Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The secret dangerous life of travel pants girls

Our class currently has fourteen girls between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five.

Since very few of them seem to like each other, there is a lot of daily drama.

Sometimes the issues are pretty mundane, like so-and-so has dandruff, or she said I like chicken and that is a lie.








But sometimes, the issues involve boys and going steady with them.

Which brings me to this little firecracker:


Her name is Tiffany.

She didn't want me to draw her at first, but when she saw the finished picture, she just laughed and said I was really bad at drawing. 


She proceeded to draw something that looked like a lollipop sitting on a bagel and claimed it was me. It was startling in its accuracy.

Tiffany is twenty years old, and has Down Syndrome. 


Her hobbies include telling everyone she has Down Syndrome, and pointing out anyone in the community who may or may not have Down Syndrome as well.

"Did you see that lady at the counter? She's like me. She has Down Syndrome."

"I think that bus driver has Down Syndrome."

"That guy right there has Down Syndrome," Tiffany says, pointing to a man standing only three feet from us. I'm no expert, but I am pretty certain he does not have it. Thankfully, the stranger is oblivious to her on-the-spot diagnosis.

One of the things I really enjoy about Tiffany is that she is only a little over four feet tall. This puts the top of her head at an ideal height for me to drum my fingers upon it in concentration.

"Stop it. That's annoying." She swats my hand away and reminds me that we need to be serious.

Tiffany has diabetes, and twice a day, we have to go through the procedures of testing her sugar levels and giving her insulin. She does not suffer fools gladly during these times.

Being with her has brought me in to the secret fraternity of diabetic people.

Everywhere we go, she knows a fellow diabetic and greets them with the question:

"What was your sugar this morning?"

They swap numbers like fish stories, as if they are trying to outdo each other.

"I was 91," Tiffany says proudly.

"91? That's good. Right where you want to be. Myself, I was 383."

"Uh-oh."

"Yep, I had cheese pizza last night," the diabetic confesses, hanging his head remorsefully. Tiffany  shakes her finger at him, her other hand curled into a fist and planted authoritatively on her hip.

"You shouldn't be doing that. You know better." Invariably, she invokes the diabetic Bogey Man."You gonna lose a toe, eating like that."

Tiffany never hesitates to scold anyone about anything, ever.

The other day, she spied me eating a piece of candy. She marched over and began jabbing me in the stomach. I reflexively placed my hands over my belly, bent forward, and let loose with a high pitched giggle.

"This thing," she said with disgust,"does not need any more sugar." 


I felt the most unattractive I have ever felt in my life right then, like a middle-aged Augustus Gloop skinnydipping in a chocolate river, desperate to be young again.

"You wanna lose a foot? Is that what you want? Huh?"

"No, ma'am." Tiffany snatched the candy and threw it away.

If Tiffany has an Achilles Heel, it would be her cellphone. That little glowing rectangle calls to her constantly.

We allow the students to carry their phones with them throughout the day, but we do not let them get sucked into the vapid abyss of constant texting. The penalty for an act of text is the loss of your phone.

This threat has not worked as a deterrent; it's only made everybody sneakier.

I came upon Tiffany and another girl, Latoya, bent over Tiffany's cellphone and trying to muffle their shrieks.

"What are you guys doing?"

Tiffany stood suddenly and held her phone behind her back. The other girl took a long sidestep away from her friend.

"Nothing," said Tiffany. She glanced at Latoya, hoping for a little solidarity.

Latoya is a young African-American woman with no real discernible impairment. She's one of those kids who fall through the levels of the system until they land in special education; not because they belong there, necessarily, but because the school has nowhere else to put them.

She's a sweetheart when she wants to be, but her street savvy can sometimes lead the others astray.

For instance, when we do our weekly aerobic dancing, Latoya is always the first one to break out the sexy moves.

Before I know it, people are grinding on the walls or falling over from trying to get too low.

I have to shut the music off and threaten them all with our old videotape of Sweatin' to the Oldies.

The spectre of Richard Simmons in his skort is enough to put the class back on the straight and narrow.

"She texting Nathan again," Latoya said, pointing at Tiffany.

"Who's Nathan?" I asked.

"My boyfriend," Tiffany blurted out. Latoya rolled her eyes.

"No he ain't, he don't want you."

They began to argue as if I wasn't even there. It seemed that this "Nathan" was some guy living in Detroit who first decided to date Tiffany, but then decided to cheat on her with Latoya, using Tiffany's cellphone as the medium of his infidelity. 


"It's all in the phone," Latoya told me.

The light blue bubbles are Tiffany's. She just kept stating her love over and over again, and Nathan kept writing back 'no'. Why did he keep responding at all?
 
After pages and pages of this relentless rejection, Nathan must have had a change of heart, because he suddenly started asking Tiffany for pictures.


"Where did you get that picture, anyways?" I asked her.

"I took a picture of the Twilight movie on my T.V."
 
At this point, Latoya got involved in the conversation.

I am not sure how they were doing three way texting, but Latoya's messages were in a darker blue, which I failed to draw accurately, so the following pictures are probably confusing and only funny to me. 




 

They took turns telling him they loved him, and he alternated accepting the affections of one and shutting down the other.

After awhile, Nathan starting asking for pictures again.

Latoya sent him one of her hiding under a chair or something, it was hard to make out.

But Tiffany's response made me sad.

Instead of a still image, she went with a five minute video of herself, poorly lit, barely audible, like a found footage horror film.

I only made it through about half of it. She just kept telling Nathan how much she wanted to have a family with him, how much she wanted to settle down. You could tell some of it was cobbled together from a selection of her favorite romance movies.

At one point, she kept saying "We could have sex" and choking up.
 
"Why do you even like this guy? He seems like a loser."

They both scoffed at me like I did not have a clue about men.

I confiscated the phone, and the girls were so angry with me that their rage shoved them back together in friendship.

When no one was around, I sent Nathan a text.


I didn't really. I'm kind of a coward.