Have you ever heard a little kid talk to herself? They talk about games, toys, colors, and even have conversations that really have nothing to do with anything. We learn to ignore them, they’re just playing around.
This is the story about the little boy I used to tutor back when I was in high school. He definitely wasn’t making up conversations. He was legitimately speaking to someone, and I have proof.
I got the tutoring offer through my teacher, he knew that I was good at math and excellent with little kids, since I had two younger siblings and I would run to their elementary school after my last class to pick them up. He’d let me go five minutes early most days so I would have enough time to bring both of my little brothers home.
The child I was supposed to help was named Jacob. He lived with his aunt, but most days his grandmother would take care of him. Both of his parents were always working, and you could tell just by the messy house. The grandmother would always let us work out in the balcony, and the subject was basic math.
One evening, I showed up at the regular time and I was surprised to be greeted by the mother. She asked me to come in, that Jacob would be waiting for me out in the balcony. I did as she said.
There he was, talking to himself while waving a pencil like a wand. As I slid the door open to step out into the balcony area, he turned around, and he got quiet.
He was normally somewhat happy to see me, since I don’t think he had many friends and I always promised to play at least one round of Connect Four with him if we got all of our work done on time. Every once in a while, he would say weird things, things about tooth removal, or even weirder… things about his parents cheating on each other.
One time, he mentioned a girl named Emily, who apparently would tell him all of these things when he was about to go to sleep at night. I really did think that he was making this up, since he was an only child and no other children were ever around. That day, the session went as planned. He got the hang of rearranging numbers in a sum, and other basic concepts. He eagerly pulled out the game we were supposed to play, when he casually said, “I know why you’re sad today.”
“I’m not sad,” I replied, “why would you think that?”
“I’m not supposed to say.” He shot back, looking away.
I didn’t think much of it, and kept arranging the pieces on the game stand.
“Emily says you’re going to get hurt.”
I asked him what Emily looked like, and he said that she was in high school, just like me. He went back to playing the game.
“What else?” I asked him.
She talks like you and she laughs like you too.
I was genuinely curious, but it was getting creepy and I didn’t want to poke around anymore.
We finished our game and said goodbye, ready to walk down the stairs, when I felt a sudden push to my knees from what felt like a dog. I leaned back suddenly and landed hard on my back as my right foot twisted unnaturally to the left. I screamed in pain.
Jacob’s mom came running from the balcony, where she was cleaning up a plate of cookies she had brought out. I was on the floor, my bag next to me.
Jacob started crying and then started screaming. He kept saying that Emily had done it, that he saw her do it.
“Shut up about Emily,” the mom scolded. “That’s enough about Emily.”
Jacob’s mom came to help me up and I sat on the couch while she went to grab me some water. The pain had stopped for the most part, but I got a throbbing headache and Jacob’s crying wasn’t helping.
“She’s not sorry, she’s not sorry.” He yelped out, with real, heavy tears in his eyes.
I called my dad to pick me up at Jacob’s house because I wasn’t going to be able to walk back home. He agreed to come pick me up in fifteen minutes and said he would take me straight to the doctors to get my leg checked out.
I got some medication for the pain. I had only suffered a sprain and part of my ankle swelled up pretty badly.
Before my math class was over the next day at school, my teacher told me that he had heard about Jacob, he said that Jacob’s mom was very embarrassed about the whole thing and wanted me to go back for dinner later on in the week. I hesitated.
He noticed my reaction, and asked me what was wrong, but I didn’t say anything.
He’s a little troubled, isn’t he? He said. He’s seen some stuff.
I asked him what he meant, and he told me the story of Jacob’s dad, who apparently had been his student as well some fifteen years ago. He had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and left school to go to work, but the girlfriend and her family left soon after the baby was born, and he was forced to raise the child himself, supposedly, with the help of his single mom.
But one day, while in the care of his mother, the little girl opened up a balcony door, climbed the railing, and fell two stories to her death. The father would never be the same after that.
Now I understood. Poor Jacob. His troubled father was probably a root cause for all of his odd behavior.
“Yeah, she would’ve been about your age now,” my teacher casually mentioned, “I think her name was Emily.”