I once had a student, Hamed, whose English was poor enough for him to prefer communicating via letters. Each class we exchanged letters about his family – some in Iran, some here in America – and of his wife, who stayed up late practicing her English against his schoolwork. Everyday in class he sat next to the same student, Eyvonn, a lanky man returning to college after an honored military career. Each patient with one another, they pored over their essays, working together to present their collective best selves. Eyvonn wrote about his time at war, about both helping and destroying the same people in which Hamed wrote to me in those letters. I thought of Eyvonn’s family, whose hope now is education and I thought of Hamed’s wife, whose hope now is democracy. I thought of those two students, who never settled for anything less than excellence while being kind and vulnerable. I hope this for America, again, because it is still there. I hold a seat in my classroom for Eyvonn’s daughter. For Hamed’s wife. For students, for immigrants, for veterans. For Democracy as a thriving writhing marching animal, I will always hold a chair.
About Jessica Danger
Jessica Danger lives, writes, and teaches in Southern California with her family. She holds an MFA from Bennington College in Vermont. Her work has been published in several journals, including Gold Man Review, Thin Air Magazine, and Mud City Journal. She was recently shortlisted for the Iowa Review Nonfiction Prize judged by Eula Biss.