lets me in without
my ID. She tells me, Honey, I get it. It conflicts
with the fashion. Green and gold don’t go with
nothin’. I been there.
She just became a grandma. Her daughter let
her pick the baby’s middle name. She told me
three times. Trenton, because New Jersey was
home, home, home before this. Believe it or
not, when she was a little girl, she didn’t think
she was going to grow up to be a hall monitor.
The way she says this sounds like an apology
to her younger self. I wanted to be a pilot, but
here I am. Sometimes, ya know, things just
never work out, even if ya did good in class.
Janet wears a peace sign necklace and lets us
call her by her first name. Once, she caught my
best friends older sister (a wild goose chase
of a teenager) smoking a joint in the parking lot.
She could have screwed her over, but she didn’t.
Instead, she flashed a peace sign of her own,
went on her merry little Janet way, humming
Baby Love by The Supremes. Ooh, baby love.
She says she’s been here since the dinosaurs.
I could never have babies, so you kids are
my moons, my beautiful flower children.
Her name is Nancy, but everyone at this school,
including most of the teachers, call her The Tank,
even to her face. Last year, she told me she was
leaving soon. I want to believe it was because
she was older, because retirement was waiting.
We all know that is not true. She left because
we were too mean. We spat at her when she
asked us to put on our ID’s. We pretended that
we didn’t hear her. We ran away from her in the
lunchroom. I thought they called her The Tank
because she blocked troublemakers like us in
the hallway, but yesterday, I discovered it was
because of her size.
When she got real thin, everybody joked
she was finally taking our advice. When most of her
hair fell out, lingering in wisps around her head like
cirrus clouds, when suddenly she wasn’t in her usual
chair outside the main entrance anymore,
we had nothing to say.
— PORTRAITS OF HALL MONITORS by Blythe Baird