On Losing a Student

Maria Lam:

The red markers started to disappear from classrooms. In some of the brand-new marker boxes, the count became seven instead of eight. It was always the red one missing. We, the teachers, hadn’t thought much of it initially; rarely do we end the school year with the same amount of supplies with which we begin. But that was changing now that the students needed red to make corrections and complete their schoolwork—or, for some, to color in the hearts they’d scribbled on love notes. A blend of orange and yellow wouldn’t suffice as a substitute, so we were determined to find the culprit.

But even before investigating, red writing started showing up all over our classrooms. On desks. On folders. On looseleaf. On whiteboards. It became clear that the red markers had a new owner. And that owner he left us little opportunity to apply our Law and Order sensibilities: He used the red to tag his name. And by tagging, I don’t mean the kind of elaborate graffiti that once covered the murals at 5 Pointz in Queens—it was just his handwritten name. If his handwriting were a font, it’d be pretty close to Comic Sans: child-like, nothing distinct or loud—besides the color.