One of my students, Jonathan, didn’t come to school yesterday because he left in search of his girlfriend who moved to Tijuana overnight without a call or a note or goodbye. He has not heard from her in weeks and in desperation fled to roam the streets of a city as large as Los Angelas to find a 17-year-old girl with whom he madly loves. When it was his turn today to practice his English by sharing a story with the class, he said he wasn’t prepared. I told him to tell us the story of what happend yesterday. In my ignorance I assumed he could share without it hurting—who knows maybe he even found her. But when he lifted up his head and his brown eyes sagged and brimmed with tears, I knew I was a rotten, careless woman. He said he couldn’t find her and asked if I could let him pass. I felt so terrible for him. So sad for his loss. I know that despite his young age–he loved this girl more than anything. She was his love of his life. And she was gone. And he may never see or talk to her again. And I just cheapened it by asking so carelessly for him to share—as if it were just a story and not his life, bleeding from his veins. In my regret, I apologized to him in front of the class. And I told him that because I believed in love, I would not only let him pass, but excused him from the assignment altogether without a negative effect to his grade.
To see a shy, 17-year-old boy flee the country in search of his love. To see him come back defeated and hopeless. To see a 17-year-old boy cry in front of an entire class of peers. It breaks my heart. I do not know what to tell him. Did she not tell him because she didn’t love him anymore either? Or did she not tell him because her parents moved her to get away from him? Regardless, I know he hurts. And our whole class hurts for him. She was not only his girlfriend, but my student, and their classmate. A girl we had all grown to love over the last year and half as this group of teenagers started in ELD 1 last year fresh out of their countries and now in their second year of English language development. Jonathan had been with her for almost that entire time. I remember when he came into my classroom the beginning of last year, asking if he could use my computer to type up a love note to Pricilla asking her to be his girlfriend. The next day I caught them whispering and laughing and holding eachother in the hallway. Apparently, his note worked. They had been together ever since.
Somehow, the young romantic in me hopes he finds her and they run away together and get married and live happily ever after. But if not, I hope he heals. That he lets his heart love again. He is a sweet and attractive young man. He will not have a problem with moving on if he lets himself do so. But between now and then, I feel for him. We all do.
I’ll be 29 years old in about a week. And apparently, my scarred heart has not given up hope on love either. Sometimes I think I have become jaded, but it is stories like this that make me know, we do heal. We heal and we move on, and life continues to surprise us. So many times in my life, my heart has shattered to the point I never thought I could put back the pieces. But with time, it has. Sure my heart is not the heart of a 17-year-old anymore, but it hasn’t lost its ability to love. We need love to live. Similarly—the heart is a strong muscle—and its very instinct and purpose is to keep us alive.