WHEN YOU'RE LIFE DEPENDS ON IT-- SING AND DANCE!
After being fired by West Chester Friends School for my past relationship with Bill Clinton, I remained in West Chester, Pennsylvania, working part-time as a substitute teacher while staying in touch with my Pennsylvania attorneys. I was suing the Friends School for violating my rights. Eventually, I succeeded in winning my suit against them.
Almost daily, I received calls from nearby school districts, in need of a substitute teacher. Interestingly, the local Detention Centers kept me booked at least two weeks in advance. They seemed to like me because I was available. Most of the licensed teachers in the area were afraid to teach in the Detention Centers, especially the Center that housed sex offenders. For me, safety had never been an issue. Each time I taught at the Centers, there were always two or more guards in my classroom.
That Friday morning, arriving to teach at the Center for sex offenders, there was more activity than usual. The center’s director stopped briefly to say hello and mention that one of the Center’s more illustrious “clients’ would be leaving the next day. His staff was preparing for a large crowd of media and additional law enforcement for tomorrow’s Press Conference. The client was being transported to New York State to serve an eighty year sentence.
The young man, who recently turned eighteen, had committed violent acts of rape, dismemberment, and murder, involving three different women. His three victims ranged-widely in age---with the youngest being nine years of age, the next youngest being thirty-five, and the oldest was seventy years old. The extreme savagery used in all three cases caused even the most seasoned officers investigating the killings, to cry-out in rage. Due to the killer’s violent background, Pennsylvania’s Governor was sending extra teams of law enforcement to make sure the transfer from Pennsylvania to New York went smoothly.
Locating my room assignment for the day, I decided to get an early start by posting reading assignments on the board then placing a textbook on each student’s desk. The roster indicated there would be seventeen students in today’s history class. The classroom was new to me. I’d never taught in that particular area of the building. I noted my desk faced five rows of student desks and the only door was located behind the students, at the back of the room. It crossed my mind that the students were between me and the door but, with two security posts guarding the exit--one on either side of the door-- I felt safe.
The students filed in, each found his assigned desk, and I proceeded to take attendance. Talking was not permitted while students changed classrooms and they weren’t allowed to talk during class yet… today’s silence seemed almost premeditated. Looking at the students filing in, no one looked familiar. I wasn’t surprised since the Detention Center functioned like a revolving door. There were exceptions but, overall, sex offenders stayed in the Center until their eighteenth birthday. At that time, they were transferred to an assigned prison to begin serving their sentences.
I was a little surprised to see that the two guards located on either side of the door were small in stature and appeared quite nervous. In the past, my room guards had been large, strong-looking men with an air of no-nonsense. These young guards looked bewildered, weak, and vulnerable. But-- trusting the Center-- I dismissed my apprehension
I introduced myself and began the day’s lesson. Looking around, I observed the usual expressions of boredom, a few students who were overly-medicated and hoping to sleep, and the usual blank stares from reluctant learners. But, when I looked into the eyes of the student on the third row, four desks from where I stood, there was no doubt that evil stared back at me. Well-built, light-skinned, and with the handsome, poised look of a professional male model, the young man looked straight through me. I saw, as well as felt, his dead-cold eyes mesmerizing me with such intensity, I shuddered. I sensed death.
Forcing my eyes away from the compelling student, I began reading the first sentences of the textbook assignment out-loud, hoping to break the room’s doomsday atmosphere. I stopped when I heard the sound of a desk scooting across the floor… and looked up. The student with all the trappings of a male model now stood behind his desk.
“Hey, Bitch-Lady, we don’t want to hear you read, we want to watch you perform. In fact, I’m going to spread you out on that big desk behind you and fuck you ‘til you bleed like a stuck pig. I’m going to strip you buck-naked and, when I’m through…everyone in this room’s gonna have a piece of your ass.” Looking to his left, he said “Come on Jonah, you hold her legs and if she tries to fight, cut the bitch’s throat.” As soon as the model look-alike began speaking….I watched the two guards run out the door. Now Jonah and my declared rapist were walking toward me. Several others stood also, waiting to assist their self-appointed Leader. Glancing at the faces of students still seated, I saw a mixture of fear and curiosity as everyone watched the action.
I had no time. I needed one tiny second to swing past my offenders…and reach the door behind them. Who knows why I did what I did next but…using that one tiny second…I launched, full-volume, into the aria, Caro Nome….the aria I sang in The Miss America Competition. My lyric soprano voice hit the high notes with every ounce of passion and strength I could muster and…. as I sang……my body twirled, moved in circles, and danced. I danced with my entire body…leaping, twirling, singing…moving past my offenders, now in shock--- frozen in place. Yes…. I caught the entire classroom off-guard with my unexpected outburst of song and dancer-moves, giving me just enough time to twirl out the door and…. into the arms of the Center’s Director. Armed guards ran past me with more guards behind them, ready to barricade the area.
Only then did I learn the student who could have passed for a male model, whose mesmerizing eyes spoke Pure Evil, and who planned to attack me…. was the notorious “client” who was leaving the next day to begin serving an eighty year sentence. The confident and deadly young man figured he had nothing to lose by committing one more vicious act of violence.
The incident traumatized me enough thatI never returned to teach at the Center for Sex Offenders. Confrontations, near-death experiences, and constantly living on the edge, were not on my wish list. I’ve often wondered what prompted me to use “Song and Dance” as my weapon of escape but…. who cares… it worked! Under the same circumstances, I’d do it again.
The frightful incident became my turning point. I decided it was time to be the Prima Donna I was meant to be. I vowed….from that day forward….to stop giving free performances.
I was a well-trained opera singer and, in the future, vowed to never perform without a full orchestra and at least one dress rehearsal!