Danielle says that I live in a castle of lies and sit upon a throne of deception. She is joking, of course - it doesn't sting when the teacher says things like this because it's so obvious she
doesn't mean them. The only time Danielle doesn't mean what she says is when she is insulting something. That's maybe the most comforting thing about Danielle.
In some cases it's also the most hurtful.
Danielle says that I am invested in being miserable. Her voice is stern and strong and sure. She explains that being invested in being miserable means that I have been so full of despair for so long - I don't know any other way to be. She says I will even deny myself of happiness and opportunities to be happy. Because I am scared of being happy.
I reply to Danielle that she is full to bursting with a word that I'm not technically allowed to say at the time. Danielle just smiles. She knows that my anger means she's hit the nail on the head.
Danielle is Danielle and not "Miss Stuerman" because we do not attend a normal school. At a normal school, Danielle would not be allowed to say the things she does. She would not be allowed to push us the way she does - or bring up the things that make us cry. Our relationship with Danielle would be impersonal and cold, like most other teacher-student relationships in a normal school.
At a normal school, Danielle would not be able to help us the way that she does.
Danielle says that she used to have the worst case of insomnia the world had ever known. She says she would not sleep for days on end, and that she would cry each morning before she went to school because she was so tired. I jokingly ask Danielle what made her into the well-rested individual she is today.
"Hot yoga," she replies.
I ask Danielle if she is kidding. Danielle gives me a strange look. Then Danielle suggests that I do hot yoga, because she thinks I do not I sleep very well - and that I am not relaxed enough. I say that I sleep just fine - and joke that I do not think I could bend the way people who do yoga can.
I think about her words as I lie awake that night.
Danielle says to me on the last day I will ever see her that I deserve to be happy. She hugs me. She cries. I do not cry - but I do hug her back. Danielle tells me to say it. I ask her what she means by "it".
Danielle says to say "I deserve to be happy". Say it - she says. Say it or I will cry some more and wipe my nose on you.
I force the words out, and Danielle smiles even bigger than the biggest smile I have seen her wear. This is a considerable feat indeed.
As she leaves, I wipe my eyes and try to convince myself that I am allergic to something in the air.
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