Remember The Absent

Samaritan's Song

Twenty students.

Twenty students are enrolled in my course.  But only nineteen are here.  I check the roll, call the name of the missing student, and listen to the nervous silence.  I call the name again just in case, because once when this happened – about three years ago – it was because the poor guy in the back was asking someone else what textbook he needed and didn’t hear me say his name.

No one answers.

Sometimes #20 shows up halfway through lecture, careening in mid-sentence and disrupting an entire row of murmuring students as they struggle to an empty seat.  Sometimes #20 shows up after class, mumbling apologies and excuses – a broken car, a recalcitrant child, an alarm clock on the fritz – and asks for what they missed.

More often than not, #20 never shows at all.

And I wonder about that missing student who paid…

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