1965. I am seven years old. I am in the second grade at Tilton school. Tilton is a K-8 school. Big kids mixed with little kids—maybe not always a good idea. Big kids can be mean to little kids. Like the time during school assembly. My teacher sends me on an errand. I like doing errands for my teacher. It makes me feel special. I know my teacher likes me. She says I am smart for seven years old. I like being smart. It gives me hope. It makes ME feel big.
I am on my errand for my teacher during school assembly. No one is supposed to be in the hallway. I am happy and have happy thoughts. I skip to hear my penny loafers on the hard and shiny school floors. As I slowly make my way to the school office, the echo of approaching footsteps are suddenly within earshot, and soon my perfect schoolgirl world is interrupted by the twins. Identical brothers with bushy eyebrows and lop-sided naturals (afros). They are in the eighth grade. They are meaner than most kids. They are bullies, they are like a horror movie in my head. They are not in assembly. They are not on an errand because they are not smart for eighth graders. I know I am smarter than them stupid boys. They are bad and get into trouble a lot. A LOT.
They see me and want to be mean. I know they are not going to be nice to me. I am afraid; I don’t think I’m safe. My stomach feels funny. I wish I was not on an errand for my teacher, anymore. I wish I were not alone skipping in the hallway being happy like I should be. I wish those mean and evil twins would go the other way. If I close my eyes and wish hard enough, maybe they’d disappear. I want magic powers. I long for a miracle.
They begin to chase me. I would rather be chased by dogs. I may have a better chance. Their older legs outrun mine. They corner me with mean smiles on their ugly faces. Something seems caught in my throat, a scream. “Get away from me! I’m gonna tell!” I am caught between the twins and a cold brick wall as they put their hands on my delicate brown skin. I wish momma didn’t always make me wear dresses; I can feel their creepy, ugly fingers on my legs, crawling up like spiders on a web. I’ve always been scared of spiders; I fight to slap away their hands. They want to touch my—my sacred place—where no one is supposed to touch. Momma has told me it’s a piece of forbidden fruit, like the apple in the bible. And these boys who are too old for me want to put their things in me, where no thing is supposed to go until I am married, momma said. They rub and grind up against me, and I hate them! I want to throw up on them, like I threw up my first day of kindergarten, afraid to leave my momma for the first time. I am scared and disgusted and ashamed. I do not want to be blamed for this awful thing happening to me! I want to hide inside myself. I wish to be invisible so they can’t see me anymore, and so I can escape. This is not playing nice. This is playing bad. They are bad. Will life be bad for me? Will other boys try this? Will no one save me? Where is my teacher? Why has she not missed me? How long does she think I’ll be on this errand? And why is assembly taking soooooo long? “No, stop!” I scream, “Leave me alonnnnne!” I start to scratch, kick, and punch them; I am so mad! So mad and so frightened.
Momma said that God answers prayers. I begin to pray to this God, “Please God, make them stop! I promise to be a good girl; I promise not to be in the hallway by myself again! Pleeeease!” I also pray that he will send someone like a grown-up, like the principal, who will come and grab both these boys by their ears, like momma does to my little brother when he is misbehaving around white folks, making her embarrassed. She was right because God answered my prayers fast, like magic. Mr. Rogers, my first grade teacher, caught them! He caught those doo-doo heads! Now! After asking me if I am okay, by now the tears are falling like warm rain down my cheeks, he has both of them hooligans (a word I learned watching Mickey Rooney movies), by the arms and takes them squirming off to the school office. I forget about my errand because I don’t want to be in the same room with them again, but on my way back to the auditorium full of students who were supposed to be in school assembly and not in the hallway, I lick my tongue out at them and grin. Na, na, na, na, na... I know their bad asses are going to be suspended. I go back to skipping to hear my penny loafers make a tapping noise on the hard and shiny hall floor. I try to regain my happy seven-year-old thoughts, but they have been replaced by a feeling you get when you have learned something, even something bad.
When I get older I will create my own fairy tales, where, when bad stuff happens to little girls, they will be able to fight back and save themselves, and a big boy’s thing will never, ever, ever, go into a little girl’s privacy—her sacred place—to scar her for life, because bad things can leave scars. Some scars are ugly. They can live deep down inside and scare you when you are older, like a really, really, really bad nightmare. I want someone to catch these twins with lopsided naturals and bushy eyebrows. These twins of catastrophe (another word I learned from television), who have learned to do bad things to little girls during school assembly. Shame on them.