About 20 years ago, I was teaching a third grade class at PS 30X in the Bronx. The school was located in a very poor neighborhood in the Bronx called Mott Haven. Among my students was a beautiful little girl named S. She had been in my friend Jennifer’s class in 2nd grade, and I would frequently confer with Jennifer to make sure I was being nice to her.
She was also a favorite of the Chapter One remedial reading teacher, Rita Zarenski. The three of us played a little game every day when Rita came to pick up S. I would tell Rita that S was too attached to me to run off with other teachers, whereby S would run to Rita and hug her with a big display of affection; or I’d hide S just before Rita was scheduled to pick her up, but S would run out of her hiding place when she heard me tell Rita she was absent.
Like many of the children at PS 30, Genesis often came to school hungry in the mornings. I would call the cafeteria and send S to get something to eat. There were indications of problems at home: S came to school without doing her homework and without an explanation of why she didn’t do it. She was smart and had always been a good student. Jennifer, Rita, and I talked to S about the problem, but she would not tell us anything.
One day S disappeared. She stopped coming to school and we were unable to make contact with her family. Until recently, none of us at PS 30 had ever heard from Genesis again.
The story "Cocoa" which I sent you a while ago was in part inspired by S’s disappearance.
Then, by chance, S saw one of my on-line articles and recently wrote: "Hello Mr. Bedrock it’s [S]. I hope you remember me! You were one of the people who in a way taught me to open my eyes to my own thoughts and beliefs even if others didn’t agree. I remember you always giving us the choice whether or not to stand and say the pledge regardless of how old or what grade we were in. I hope you see this and email me. I would love to know how you are!"
* * *
Are you the beautiful little girl from Tegucigalpa who broke her teachers’ hearts by disappearing without saying goodbye to us? Jennifer, Rita, Laurie, and I— and all the teachers that knew and loved you were very worried.
I guess you’re no longer a little girl, but rather a young woman. I’d love to know about you.
I’m retired. I still live in New Jersey with a cat named Calliope. I write, translate articles from Spanish to English, ride my bicycle, read a lot, and think about all the amazing people — like you — whom I met when I was teaching.
One of my stories, “Cocoa”, was about an older schoolgirl who disappears. It was in part inspired by you, in part by the Thandie Newton character in a movie called Flirting. If you wish, I’ll send it to you.
If you find the time, I’d love to know about what happened to you then and what’s happening to you now. I’m very glad you wrote.
Louis S. Bedrock
* * *
PS. S was not the only child who disappeared during my time at PS 30. It was a tough place to work. Kids we had known, taught, and grown to love, had babies when they were 13 or 14, became drug dealers, went to jail, or died. A few survived and even became successful. Most did not.