I could hear her steps struggling to keep up with mine. She had to choose between walking and speaking. Following me, frantically muttering breathless threats, but I could hear the fear in her voice. The acid fear that corrodes and distorts the voice was making her speak in a high-pitched tone.
“Stop it!” She kept saying, and the more I heard it, the faster I walked. I was almost running up the last flight of stairs that led to the head’s office.
I was furious. I had been insulted, mocked, accused of lying, ostracised, when all I had done was to pour my soul onto the paper and let the pen flow.
The assignment was to write an essay about Jacopone da Todi, a medieval Christian monk. A fervent, passionate man who put his love and faith for God in his words. I found them so vivid, I was immediately hooked. I got it. I understood his need to let the world know what was inside him. So sincere it was, that writing about him was a privilege and not homework.
SHE didn’t like it.
SHE was my literature teacher.
SHE had marked that first essay with “ungraded”.
“Why??” - I had asked in shock.
“Because it’s too good. It can’t be your work. You’re too young to write like that”.
“Did you see me copying?”
“Did you find what I wrote anywhere else?”
“No, but it’s ungraded anyway.”
SHE was one of those women with a thin, whining voice, with no undertones. One of those women that plays the part of the meek only to make you lower your guard and when you do, sinks her venomous teeth in your neck.
Two weeks after that first essay, another one. A week later the result: a big 'F' written in red across the upper right corner of the page.
“Because it’s not in the same style of the first one, and by the way” - sulphurous smile- “I gave you an 'F' on that one too”.
I stood there, feeling the pressure in my head, the fire of indignation, tears and pride rising in my veins, then something inside me took a decision: war.
“I am going to the head master. She is a literature teacher too, I will ask her to interrogate me and then we’ll see who is wrong here”
I grabbed the essay from her hands and stormed out of the classroom. The head’s office was at the other end of the school but in that moment not even a mountain could have stopped me.
After a second she followed.
The head master was having a peaceful cup of tea when suddenly all was noise. My shouting, my teacher’s shouting (not much of a thin voice now, have we...?), the head master was confused.
I explained, she tried to calm me down, looking at my teacher with a “you idiot” in her eyes, but didn’t say anything to her. She was much wiser.
I got my votes as they were supposed to be, an A and a A+ and I got much more. For once I had stood up for myself and my work.
I was 15. SHE hated me, I moved on.