Episode from My School Days in Kyoto: A Japanese Girl Found Her Own Way by Hidemi Woods
Since I became the class clown at school, I was quite popular back then, not only among the students but also among the teachers. When I needed to see a teacher at the hallway in front of the teachers’ office, other teachers would come out of the office to talk with me. They would stand in a circle around me and laugh at my jokes and stories. Inevitably, it was always noisy wherever I showed up.
The vice-principal was a stern, rigid teacher called Sister Maris Stella. She was the oldest sister at school and dressed in a traditional, old-fashioned Catholic gown. She was strict to students and teachers alike. Everybody tried to keep away from her because she always reproved someone for something. She would appear wherever people were buzzing, to shut them up.
She had recognized that I was often a seismic center of the buzz and given me a look of ‘You again’. Every time the teachers were cracking up with me in front of the teachers’ office, she poked her long-veiled head out of the office. That was a signal for the end of the show. Teachers would disperse quickly while I stopped talking. Sometimes we failed to notice her and she stood behind the circle listening to me. The moment someone spotted her, they would walk away. In those cases, she would ask me what I was talking about. I would apologize and leave.
And one thought occurred to me. She didn’t come out to reprove us. She might want to join us. Even after I realized that, I had no way to keep talking once other teachers ran away. As a result, we just kept leaving when she came up. And one day, when we were scattering at the sight of her as usual, she grabbed my arm. She said to me, “That’s it! You hate me, don’t you? I know you hate me! I know, because I hate you too!” Over her shoulder was a statue of the Virgin Mary with a plaque saying ‘Love and Humanity’. It was the most inconsistent scene I had ever experienced.
Months later, there came a general-school-cleaning day. I was unlucky enough to be assigned to the school cafeteria of which Sister Maris Stella took charge. As if she got a golden opportunity, she made a slave of me. She chose the dirtiest floor just for me and made me crawl to clean up thoroughly, yelling “Not enough! Do it over!” repeatedly. I felt her revenge so strongly. Given the hatred and now the revenge, I deepened the mystery of Catholic sisters…