The day was indistinguishable, no better or worse than any other. I got off the school bus, walked down Ian's street with him until we got to the back of the apartment complex, then broke away to go home. My mom was sitting on the the Lay-Z-Boy recliner in the corner of our living room. A newspaper lay across her lap.
"Michael," she said. "Something happened."
On April 8, 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Goldshep were in their car when it had a collision with a semi-truck. Both died.
I cried for a long time. My mom thought that I was grieving her death. The real reason was that I knew I had done it. That day in class, when she made fun of me in front of everyone. "I hope you get hit by a truck." I had thought it, hoped for it. Since then, I imagined her ripped apart by zombies, gunfire and countless other hazards. Rationally, I knew that my wishing her death hadn't made it so. At the same time, I knew good and well what the Bible had to say about it.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
No jury would convict me, but God certainly would.
My mom and I went back to Titusville for Mrs. Goldshep's memorial service at the school. My guilt only grew the more I heard others talk about her and how great of a teacher she was. My own former classmates shared stories about our fourth grade year in her class. They were all stories that I remembered when I heard, but I couldn't have recalled any of them on my own.
I felt so different from the person I had been just a year earlier and cursed Ian for the person he had made me become. Mrs. Goldshep wasn't a perfect person or teacher, but everyone else was able to focus on the things that made her great. Less than a year with Ian and I was unable to focus on anything but her calling me stupid in front of the class. I wished death on her because of him. I fantasized about her death because of him. It was all because of him.
Except I knew that wasn't the truth. I hadn't yet met Ian when I was taking the test, when she called me stupid, when I wished for a truck to hit her. That anger and vindictiveness and hatred was in me from the beginning. Ian had just given me a way to express it. He had also given me someone other than myself to blame.
I started to think that maybe everyone is more than any one person can see. Those mourners would have been disgusted with me for voicing my hatred of her, shocked if I could somehow prove what she had done. In the same way, I was shocked to discover that she meant something positive to so many people. Maybe she was having a bad day with me. I knew I was difficult, annoying, stupid. Had something else happened in her life that day or week? Had I simply sent her over the edge?
Crying Spice wore her WWJD bracelet while acting unlike Jesus. She also went through hell at both of her homes. Was she a hypocrite? Yes. Was she mean and backstabbing? Yes. Was she a hurt and confused kid like me? Yes. Was it possible that she was just trying to belong but belonging meant doing and saying things she wished she could take back? Yes.
I kept my mouth shut about Mrs. Goldshep. At the very least, I didn't want to cause anyone else extra pain.