Niecey was part of the new generation of gay girls that came out at 13. They don’t call themselves dykes, and truly, half of them didn’t even know what that word meant. They just called themselves bitches that like girls. Niecey came to the rubber room with a mouth full of cold sores and wrists full of Pride bracelets not having to defend shit but her transcript, and I thought it was dope that things were changing. She was a mid-year transfer, which usually has some crazy back-story with it. I think she was trying to earn credits to be a freshman, but had to bide her time in the middle school E.D. class and get her grades up so she could transfer yet again. Niecey was kind of a breath of fresh air.
No one fucked with her.
When the shit was flying—literally: tables, chairs, spit—she would just draw little hearts on her notebooks that read: Niecey loves her boo, Niecey and Tasha forever. She might fix her ponytail and say, “Y’all niggas is so fucking crazy in here,” but that was it. She vibed like a Juvie survivor, and that was straight Capital for the situation. She did her work, stared out the window and might even answer a few questions about eating pussy if Nathaniel and his crew didn’t get disrespectful. She had this glide and grit that comes with having lived through shittier times than the present, and because of her whole boss-lady affect, she could talk about sex without being called a nasty bitch. The boys would listen to her with rapt attention, ask questions and not holler obscene shit.
One day at lunch, I saw her at the store counting out quarters to buy some food.
-Oh, what’s up, Miss?
-I got your sandwich, Niecey.
I slid my money across the counter, and threw down a few extra bills for sunflower seeds and a coffee.
Niecey didn’t even look surprised that I paid for her stuff. I think she thought I was going to pay for her cigarettes too. We left the store not saying much.
There’s always this awkward silence with students you don’t know too well. Or students that you know would have intimidated the shit out of you if you were the same age. Or students who are intimidating, period. Niecey packed her Newports tighter, and let one dangle from her lip.
-It’s my birthday today. I’m so excited, my girlfriend is taking me bowling, and then she’s gonna give me a massage with hot oil. Then we getting tattoos.
I hadn’t had a romantic-equivalent on my birthday in years. I was hating.
-Happy birthday, honey.
Niecey finished her cigarette, carefully unwrapped the wax paper on her sandwich, inspected it quickly and put it away. I looked down the winding hill back to Teller, and tried to Jujitsu my mind, so I’d be ready to teach in twenty minutes.
-You teach Health next?
-I’m cutting. That’s when my reservation for the bowling alley is at.
-You really need to go to all your classes, even the bullshit ones.
-That’s why I like you. You’re honest. Most teachers yell, or act like they care when they really don’t.
She took out another stogue, bent down and re-laced her perfectly done kicks, cigarette wobbling as she tied, and talked.
-You’re a good teacher.
-Thank you, Niecey.
I didn’t tell her how badly I needed to hear it. Afraid to let my guard down, and all.
But I needed to hear from a student that I wasn’t a fraud in my bad H&M suits and my sophomoric lesson plans and interventions. I must have made a face, ‘cause then she said:
-I’m serious. You young, hip. You smart. And nice.
It’s good that you keep coming here, ‘cause a lot of people don’t give a fuck.
Shit don’t change out here. It’s depressing after a while.
-You think nothing changes?
-Nope. Definitely don’t.
-Then why should anyone keep coming?
-I need credits. Then, I’m out.
She waved goodbye and trooped across the street. I studied her knock-kneed walk and tagged bookbag. Tasha Loves Niecey, Niecey and Tasha 4 Life
I don’t know how I knew, but I was sure I’d never see her again. Maybe it’s something about what happens when you need their approval more than you teach them, that they disappear. Or maybe she lost motivation.
Or maybe that transfer really did go through.
Or something. Like that.