I was always amused by the cast of quirky characters I encountered teaching. I must admit that in my two years since moving to teaching college, the characters are largely less colorful. So are the students. But that’s another post.
One particularly colorful character was the Spanish teacher, Ms. Martinez. Originally from Puerto Rico, she lived in Queens with her daughter and was an evangelical Christian in search of love. She was divorced and a single mom. You could often find her staring, transfixed, at many a forwarded email message about love, moaning loudly with her desire to love and be loved. One of my favorite memories of her was when I caught her hugging the computer screen while Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” played and a video of flowers and other clip arts images scrolled across the monitor. “Oh, how I wish someone would sing this song to me!” she cried out to whomever would listen in Room 212. That’s what we all want, right? It’s just that I think most of us are less openly vocal about it.
I literally have a dozen+ hysterical stories of Ms. Martinez, but one resurfaced in a text from my friend Deborah last week. The text reads:
In May, 2006, I had a miscarriage right after my first trimester. Read: I had a miscarriage after I had announced to the entire world (minus my students, thankfully) that I was pregnant. I missed a week of work, and upon returning to teach my senior remedial English class which contained FIVE very pregnant girls (I am not exaggerating), I was drained. As I left the teacher’s lounge mid-day, Ms. Martinez cornered me. Well, cornered isn’t the right word: She PINNED me to the wall and, with no words or prompting from me, laid her hands on my lower belly (not a place I like people to touch generally, but certainly not a place I wanted anyone to touch at that particular moment in my life) and began to pray.
Now, I was raised with a Catholic/Evangelical mother, so I was mighty familiar with the act of “laying hands” on someone in prayer. I didn’t like it back when I was a child and my mom would tote me around to Aglow prayer meetings where she would speak in tongues, shoot her hands in the air, and lay hands on her friends in prayer. I found it creepy back then, and it was definitely creepy when Ms. Martinez began this ritual it in the hallway outside of rooms 211 and 212.
But I was exhausted–emotionally and physically. I couldn’t fight her off, and, like my too-religious-for-my-tastes mother, I knew her prayer and unacceptable touching came from a place of love. She murmured to Jesus, asked my womb to open, and for me to be blessed with twins. I remember laughing awkwardly, saying something like, “Ms. Martinez, let’s not get too greedy!” Then she finished her prayer, her eyes moved from a concentrated squint to a wide open stare into my eyes, and she walked away, saying nothing.
It was truly one of my stranger moments in that school.
Four months later I got pregnant with my daughter. No, I don’t think Ms. Martinez “opened my womb” through prayer, but she thinks her prayer worked and obviously brags about it now!
I, of course, will never forget that time in my life. I was just surprised that Ms. Martinez remembered it, too.