Pain

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2009

Daniel KulahliOglu

Pain can be felt in all kinds of ways. If you fall off a bike and scrape your knee you could feel pain, put on a bandage and, with time, forget about it. But there is another pain that can only be cured by accepting it because it never goes away. This is the pain I want to talk about.

One beautiful spring morning, the birds were chirping, and the cool morning breeze blew through the window that woke me up gently. I suddenly remembered that that day my whole grade was going to perform a play called Matilda. My part was the father, which had the most lines to remember. I practiced like crazy until I learned it by heart. I gulped my milk down in a flash and wolfed down my waffles in a second. I slipped into my jeans and black short-sleeved polo T-shirt, put on my shoes and bolted out the door. As I boarded the half-crowded train I started to review my flash cards. I felt that going to school that day in particular would be an extraordinary day. But I didn’t know what sort of surprise awaited me.

As I entered the school all smiling, a fifth-grader glared at me and said, “What are you smiling at? It isn’t a moment of happiness.” With that she spun around and charged up the stairs. I barely had a chance to reply to what she had said to me, when I passed by a group of kids sitting on the floor crying. I was confused as to why the whole school was so gloomy on what was supposed to be a fun morning. Near the main office, Ms. Rosenblum, a third-grade teacher, gestured me toward the cafeteria. I considered what I might have done for her to pull me aside. She wasn’t even my teacher. I sat down at a table, my hands all sweaty and cold, still wondering about why was I there.

Pain kids at school

“What are you smiling at? It isn’t a moment of happiness”

“I am sorry, Daniel, but I have some bad news for you,” she said with a soft voice.

“Mr. Dutt, our science teacher, died last night while he was driving his car,” she said.

Like a movie stuck in rewind, all the fun memories were going from the last to the first science class. The first image that came to my mind was the day we made the experiment of Coke and Mentos in after-school science. Mr. Dutt organized the whole “crew” into groups. My group was working with Diet Coke and blizzardblue Mentos candies. I loved seeing the Coke rattle after I inserted the wire full of Mentos into the bottle nozzle. The sound of exploding bits of hard candy and overflowing soda excited the whole class. We all ended up soaking wet, and brown and sticky. It was one of the funniest days of my life. Then, in a flash, I pictured the bearded dragons, the turtles and the snakes in the science room. I saw Mr. Dutt feeding and petting them. I heard his voice and his funny jokes. All of it will be gone forever. My head felt like a helium balloon and my body like a rock. Now I understood why the fifth-grader glared at me, the kids were crying in the hallway and even the red eyes of Ms. Rosenblum. As soon as all these images were out of my heart, I blew up in tears.

“I know how you feel, sweetheart, I miss him too,” she said as she gently stroked my hair.

When I arrived at my fourth-grade classroom, my teacher, Ms. Painter, who was sitting on a rocking chair and reading a book, glanced up at me and said, “Daniel, do you know what happened? Did anyone tell you that Mr. Dutt d- ”

“I know what happened,” I interrupted her, which she hates a lot but on this occasion she didn’t care. As I sat down at my table I saw the rest of the class drawing pictures quietly. Some were reading books and some were crying. When I saw the kids crying for a moment I felt that we were all sharing the same pain, that we were all friends. But that wasn’t so. Fourth grade was my worst year in elementary school. Kids always were making fun of me, calling me names and leaving me out. Nobody wanted me to play with them. Nobody wanted to sit and eat with me at lunchtime. Every day I dreaded to go to school. The whole school was my hostile enemy, except Mr. Dutt. He was my only true friend, or that’s how I felt. Now that he died I was completely alone. Then, I came across a doodle of a cartoon bearded dragon: it was my lizard, Carlo. I smiled and felt a bit better.

Pain brown lizard

I received Carlo for my birthday, inspired by Mr. Dutt’s bearded dragons, Angelo and Derek. I was amazed at how fun and enthusiastic creatures they were so I begged my parents for one. When I finally got one I learned a lot of facts on how to take care of them. I read about them on the Internet as well as in books and magazine articles, and then I went to Mr. Dutt and told him all that I had learned. Mr. Dutt was pretty amused at my interest, so he gave me more books about lizards and also let me help him take care of the bearded dragons at school. Science became my favorite class and Mr. Dutt, my best friend.

Suddenly I left my chair all dreamy and went to the principal’s office to ask her if I could feed the lizards one more time. It took a long time for her to finally say yes. Then and there I realized that would be the last time I ever saw them. The principal had decided to send the lizards to an animal shelter.

In the dark quiet science class I slowly walked over to the back of the room where Mr. Dutt kept the can of crickets. Then, I looked at Angelo. Just look at those innocent eyes, I thought, while I dumped the crickets and poured water in his water bowl, just as I saw him do before. I said softly to Angelo, “Goodbye, buddy, I will never see you ever again, but I will remember you forever. Will you remember me?”

Like magic he bowed his head and blinked his eyes slowly, or that is what I thought. After I fed Angelo I left the room. As I solemnly walked back to my classroom, I was thinking about how would I be without Mr. Dutt. I didn’t say goodbye to him, but as I entered the classroom I had a smile on my face. At least I said goodbye to the lizards, I thought.

After that day my heart grew stronger and stronger. I slowly started to accept that we lose the thing we care about the most. However, it is in our hearts to find ways to heal the pain. I found my way by caring about my bearded dragon. My life passed on, fourth grade to fifth, then to sixth. But whenever I stumble back into May 31, my heart would break open and fall into sadness. I will remember how I felt when Ms. Rosenblum told me that Mr. Dutt had died, and the small smile I had because at least I said goodbye to the lizards, which was a part of him that will live with me forever.

Pain Daniel KulahliOglu

Daniel KulahliOglu, 12
Rego Park, New York

Pain Tessa Palacios

Tessa Palacios, 13
Spring Hill, Tennessee

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