Private prayers of a child

One school night, after I finished praying, my brother came saw me crying. I told him I didn’t want to go to school, that I couldn’t go. I was in the third grade, and couldn’t stand my teacher. She was one of those women who intimidated even a small ant. I don’t know why I feared her so much, but I never had a voice, let alone the ability to stand up to authority. I had learned to obey authority, not question it. My family was the silent type, though I learned much later they had rebelled in different forms. But somewhere along the way, I became that child who does as she is told. When my mother did not allow me to play with the neighbors’ children on our block because they were a bad influence, I accepted. I didn’t go behind her back. I didn’t rebel. I didn’t fight.
That night, my brother, 12 years my senior, tried his best to understand why I hated school so much that I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t explain to him that every morning when she started the class with mandatory prayers, I felt sick because there was no air, and the silence of the classroom, filled with a bunch of eight/nine year-old girls was too depressing. That everything we did was a test. That every answer had to be right, and if you made a mistake, you were immediately heckled by the teacher in front of everyone.
Once a month we had a behavioral report card, which basically meant you would be graded based on your cleanliness, appearance, uniform, and your general attitude. I always aced those, because I was so polite and quiet. Once, I was wearing hoop earrings, they were small, but questionable nevertheless. The whole time I sat in my seat, nervous because I thought they would see my earrings and I would be in trouble. So I made the smartest move I could think of: I put on my headscarf. Since girls had separate schools from boys, we were allowed to take off our scarves in the classroom; there were no males on school property).
I cried most nights of the third grade. I think my mother thought it was because Dad was gone, which was true too. But most of it was the simple fact that I couldn’t be in that classroom.
The comforting thing about praying was I thought someone was actually listening. Those few moments were mine, and though they were trite, and upsetting, they were my minutes of despair. And then the worse moment was when I went to bed, dreading the next morning. Some nights, my brother read me stories. I was probably too old for stories, but they were a nice distraction.
The last prayer I had, as I hid myself under the covers, was “please God let tomorrow be a better day.”

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