Mrs. Hart fell asleep


Back when I was in elementary school I had a teacher named Mrs. Hart. She was a mean old lady—probably 5-feet tall, with wrinkly skin and a hair bun as tight as a latex glove. She was one of those teachers you absolutely feared. Ask to use the bathroom and you were met with a stern look. Whisper to a neighboring classmate and it was off to the principal’s office. Mean, mean, mean.

Roughly six or seven years after I left her class, Mrs. Hart died. She fell asleep on her couch while smoking a cigarette. The material caught on fire, she didn’t wake up—over. Gone.

At the time, I wasn’t sad. I hated Mrs. Hart, and had no sympathy for her plight. Now, as an adult, I’m horrified by that. Maybe Mrs. Hart was lonely. Maybe she was in an abusive marriage. Maybe she had cancer. Who knows? But, generally speaking, when someone’s an ass, there’s a reason for his assitude. I often cite something my father once said. We were taking a family trip somewhere, and at the time Dad’s business was dissolving. A certain employee was rumored to have been talking much shit about my father (the most decent man I have ever met). My mom said, “It just makes me so mad that she’s saying this stuff, after all you’ve …”

Dad wouldn’t have any of it. “We don’t know what she’s saying,” he said, “so I’m going to assume she’s saying nothing at all.”

I guess it’s not the exact same thing, but in a sense it is. We never, ever, ever truly know what’s in another person’s mind; or how they’re thinking; or what they’re feeling.

So my dad always tried to imagine the best. I try (and often fail) to do that, too.