Sometimes, the smallest voices ring the loudest truths.
She sits with her head tucked down, an effort to veil the intelligence in her eyes. She slumps in her chair and crosses her arms, folding herself into the shape of the little girl she is out-growing. Braces line her teeth, a metal gate that traps her inside herself. She only smiles behind the curtain of her hands and never laughs out loud, except in text messages.
A dozen plastic bands line her wrists. She is her own billboard advertising her opinions. Her backpack is a purple armadillo, shielded by pins and buttons. You might laugh, feel guilty, or learn something if you stop and read them. So, most people don’t. After all, someone who wears so much eyeliner has to be two-dimensional.
She isn’t a beauty queen, but that’s society’s fault, not hers. See, if society judged souls and character instead of hair and noses and curves, you’d know her. She would be lining the billboards from here to Las Vegas, and the smile on her larger-than-life face would be authentic.
She has layers. She uses a pink gel pen when she writes, and she is one of a select few who actually uses cursive. There is always a good book peeking out from beneath her papers, and her drowsy eyes betray long nights spent living in another world instead of sleeping in this one. She only has one friend in class, but if I were a student instead of her teacher, I’d want to sit at her table. She hesitates even when she knows the answer, but it’s not the Spanish that confuses her. It’s herself.
Although she plays the violin, she listens to heavy metal. An aqua-blue case covers her iPod, and only her earbuds can get close enough to read her thoughts. But sometimes, when I grade her work, I see a few of her ideas between the lines. The ghost of her inspiration is powerful. I want to help it find a medium.
She didn’t win a trophy for the debate team last year. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even try to join. But her notebook is a loaded weapon; she could shoot a hole in anyone’s logic from the other side of the cafeteria with less than an ounce of ink. Oh, and by the way, her answers are her own.
I barely hear her voice and I’m standing right next to her. “Yo creo que…” she whispers. She is learning to tell her opinion in a second language. I’m dying to hear the rest of the sentence, because what she believes and thinks matters.
Trust me, if nuclear warfare happens, you’ll want her to have a voice. When you need a brain surgeon, you won’t care how many piercings she has. Her tattoos won’t matter when she lifts your child into the ambulance or when she talks your sister out of committing suicide.
Sometimes, the smallest voices ring the loudest truths. I say we give the girl a microphone.