The Curse of the Bleeding 8th Graders
by Comma Chameleon
Time is meaningless. I’m a teacher on summer break! My husband is also a teacher, and we will frequently ask each other, “What day is it?” since we don’t know the date or sometimes even the day of the week. It’s glorious. I’m going to blame that for the fact that this article is up a little later in the month than usual, and not on the fact that I have been reading a few books a week, occasionally sleeping past 9:00am, and turning into a vegetable for hours on end in front of a screen (phone, laptop, or television). Glorious, I say.
I’ll tell an old story again, since I won’t have new story fodder until school starts on August 9th. (Yes, that seems pretty early to a lot of people, but we are out for the summer before Memorial Day, which is nice.) I will tell the story of The Bleeding Curse in my 8th grade classroom. If descriptions of smallish injuries bother you, maybe skip this one.
Unfortunately, several people I’ve mentioned this to immediately think it has something to do with menstruation, since middle school girls are sometimes not great at dealing with that particular new development of puberty. Thankfully, it’s not that kind of bleeding. No, The Bleeding Curse has to do with injuries. Lots of them.
In my last column, I mentioned David (Redacted)–last name omitted to protect the… not innocent so much as… derpy. One of the many ridiculous quotes I remember from this kid was a horrified, “I didn’t kiss her! I pecked her with my nose like a chicken!” like that was so much better than getting caught giving a kiss. I feel sorry for the very kind, patient girl I sat next to him to keep him on track. Getting pecked on the cheek by a boy’s nose hopefully didn’t scar her too badly.
The Bleeding Curse began on about the third day of school. I expected all of my students to have their supplies by then, and we took 20 minutes of class that day to set up the tabbed dividers in our binders, label the sections of our notebooks, and put our names on everything od with Sharpie. (A word to the wise: if you ever pass out Sharpies to a classroom full of teenagers, count them first and make sure you get the same number of them back. They are a hot commodity, and are usually only ever used for graffiti on both furniture and body parts.) I had written all the steps and instructions on the whiteboard and was wandering the room as the kids got everything set up, answering questions and handing out supplies to kids without any.
Suddenly David appeared before me, his hand held up in front of his face, blood dripping down his forearm in several bright red rivulets. “Um… Mrs. —–? Can I go to the–”
“YES. Yes, please go to the bathroom,” I said quickly, grabbing five or six tissues from my desk and passing them to him. A few drops of blood fell from the tip of his elbow onto the forty-year-old brown carpet as I shooed him toward the door. (No worries; the carpet would be shampooed once during the summer, nine or ten months later. Probably.) “Hold those on the–put them on your–yes, thank you.” The three seconds it took him to press the tissues to the actual wound which seemed to be somewhere near his fingers seemed an eternity. Now, just to make something clear: blood doesn’t bother me in the least. As a woman, I see it every month and have for years. Even the injuries of others don’t make me feel nauseous or light-headed like they do for some people. My biggest problem with people bleeding is the potential for sharing germs. And honestly, middle schoolers are about as clueless about the dangers of bodily fluids as toddlers are. “Try not to touch anything on your way!” I called after him. “Go to the nurse if you need to!” I didn’t know how severe the injury was because I was more focused on getting the blood out of the room full of 25 other humans than on examining what had caused it, but if blood was dripping down his arm, I figured he would probably need to visit the health office for at least a band-aid.
The very kind, patient girl that sat next to him told me what happened once he was gone. Somehow–no one knows how, this is just David–when he was closing the rings of his binder, one of them snapped shut on the little web of skin between his thumb and first finger, right on the very edge. Extremities often bleed a lot because of all the tiny blood vessels in them, hence the rivulets of blood dripping down his arm and off his elbow.
About November, I realized there had been more incidents of bleeding in my classroom than usual through the months, so I started to jot them down. From November to February, I wrote down 14–FOURTEEN–incidences of bleeding in my classroom. That’s more than 3 incidents per month, or about one a week! After February, I gave up and stopped keeping track, though the bleeding didn’t stop. These bleeding injuries ranged from paper cuts to torn cuticles, scratches while trying to undo a staple to scabs picked open, either on accident or, ew, on purpose. For the smaller ones, I doled out the boring, crummy bandaids the school supplied. For a few of the more major ones, I sent them with a pass to the health office. FOURTEEN. In my head, I absolutely blamed David (Redacted) for starting it, and I still do!
Okay, here’s where it gets really weird. Two years later, I had both of David’s twin sisters in my ELA class. As far as I remember, neither of them bled at any point in my room, but it started up again anyway! At least once every week or so, someone would be bleeding in my classroom! The return of the (Redacted) bloodline had apparently caused the curse to resume. About halfway through the year, I told the twins the story of their brother and The Bleeding Curse, and about how they had apparently brought it back. I joked about circling my room with salt, or performing some kind of banishing ritual. They were amused, but nothing more. Both of them were quite chill, which I’m sure was a relief to their poor parents after David Spazoid (Redacted). And then, the next year, once all the (Redacted) children had left my classroom and my school for good… no more curse!
I do have students come to me for a band-aid for minor owies now and then, but nothing has ever been, or (God-willing) will be that bad again. I never thought a curse could happen to me.
They don’t warm you about this stuff in teacher school.