I was not only a little in love with Miss Nichols, so when one day she told us
Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel were her friends, I wanted to believe her,
but I wasn’t sure. I was nobody, and she taught sixth grade in a cinderblock
school beyond the borders of the district, so how could she be anybody?
I knew the name Kennedy from my history. From my bedroom, I could see
the dome of the Capitol and the pale needle of the Washington Monument.
I knew we lived close to power, but I thought the voltage flowed through webs
above our heads on poles in black wires stitching the suburbs to the light.
The rowdy class challenged her, so we marched the broad halls to the phone
in the principal’s office. She spun the dial and handed me the black receiver.
‘This is my friend Ethel Kennedy,’ said Miss Nichols, and I said hello. ‘Hello,
what’s your name?’ I told her. She asked, ‘What are you studying in school?’
And I answered her as I answered my parents, ‘Nothing.’ There was silence.
She wasn’t as pleased as my parents. There was no more to say, so I returned
the phone to my teacher. She patted my hand and smiled.
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