In one world, I spent my nights searching the Internet for affordable hotels, emergency shelters and job listings. Between high school history essays and geometry homework — sometimes completed on the floor of a hotel bathroom — I coped with the loss of my childhood home and the alienation of the Massachusetts shelter system.
In my second world, I was an honors student, a track athlete and an avid video gamer. I listened to other students talking about going out with friends after school, and I spoke not one word about my family’s foreclosure or poverty. I disappeared into my textbooks: Schoolwork served as a distraction and a sedative, burying the hunger in my stomach, the isolation from my peers and the constant threat of homelessness.
I graduated in 2016. Today, as students are returning to in-person classrooms after a year of covid-19 lockdowns, I know that many of them will walk into homeroom bearing more than a bookbag and a face mask. Leaving a hotel, shelter or friend’s couch, they will carry the trauma of eviction and displacement.