The moment the bell sounds the end of class, twenty little girls leap from their seats clutching Jewel Pet note books and bubble-gum scented markers and race to be the first in line for my “sign” (autograph). I do it with swirling flourishes, hearts and smiley faces. Some of my students have more than ten signs, but they always want another. A little boy presses against me from the other side and watches as I write.
“I don’t want a sign” he asserts, fiddling with my sleeve or pocket or hair. “Signs are stupid.”
As two girls compare their signs ~ one has a heart dotting her “i" and the other has a flower ~ they squeal in unison “Cuuuuuute!”
“I don’t even like you” the boy says, one foot standing on mine, grubby fingers tracing the letters I write. “Shall I give you a sign?” I ask. “I hate you” he yells and runs away. When I leave to go back to the staff room he is hiding at the bottom of the stairs, where no one can see. Wordlessly, looking at the floor, he hands me a Pokemon notebook full of sketches of Kirby and Spiro.
“You’re really good at drawing!” I say, and he smiles shyly. I autograph his notebook on a back page, where it will stay a secret.
“You smell nice” he whispers, and runs back to class as the bell chimes again.
At the end of the day I find a present on my desk: