Saturday, February 27, 2010


Then comes Dalilah. She is sixteen, dropped out of school in the seventh grade, hasn’t touched a book since (three years) and now wants to get her GED.

She has similar indigenous traits to her two younger sisters, and if put together, you couldn’t tell that they have different fathers. She has tiny teeth somewhere behind a mangle of braces that haven’t been brushed in a while. Her hands are soiled. The grandfather has just given the girls a gopher turtle and Dalilah was playing with it just before the session.

She has tiny, squinty eyes, limp hair that has been highlighted in different shades of blond, and sports a small stud in her nose and another one in her lip, has an array of stars tattooed on her back and a shiny, brand new tattoo on her forearm that in my haste to break the ice I compliment as the greatest dragon I have seen in a long time. Only, it isn’t a dragon; it is a freshly tattooed hawk that she says is to pay homage to her clan.

The tribal office has given her the GED preparation books: a 300-page theory book and a 100-page workbook chock full of exercises that range from simple mathematical operations to fairly advanced algebra.

Minutes into our first session, I realize that she, like her sisters, doesn’t know her times tables and has difficulties differentiating between addition and subtraction. I wonder if I could tutor them together in a single session, instead of three identical ones.

We hear the unmistakable sound of a toilet being flushed upstairs and yellow water trickles down one of the walls in the dining room. I look at the water, then at Dalilah, who is now working on an assessment test.

“Is this what I think it is?” I ask, pointing at the wet wall with my pen.
“Oh, that?” she says, “pee water,” and she goes back to the test without giving it a second thought.

She is soft spoken, polite and reassures me that she understands what I’m explaining with comments like “oh, ok. I get it,” only quickly I learn that this is just a habit and that she is in fact, not getting it at all.

“Tell me about your plans.” I say, in an attempt to give us both a break from numbers.
“What plans?”
“Why do you want to get your GED?”
She shrugs her shoulders and inverts her mouth. “Don’t know.”
“How about college? Is that what you want?"

Dalilah looks at me as if I have just asked her opinion on quantum physics.

“College? Like getting a degree and stuff?” I nod.
“Don’t know about that.”

She rolls up the sleeves of her Abercrombie hoodie and goes back to her test. She has the same bloody marks I saw earlier on Mariah’s arms.

“Grandpa’s been busy, huh?” I say looking at the dry blood on her forearms.
“Yeah,” she says, covering the marks, leaving me as clueless as I was three hours ago when I walked in.



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