Written By Mavisel Yener
Translated By Yasemin Yener
The same thing happened again. Although I had done my homework, that cold, cruel ruler was about to be smacked in my palm. While I was reluctantly playing with my pencil, I was thinking: “Why others are punished for someone else’s mistake?’’
I cast a sidelong glance at our teacher who is a round-faced, middle-aged woman; I do not want to be hit with that thirty centimeters long, flat ruler in my palm. Moreover, I do not deserve such an unfair treatment. What a terrible, tremendous, unbearable sadness this is! I tilt my head like a flower in a leaky vase. This melancholy does not fit into my childish world. Every day I come to school wearing my clean uniform, carrying my tiny schoolbag and my heart full of joy; but on my way back home I also drag along my pains. When the ruler leaves a burning pain in my palms, I feel left alone, desperate, forgotten, overwhelmed, shoved around. I cannot understand why even though I have done my homework, I have to be smacked with the ruler too. Why would a person be punished unjustly?
Would I be able to escape if the bell rings? If the ruler were to break into pieces, if the teacher could not find a new one… If I hid my hands under the desk… Or if the teacher were to forget me for instanced and passed me unnoticing… Maybe she gets tired and gives up… Now, it cannot be easy to smack forty-two students’ palms with a ruler, can it? Or if I could summon up my courage and say “This is unfair”? I am about to cry. I barely refrain myself. There has to be a way to avoid the ruler. Now, I cannot go to the houses of those who don’t do their homework and make them to do it, can I?
The teacher started her round from the back row. It seems as if those who did their homework and those who didn’t sound a little different. It is as if the teacher smacks some of the palms harder or maybe I’m just imagining it.
“It didn’t hurt at all!”
Naughty Hasan is a year older than us; he is nine. He asks “It is better to be smacked all together rather than smacked alone, isn’t it teacher?” This is all his fault and as if it is not enough he is still talking! No two students are alike. Everyone’s reaction is different.
Just as the teacher is about to smack his palm, Osman pulls his hand away. Certainly he is very scared. So, the teacher smacks him on the head. Then she roars: “There is no way out Osman! Hold out your hands!”
Blaamm… And then an extra Blamm!
Osman shrinks and shrinks almost to the point of disappearing. The ruler expands, and fills the entire class. These rulers must be specifically designed for this purpose and distributed to schools.
Nurcan’s palm is next in line. She is blind. My mother often asks me why they aren’t sending her to a school where blind children go. How would I know that? Is it because her face resembles old people’s faces that no one wants to be friends with her? Every morning her mother drops her off to school and every evening she picks her up.
Everyone is watching intently. The teacher says “Open your palm!” She proceeds. “Blamm!” For a second I wonder if blind people have tears.
I’m sitting right behind her. It’s my turn to face the red hot ruler. For a second I lock eyes with the teacher. I look at her timidly. I realized that there is no way out now.
It is as if I can’t hear anymore. You see, having done my homework didn’t mean anything. I fall flat on my desk and start crying loudly. The white ribbons tied around my two braids soaked.
Teacher says “Damp wood burns together with dry!” I don’t understand what that means. Does she mean those who cry-damp- and those who don’t –dry-? Or those she mean that the wooden ruler will leave a burning pain in our palms?
Those who have been smacked with a ruler are rubbing their palms on their knees to relieve of the pain. Some of them are holding the iron bars of the desk to cool down their burning palms. I’m not doing any of these. In fact I want to exclaim “It didn’t hurt!” I’m getting angry with myself for not objecting, for silently accepting it as it is. Why am I being smacked with a ruler? Why? Why? The walls, the blackboard, the stand and the desks close in on and drown me. My palms will never forget this, I know.
The bell rings. First the ruler then the teacher leaves. The class empties within two minutes. Nurcan and I are alone in the class. It is as if we are glued to our seats.
Nurcan’s eyes, unblind only in the inside, are turned towards the ceiling. She says, “You know what, I’m very happy. The teacher hit me, too’’ I can’t understand what she means by that. I ask with a sore, resentful voice:
“Why are you happy? I couldn’t understand.”
“Because, the teacher didn’t spare me because I’m different! She treated me the same as she treated the rest of the class!”