This isn't a Story About Love


People tend to do nice things for the people they care about. Sometimes it's little things. Sometimes it's bigger things. Maybe it's constant or maybe it comes in spurts, but, usually, nice things happen.

Before my wife and I started dating, she'd always had short, curly hair. I liked it, but I wondered about whether it'd look better long (and I've always liked the way longer hair looks). After we'd been dating awhile, I'd asked about whether she'd consider growing it out and she agreed. She's kept her curly hair long throughout the majority of our marriage -- though I think now it's because she prefers it long.

Around the time we got married, she was teaching at what amounted to a boarding school for troubled kids (basically, a rehab). Most of the kids there were recovering drug addicts or had serious behavioral problems. Most of the kids were there because they were court-ordered to participate in a program similar to one like this or to go to juvy/jail. This particular school had a pretty good turn-around/graduation rate -- decently above an abysmal nation-wide average.

Part of their success had to do with how hard they pushed the kids, academically and otherwise. Anyone who's spent any time in a small town knows that boredom begets drug users. A few of the teachers decided that they wanted to start a speech and debate team. A travelling speech and debate team. Only the best performing kids would be allowed to participate. Since I used to do speech and debate in high school, my wife, of course, enlisted me as a coach. And I did it for free, in part, because I cared about her and the things that she cared about as well -- those kids.

By and large, these kids were naturals. Looking back, it makes a certain kind of sense. Much of their adolescence had been spent acting, manipulating, and persuading people around whatever it was that landed them at this school in the first place. But, beyond that, I really enjoyed working with them. They wanted to participate, compete, and do well.

Their first tournament rolls around and I head to the public school hosting it. Brook tells me she's not sure if she can make it. The entire drive over, I'm running horror scenarios in my mind. This is probably the first time these kids have left their school in years. What if one of them runs? What if they all run in different directions? What if one of the kids I probably can't beat in a fight decides to try and knock me out to escape? What if they run into regular speech and debate kids and do the things that regular speech and debate kids do at tournaments? How do I manage these kids if they get out of line? What even is out of line -- they have strict rules?

I get to the school and head to the cafeteria where everyone will be set up. There's basically an adult per child. So far so good. We talk about the rules and how this priviledge can be lost for everyone forever if things don't go well. We sit and wait for the events to be posted and to start.

As we're waiting, I notice a person walking towards our table. As she approaches, one of the kids, the one I'm worried about not being able to take in a fight, starts to smile. "Oh shit," I think. "He recognizes this person! She's probably a dealer or an addict he used to know!" The other kids notice her coming as well and start to smile. At this point, I'm internally freaking out. Mentally, I've moved from reasonable scenarios to overly complicated heist-like scenarios from movies. "They've coordinated something!" The kids are starting to greet her.

She walks up to me and says, "You don't recognize me, do you?" It was my wife. She had straightened her hair.