My teacher at the 1st-grade was Miss Kawano. She was about a few years to her retirement, had no family, and lived alone. She was short with a round face and round, large rear. Her short permed hair looked like they coiled with heat from her temper.
It only took a week or so for her patience with us to wear off, and we realized she was quick with her fist. When it was swung down on our head as a punishment, we felt the veil of dark energy around her fist.
We all knew how much she resented us, as she said so herself. At the school before ours, she had wonderful kids who were creative, smart, and well-behaved. Compared to them, we were delinquent and moronic hilly-billy imps.
In the morning, after an attendance call, she’d make a speech to us. Mostly she’d criticize us and tell us stories on how good her former students were. Sometimes, she told us stories about herself.
She said she was from a well-to-do family, but after her father passed, the house finance declined. She seemed the happiest when she talked about her childhood, with her small eyes narrowed and her rouged thin lips extended in a smile. We didn’t respond or even react, but she kept enacting the scenes from childhood, pretending to hold the edge of an invisible dress in a curtsy.
She was relentless in emotional abuse. A girl once slipped her tongue and said Miss Kawano was a “kusobaba,” a shit hag. A cruel boy took the opportunity to torment the girl and reported it to Miss Kawano. She called the girl and made her stand in front of the whole class. “What did you call me?” she asked the girl. The girl sobbed and apologized to Miss Kawano, to which she smiled her non-smile and said, “why apologies? I don’t care what you call me.” The girl stood there helplessly crying while we sat and waited for the verdict. After several minutes of silence, the girl was freed without further punishment but scarred with terror.
I received a few blows myself, not remembering what for, but I remember the shock and shame. No one at home physically punished me. I was a well-behaved child and did well at school. Receiving a physical pain from the person with power over me shrank the inner-self. I prayed the year would be over soon, so Miss Kawano would retire or go back to her favorite school.