Blue Bandana

I’m holding something precious in my blue bandana. I’m holding two perfect sweet tears from a little boy’s face. I brought them home as treasures from work today.
I was all but done with work. I’d already clocked out and was walking, black motorcycle helmet in hand toward my bike to make my way home. Out front, among the sea of kids pouring out of Edison Elementary, I saw one of the students standing at the curb and crying. A little girl was trying to comfort him. I knelt down and gave him a hug, asked him what was the matter. Trying to catch his breath between sobs he said, “A boy hit me in the face with his backpack. He was mean to me.” “What boy?!” I said, maybe remembering the thousand times I’d been bullied in school. He pointed to the multitude and said, “He went over there.” I took out my blue bandana and handed it to the boy. Maybe he’d been warned against taking blue or red bandanas. This is the Westside after all. He was a little cautious when he asked, “Whassis for?” “ It’s for the tears, lil bro.” He reached out and took that hanky and put it to use for its intended purpose. It seemed to help. I noticed he had a little trickle of blood on his lower lip. I remember what that tastes like. I remember how that feels.
Just then we were both engulfed in a huge shadow. I turned to see his dad returning, I guess from having a word with the boy who’d hit his son. “I took care of him,” the dad said. (I didn’t want to ask what exactly that meant.) I wondered if he wondered who this man in a black leather jacket who was comforting his son was. I wondered if he’d seen me hug the boy. I wondered if hugging a crying child is allowed. It seemed like the right thing to do. I’ll have to ask another teacher tomorrow. It might be against the rules. That would make me sad if it was. I would also understand it. I was twelve years old when a teacher molested me, the age of some of the students at the school where I work. I would do anything to protect a child from having to go through what I went through. Anything.
“Thanks, Man,” the father said. And to the boy, “Give the man back his handkerchief.”
When I got to the parking lot I discovered I was parked by the man and his family. He drives a tricked-out low rider with massive chrome rims. “Nice rims,” I said, my voice muffled by the limousine-tint visor of my helmet. “Thanks, bro. Nice bike.”
On the ride home my mind was flooded with more memories of my days at school; all the backpacks to face, the name-calling- “sissy, faggot, nigger-lover,” and the inappropriate attention from that teacher… and the others. School was a battleground for me. Oddly, it’s actually part of what made me a good Marine, I think. It’s also part of why I want to do the best I can, as long as I’m blessed to be with these kids, to make their time at school better than mine was.
When I got home, I took out the blue bandana- with the two perfect tears. And added a few of my own.

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