When Miss Alina asked the students to go up on the platform, the stairs seemed endless to me. We had copy the Geography assignment from Angela’s workbook. Shame was suffocating me.

Five or six shrunk boys were standing before the crowd. The mountain in the distance seemed to have fallen over me.

When shame became even more suffocating than the heat, Miss Alina said:

– I’m proud of you. Though truth may be harsh it is a true friend.

I listened carefully to her, but it took me a few years to get to understand her words.

I could draw her right now in front of the blackboard; I could describe the way she used to hold chalk. I could cut her out from the school terrace roof –where I used to escape by the spiral stair–, and I used to look at her walk in the midst of the dust of the road. She would arrive with her notes and her humble clothes. And the school would remain in silence.

Miss Alina could change the universe with the tip of her pointer, from Tasmania to Greenland, from the Urals to the Atacama Desert. Thanks to her I learned the names of the capital cities in the world by heart. Sometime after I read a note she had made with her indelible handwriting in my school profile: “this boy will become a cartographer”.

However, the “cartographer” forgot about his homework and Miss Alina stamped a terrible note in the corner: “He didn’t do his homework”. I smudged my workbook; I threw away the notebook my mother had covered and assured myself a punishment. The next day the teacher gave me a new workbook and a book of fables.

Time looks like the school yard, it is always ready to receive new ones and wave goodbye others, but some of them are indispensable, as the earth.

When life makes me choose between remaining in silence or breaking silence, I know Miss Alina is looking at me.




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