• Lena Drake

An ESL Program in Toledo, OH

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

For Claudia and Eleni--

In Toledo, Ohio there was

not much, but there

was a school with not

much, but it did have

a program to teach

people how to speak

English. 17 and 18

year old girls found

themselves squeezed

into faux wood desks

staring at chalk boards

with words, not many,

but enough to learn

English. The girls

decided they would

be friends, no matter

how it ended, the

friendship or the school.

The word of the day

was accomplishment,

which was hard

to pronounce or understand.

They didn't learn much

English, or much of

anything at all. But they

did learn that if you

are Greek and your friend

is Mexican and neither

of you speaks English

there's always, well

it's not much, but there's

always drawing.

Charades was never

a parlor game in

a parlor or in the

ESL program. And when

you left the school, or

the earth, and you lost

touch because: landlines,

or cancer, you would

bump into each other again

in Dearborn, Michigan

at a restaurant neither

of you chose. Or at a

funeral 35 years later

where you could understand

the English, but not much

of anything else. Landlines

made sense. Cancer

does not. Other lessons

learned included: leftovers

are more important than

clothes, but less important

than dessert. And make

sure to get the name

of your crush, in case

he's your friend from ESL's

boyfriend. Mexicana

and The Greek were destined

to meet. They survived

a land that promised

more than it had with

drawings, charades, and

a few more courses

in English.

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