A Letter to My High School English Teacher
Dear Mr. Costanzo:
It’s been three decades since that fateful day in class when you had me read my short story out loud.
Didn’t you know how scared I was? How shy I was? Did you see my trembling hands as I held the loose leaf paper before me, straining to keep my voice calm?
My high school crush – Jesse, was his name – he was sitting two rows across from me, giggling quietly, looking impossibly handsome. I could feel him staring at my untamed hair and pudgy body, not yet matured into what I wanted it to be.
Tears stung my eyes as you told the class to be quiet.
It took every ounce of courage within me to begin reading the story. I remember only parts of it. It was about an old woman, dying, at home in her bed. It was New Year’s Eve and as the revelers were partying downstairs, she lied there, alone, having flashbacks from her youth. She remembered him. She remembered her beau and their engagement. She remembered Sinatra playing on the radio as she told her parents that she would soon be a wife. I remember his name. it was a strong, fine, name: Michael Anthony Leach. The party continued as she recalled that devastating day that her new husband was called to war. The newlyweds clung to each other, resisting the idea that they might soon be separated forever. The house was filled with modern music and boisterous drunkards as she remembered receiving the telegram that would change her life.
Mrs. Michael Anthony Leach STOP We regret to inform you that Officer Michael Anthony Leach STOP died in battle …..
I vaguely recall the last line of the story: “When the clock struck midnight, she left this world to join her husband.”
That’s all I remember. What has seared itself in my mind, and heart, is the sound of my classmates sniffling. The sound of them clapping resounds in my ears. The look on Jesse’s face as he nodded at me and smiled, made my young heart soar.
I remember your words so clearly, Mr. Costanzo: “And that, class, is how you get an A +” I can still see the giant “A +” as you plastered it in one corner in red marker. I regret that the story resides only in the filing cabinet of my mind. I regret not keeping that first piece of fiction that would end up defining who I am.
I’m here now to thank you, sir. I wish to thank you. You don’t know this, but I have tried to find you to personally relay that I forgive you for making me tremble with fear and cry internally. I forgive you for not seeing how scared I was. None of that matters now. In fact, I feel like I owe you for that harrowing experience when I was young and scared and desperate to fit in, for that is the day that I realized something that would change my life. I realized that I was born to write.
…and I am. And I owe it all to you.
Your student, Barbara Buccilli (Avon)