One day while I was sitting in class, possibly fifth grade, two women stood at the door with what looked like chopsticks in their hands. Stillness filled the room, as if you could hear every kid choking back saliva over sandpaper-lined throats. The few kids who spoke to me at school did it for their own selfish reasons. No one really wanted to be my friend. It felt like I was being dangled from a string, they had the power to pull me in or cast me out. I simply had not been around long enough, and no one understood my family.
One by one we tilted our heads as the women rolled their splintery sticks through the strands of our hair. I sat silent, perfectly still, convinced my heartbeat could be heard by the kid next to me. I think I could hear my own blood flowing through my tightening veins. When she gently tilted my head forward, the stick played on my scalp, sending tiny goose bumps down my arms and the back of my neck. Too quickly she broke her sticks in two and tapped my shoulder. I pretended not to notice at first, and then realized every kid turned to face me. She continued to tap my shoulder and pointed to the door. I stood and walked as the kids stared.
In the office the secretary dialed my house. Gripping the counter, I was no longer concerned with the room full of kids teasing me down the hall; anxiety had the hairs covering my body standing at attention. I knew even before I heard her jarring voice through the telephone; she was so loud the secretary held the phone away from her ears.
“That fucking little bitch! I don’t drive. What do you want me to do?” Complete and total humiliation blanketed my soul. My mother called us all fucking little bitches on a regular basis. I was used to it; the thought of someone else knowing that she called me this was crippling to me. The secretary, now visibly annoyed, sent me to another room. A short time later I looked up to see the biggest black man I’d ever seen in my life looking down at me. Somehow I knew he was there for me, but I truly had no clue to who he was.
“Who are you?” I asked. It was the first time in my life I asked that question, but it was certainly not the last.
“The cab driver,” he replied without a bit of expression. Fuck, is all I thought. There was absolutely nothing I could do. Not only did I have lice, my mother spewed profanities to the school secretary who probably couldn’t wait to blab about it to every teacher in the school. And now, every kid who already had something cruel to say about me would see me walking out with some random black man, and they would also see me getting into a dirty yellow cab. As I walked out under the huge oak trees, it was like stepping into a parade with the every classroom window focused on me.
When he pulled up to the sidewalk, I could see her through the rusted screen door, a slim shadow with flowing hair. Before she spoke, she was stunning, her skin the perfect tan, slender and natural. Then her mouth opened and the door moaned as it flung open; then it snapped shut, wood on wood, sending a cracking noise into the air. She marched to the cab with her sandy hair flowing behind her. I started towards the door, but before I could grab it, she grabbed me.
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