The girl could not lie still.
We had a full complement of kids to bed down and of them all, Tessia was a bundle of firing synapses and jittery limbs. Although she was quiet, she vibrated up and down her cot and off to the neighboring one. She:
- Crossed and uncrossed her arms and legs
- Rubbed her belly
- Pulled her sweat pants up to her hips
- Covered her head with her blanket
- Uncovered her head—and repeat
- Kicked off the covers
- Adjusted her socks
- Curled into the fetal position
- Removed her socks
- Examined her toes while contorting in awkward positions
- Slid down so her feet were by the head of the child on the next cot
- Looked at me
- When I offered to rub her back she looked away
- Ran the tip of her shoelace through the pattern on the sole of her sneakers
- Repeated all of the above
Though she was hyperactive, she was quiet and didn't disturb the other kids. She never slept. When a teacher allowed her to rise, near the end of the quiet time, she went quickly to the reading area—the only place she was allowed to be until waking time—and took to the books.
Now, instead of an irritating wiggle worm, a problem to be solved, she was animated and engaged with the reading.
As more kids got up the dynamic became more complicated. She moved to a vacant chair in the library and began to tell me her dream about about a cow coming into her room at the shelter. The story was detailed and coherent. Entertaining.
It's very good, I said. Let's write it down. We found a paper and sat down on a small couch. Okay, you tell me the story and I will write it, I said.
No, she said. I want to write it.
She took the paper and my pen and wrote her first name in well-formed block letters. Then she did her last name in initial cap/lower case until the last letter. You do the K, she said. I can't make a K. The she wrote her mother's name and her brother's name.
Make a 5, she said. I can't make a 5. She told me how letters repeated in her name and how her mother was 10. She wrote down a 10.
I bet she's older than 10, I said.
She said, she's a big 1o.
Let's do the story, I said. Tell me the story.
No, I want to write it! And she began writing in a new script, one line at a time.
Read it, she said.
I read: He relaxed the hello, ha ha, he. And so I went, interpreting the runes. Sometimes she accepted my rendition. Other times, she took the first word and re-read the rest with a different story.
One of these lines began with Ricky.
She said, no... Ricky is my uncle. And then she read me her version.
The story was matter of fact and did not involve her, but I still hope it was just a story.