The birth of innocence starts here. The death of innocence generally starts here too. Standing outside the chain link fence of a nearby school, I am transported back to the days that I spent in my own schoolyard.
“Fat girl, fat girl,” they used to chant at me.
I would slide underneath a sliding pond, looking for solace, hoping to become invisible.
“Brace face, brace face,” they would scream at me.
I would try to touch the sky in a swing. Maybe if I could get just high enough, I could fly away. Maybe if it would lift me high enough, I could learn to rise above this…but their hate spew would still fill my ears and simultaneously, empty my heart.
“If you would just get to know me,” my heart would cry out to my head. “If you only knew how funny I am. How silly I am. I have the best jokes. I really could make you laugh…if you would only let me.” I make my little brother laugh, I would think to myself. I do a really cool impression of Donny and Marie singing,
“I’m a Little Bit Country/I’m a Little Bit Rock and Roll”. If you would let me show it to you…you’d forget how fat I am. You wouldn’t care about my braces.
You might even like me…just a little. And we could be friends…in secret. No one would have to know.
I can keep a secret. I’d make a good friend. I promise.
There is nothing lonelier than the sight of a little girl alone on a see saw in the downward position, the other end high up in the air. “The whole class would have to get on the other side to lift you up,” one especially mean-spirited girl would spit at me, venom in her voice and malice in her eyes.
I would close my eyes. Squeeze them shut tight. So tight, I would see colors. I would make up rhymes in my head, jotting them down in my notebook. Later on, when I get home, I can write a song. I can write a poem. I could write a book, someday. My teachers always said “what a good writer you are”. And I was. Alone…in my little world, I could write the words that could bring grown men to tears and cause the coldest heart to defrost. I had talent. I had a gift.
But they don’t know that about me. They can’t see past a fat girl with braces.
So, I would get up from the see saw. Walk over to the bench and sit down, eating my lunch quietly alone. I had my notebook. I had my new pencils. I had a shiny, brand new Charlie’s Angels lunchbox. I would happily give you half my sandwich. Or, you can have both of my snacks. I would give you the world if only you would be my friend.
“What are you writing,” the teacher would ask.
“Just a poem,” I would mumble.
“You are such a good writer,” she would say with kind eyes that easily translated to “I feel so bad for you”.
“Thanks,” I would reply with a shrug of my shoulders.
And I would continue to sit on the bench, scribbling notes and words that scarcely make any sense. I would show them all someday, when I am a famous writer. I have no time for their silliness. I am a smart girl. I am a good person. I have more important things to do than play hide and seek or freeze tag. I have plans. I have hopes. I have dreams. I have secrets.
But, if you knew me at all, if you ever took the time to…you’d know the truth.
All I ever really wanted to do…was play.