She came to me through a throng of much younger children. Hers was a face that I recognized but had no name to give, having made room for all this year's kindergartners and that record had been deleted along with so many other things from the past four or five years. Did she have a sister or was she -
And then she was clinging to my arm. "I'm afraid," she said and looked it. Trailing just behind her was a young man who I suspected might be the source of that fear. He didn't appear angry or upset, just very nervous. Not afraid like the young lady who was creeping around, using me as a shield to diminish contact with the swirl of elementary humanity that flowed around us. It was just after dismissal and we were swimming in the sound and fury that is after school. I checked my surroundings and turned to face my cowering friend. I asked the dumbest question I could come up with: Are you okay?
"I took some drugs," she stammered, "and I don't like..."She was behind me again. Happily, the kids passing by on the left and right didn't seem to be taking in any of the minor spectacle taking place on the sidewalk in front of their school. I turned my attention to the now embarrassed boyfriend.
"What's going on here?" I tried to ask in as relaxed a way possible, but being somebody's dad and a teacher gave most of what I was going to say an edge I couldn't sand off.
The kid had the standard issue hipster seventeen year old facial hair and a manner that suggested that he knew he was in over his head. "She's just a little stoned."
"A little." I said this as his girlfriend continued to find solace in my shadow.
"It's her first time," he confided.
This is when we noticed that she had her cell phone out and was dialing 911. "Hello? Yes. This is an emergency. I've taken some drugs and," She was on the line with a trained expert, why not let her try this avenue? This was my reasoning as I attempted to maneuver the poor stoned girl to a sitting position. Her boyfriend wasn't so sure this was going to work out well. For him.
She continued to lean on me even as she continued to speak to the operator. She was able to give the address of the school, which told me that she must have spent some quality time in our hallways to be able to recall the address of her elementary school.
Meanwhile, the flow of our current students had slowed to a trickle, and at last there were just a few kids hanging on the stairway at the front of the school. That's when the ambulance showed up. Just a few yards in front of the fire truck. My wish for less of a scene was partially granted when the fire truck turned off its siren after assessing the situation as less than dire and moved on. This left just one large emergency vehicle with flashing lights to explain to the kiddies who looked on in wonder. "Who's hurt?" They all wanted to know.
There was a sudden rush of renewed paranoia from my little friend who did not want to get up off the wall on which we were sitting to go lay down in the back of the ambulance. I was extremely grateful for the relaxed manner that the paramedics used to coax her down the sidewalk and eventually up inside where the caregiving could commence.
While this was taking place, I took the boyfriend aside and said, "I don't suppose you need the elementary school lecture about making better choices next time, do you?"
He shook his head. After a few moments of quiet consultation with the driver, he finagled a ride up front to the hospital. His life had just taken a tough turn, but certainly not on a par with his paramour. As the ambulance pulled away I wondered what effect this event might have on their relationship. Was I watching their last ride together? Would they look back on this and laugh?
Maybe. If they were both stoned.