The Room With No Windows by Elaina Portugal 9/02/2020

The Room With No Windows

By: Elaina Portugal

September 02, 2020

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe there’s a reason or message in every “chance” meeting or split-second change in decision or action. Sometimes the message might be for me, and other times I’m the unwitting messenger.  The Sunday before school started, I went to my new school to make sure my classroom was ready for Monday’s remote instruction. While I really like the school, I loathed my new classroom. It’s an inside room without windows. I feel cut off from the world and it brings back the past. I used to have a doctor’s note prohibiting my employer from assigning me a room without windows, but it’s been so long; the idea of an inside room didn’t even cross my mind when I accepted the job. I wasn’t expecting a room with no windows, and I definitely wasn’t expecting the past to boomerang the back of my head when I walked in that first time.

On Sunday, determined to accomplish the items on my list and make it a room I could be in, I went to school to finish emptying boxes, hanging colorful paintings and posters, and wrote my lesson plans into my paper and pencil planner. I looked at my “to do” list and realized I hadn’t finished all of the district’s mandated training videos. I logged on and the first video to pop up was “CSA: Child Sexual Abuse and Trafficking.” This was not the way I wanted to spend my Sunday, but I knew if I didn’t get it done, I would put it off until it became a source of anxiety and stress. Gritting my teeth, I clicked on the training video and prepared to watch a rerun of my childhood. 

I sat watching the video in my room with no windows, preparing to get upset and fall into the rabbit hole of memories, but it didn’t happen, at least not the way I expected. While the spokespeople tried to infuse their voices with empathy, they presented the information objectively.  Imaginary tick marks delineated their impersonal documentation of my childhood. I watched, anticipating an upheaval that never came. 

This was a national training video. What I experienced as a child was so predictable that videos could be made describing the patterns of perpetrators and the impact on victims. It was impartial, allowing me to take myself out of the equation, or more accurately, I could add millions of others to it.  I realized that what had been so personal and had such a profound impact on my life, could be described without emotion.

I don’t know why, but that video loosened the hold my windowless room had on me. Maybe it lessened the guilt I had carried for so much of my life. Their candid way of presenting the facts meant that I hadn’t been stupid, weak, or promiscuous. 

I had been groomed. It was systematic. It was them, not me. This wasn’t something I had to own or take any responsibility for. 

Sometimes the universe opens a door when there are no windows. 

No Windows

They put me in a room with no windows.
I won’t say anything because I’m new to the place,
And they would look at me funny,
Then I would have to explain.
They would try to fix it,
And pity me
Or worse,
Not believe me.

They put me in a room with no windows
And I take my shoes off to feel the cold floor
To keep me in the moment
and breathe.
The air swirls in my lungs,  assuring me
There is no pillow over my face
to muffle
My screams.

They put me in a room with no windows
And the students will return
Laughing and chasing each other,
Just like the campers outside that door.
My breath will catch knowing the pain follows.
The weight of him crushes me.
He hisses
“Only bad girls like it”
And I’ll take comfort knowing I must be good.

They put me in a room with no windows
And I’ll fight the darkness
and bring my own light.
I will revel in my students’ laughter,
feel the cold floor on my bare feet
And learn to thrive
In a room with no windows.
There are no coincidences. I was supposed to watch that video.

To read more of Elaina’s Letters, click here.
To read our other authors’s work, click here.

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