We'll tell this story in four parts. This is part 1.
- The Monster
- Workplace Abuse
- New Principal
- Form III
It was obvious. From distance, anyone who watched her could see that she was dreaming. Her eyes were closed. Her bag was zipped shut and propped on the chair next to her. Her legs and feet, both stretched out in front of her torso, weren't moving and her arms were folded in tight over her chest. Most noticeably, Dolores' eyes were strenuously bouncing around inside of their lids without hesitation. It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that she was in the rapid eye movement phase of sleep Sleep. Dolores had fallen asleep and was dreaming. From a distance, anyone could see.
But that's not how it felt to her! To Dolores, the most vivid dream anyone could imagine, looked, felt, sounded and smelled as though it were actually happening to her. One minute can feel like an hour or more when a person was asleep the way Dolores was asleep, and any observer could tell that every minute of her nap felt much more like an hour to her. As far as Dolores was concerned, she was in real time experiencing real life. To the outside world, Ms. Dolores Polonius was just a math teacher catching a quick nap on her lunch break before heading back to teach her last two classes for the day. But Dolores was in a completely different reality than the outside world.
Within her dream, she found herself caught in a moment from her past. It, this same moment, had been replaying itself over and over again since the moment she closed her eyes. It was the moment she said yes. She never should have said yes.
This man was six foot two inches tall and weighed two-hundred and forty pounds. He yelled and screamed at classroom teachers (in a school) as though he were on a street corner in Brooklyn in the 70's getting ready for a fist fight. He always made it a point to tower over his victims as he was yelling at them just to make sure they were physically intimidated and trembling as he did. Know this, reader: If any other part of Dolores' Dream were fiction, this man and his deeds were pure fact. Dolores knew it. Even she, in her midday haze, was lucid enough to be aware of these as she dreamed:
That he got away with committing breathtaking abuses inside of a New York City public school; that he did this with the full support of the entire NYCDOE apparatus, and did so for well over two decades. This man had suspended a para (paraeducator) for twenty long days without pay on an accusation which he knew to be (and bragged, in trusted quarters, that it was) completely false. This man intimidated five gym teachers into not applying to be the school football coach -just so that he (for ten thousand dollars per year) could be the school football coach. This man would stand at a victim's' classroom doorway and smile at his victims as they were teaching and, if a victim tried pretending the monster wasn't there, would bellow their name so that the whole lesson would stop and every face in the room were looking over at him -but he would just continue to stare at his victim and smile for an extended period of time until that familiar crestfallen pall of fear would cover his victim's face, and confirm, for him that he had gotten his prey.
He would perform his abuses on infirmed older male teachers and on little old lady teachers alike. He would perform them on insecure newer teachers and on school aides who had little job protections. Anyone with a small height and small frame were particular targets for him, but he would attack and abuse anyone, really, as long as they were weak. As long as they were someone with whom he felt strong; and as long as he could drum up at least a few people who would agree and laugh with him as he performed his abuses (because that too made him feel strong. Monsters seek only to feel strong). This man would inflict his hurt and emotional pain and public humiliations on subordinate teachers because it pleased him and he would do it whenever he was given an excuse to do so. That is who he was.
But for seven years, Assistant Principal José Abuelo -the most vulgar, cruel and brutal example of an school official that New York City had ever produced- did not abuse Dolores Polonius. No sir.
Dolores noticed that he only picked on weak looking people, so she took an approach whereby she would give a strong "hello" every day and then avoid him as best as she possibly could. She knew he was an abuser. So she made it a point to not look weak anywhere near him. It was a simply plan but it worked well for Dolores for seven years -and it seemed as though it was going to go on working.
Toward the end of his career, however, Mr. Abuelo found himself infatuated with a newer, younger female teacher and he was trying his best (as best as his best could be at least) to do his part to advance her career. It was during this time  that he tried to get her the job of school Activities Director.
The general topic of the young female teacher, however, had become problematic. There developed a whole flock of younger educators who eventually took to following her everywhere she went. They came to listen and adhere to almost anything she had to say and, eventually, began doing everything she wanted them to do.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Abuelo, she came to use her power base of young teachers to engage in rumors and damaging whisper campaigns about many of her colleagues and supervisors (including about Mr. Abuelo himself). She liked to call investigations on teachers. She would send her flock out for any tid bit of information about any teacher or student (which they would provide without ever realizing they were getting somebody into trouble) and would then arrange for the investigators to come. Sometimes this was done with The Monster's help. Sometimes it was not.
She landed one teacher in a 3020-A hearing, saw to it that he was humiliated in the newspapers, and charged a $10,000 fine from a hearing officer. And why? Because he did not understand the new rules around his midterm exam. They taught the same courses, you see. And he had a nicer looking program than he did. She landed another one in investigation on his second day of ever being a teacher (a student had kicked in a computer screen while this young teacher was trying to get his bearings in the first lesson of his career. She found another student in his class, convinced the student to say he hadn't felt safe during that moment and called the investigators with the assertion that "students feel unsafe". That actually happened too.) There were more examples but this is how this young female teacher rolled. Something was out of balance with her and everyone saw it
Everyone, that is, except Mr. Abuelo.
The principal saw her for what she was and saw her as a threat to his staff. But, like the rest of the school, the principal too sought to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with Mr. Abuelo too. Mr. Abuelo had just so happened to take down one or two principals during his career and the current principal would not be placed in that position. So, as an alternative course, the principal quietly stepped in and asked Dolores to apply for the position instead. "You will get it. I don't want to give it to her.".
Ms. Dolores Polonius was not happy about the circumstances of her being asked. Her presence had been requested because the principal had wanted to keep the peace, not because he felt she possessed any particular skill that he wanted to employ at his school. That was a major disappointment for her. Adding to this was the flat fact that, at her age, she wasn't particularly interested in being an Activities Director. That was a job for young teachers who needed to earn their stripes, had no life outside of work and possessed boundless energy to get stuff done. She wasn't young. She had her masters and 30 above and, since she had earned her stripes years ago. She thought her days of organizing the Spring Dance and watching over school clubs were far far behind her. But she knew that peace of mind came at a price at her school and, though she felt this price to be a bit steep, she was willing to pay She owed almost everything to her principal -and had so for several years now. This is why she just loved the guy. There were also a few experimental programs that she felt may benefit the kids at her school. She'd have to make sure Mr. Abuelo didn't see her as weak, and she would be dodging a terrible young teacher who would have every reason to target her, but she figured she could do it. How bad could it be? So she agreed.
She had no idea.
But that was it. That was the moment she was reliving in her dream as she napped on her last little respite of the work day. The moment she agreed. The moment she said yes. The moment that she and that monster, José Abuelo, set their courses for collision.
She should never have said yes.
And then she heard something. She couldn't identify it at first, because it was so muffled. But, as the sound came slowly into focus, she recognized it as the voices of two giggling students sneaking out of their favorite teacher's classroom next door to her. "Such great kids", she murmured to herself. "I teach them soon". This was all followed, of course, by the sound of a teacher calling 'please don't leave until the bell rings. Come away from the door, please'. And then, finally, the sound. The bell.
Dolores Polonius woke up in a flash. Before her eyes had fully opened, she had grabbed her bag, her coffee and checked for her classroom keys. And, as it slowly dawned on her that the lunch break had ended, she frowned at the thought of allowing herself to ever come into contact with The Monster. Dolores Polonius, however, always gets her Monster and she decided then and there to relive the entire ordeal during her next available lunch break nap. Not just her mistakes.