A Story Of Seven
The year that I turned seven, my brother started school. I had only been at this new one for a few months, and I already hated it. I missed my friends. I missed watching my dad ride off to work on his rowdy motorbike in the mornings. But one of the things I missed most, was being around people who looked like me.
The girl next door was 3 or 4 years older than I; a scrawny wretch with knobbly knees, long bony fingers, hair the colour of hay and freckles that splattered on every part of her face. Her cold, blue eyes pierced me as I walked to our shared bus-stop at the base of the hill. Of almost everything, I dreaded this walk the most.
The 150 or so metres between us never seemed long enough no matter how slow my pace, how much I tried to drag my feet, or pretended to be interested in some non-existent thing I discovered on the side of the road. The gravel crunching beneath the soles of my slightly-too-small shoes and the scuff marks tattooed onto the front. I swallowed, thinking she would probably use that as ammunition. It was raining.
I looked forward to putting on my raincoat; a fluorescent orange thing that had the texture of tarp and made a crispy-crunchy noise with every movement my arms made. It was dotted haphazardly with tiny little mould spots which I always hoped no-one else could see and if they did, I would pretend that they were there on purpose.
It was almost too small for me, but the thing I liked about it most was the hood. I would put on that raincoat, pop those big, black buttons into place and secure my hood with the little black cord around my neck. My dad taught me how to tie knots that came undone easily, but this one, I doubled to make sure it wouldn’t slip.
So here I was, making that trek toward her, a chocolate-orange ball of determination. I wasn’t scared because all I could hear was the rain, tap, tap, tapping to the rhythm of my feet and I thought of Fred Astaire ‘Singing in the Rain.’ I skipped and spun along the roadside. I had been reading about Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends playing pooh sticks and as I watched the water swishing and swirling in the drain next to me, spied a couple of twigs and decided I could have a go. I’d race myself. “What are you doing dummy?” she asked in that derogatory tone of hers. Shit! I hadn’t even noticed she was there.
The thing I loved most about the hood of my raincoat is when I fastened it nice and tight like I did this morning, the roof of it covered my eyes so that I didn’t have to see her. Only my nose and lips were still exposed. From beneath my little shell, I watched the big, fat, juicy raindrops build on the tip of my hood, trying to cling before plopping onto the bridge of my indigenous nose.
“I SAID, what are you DOING?” she exclaimed. I stood still, trying to ignore her.
“I’m singing in the rain…” that smooth, silky voice sang.
“Look at me!” I didn’t.
“Why won’t you look at me. Is it ‘cos you’re too dumb? You can’t understand me eh dummy?” She scoffed.
“Just singing, in the rain…”
I closed my eyes tightly and wished her away from me.
“Oooooh, I know why you won’t look at me. It’s cos your nose and lips are too heavy and you can’t lift your head, eh dummy?” I squeezed my eyes tighter still and wished her away even harder.
“How did you get such a funny nose anyway? And why are your lips so fat?”
“What a glorious feeling…..I’m…..happy again...” I wished I was happy again…. and I could be if it weren’t for HER.
“You know that’s why you have no friends, eh? Cos you’re actually ugly.”
“I’m happy again…” continued Fred.
He was her colour. I wondered if he thought I was ugly too.
“You know that’s why you have no friends, eh? Cos you’re ugly. You’ve got a big nose… did you know that our bus can probably fit up your nose it’s that big.”
Oh no! I could feel it. My throat hurt and I could feel tears building in my eyes.
“And your lips are soooooo fat! How do they even get that big? What’s wrong with you?”
Dammit. I could feel a raindrop wanting to burst and fall from my eye. Dammit.
“And it’s because your skin is brown. Do you know that brown is an ugly colour? And do you know why?”
I don’t care what you think; I just don’t want this raindrop to fall.
“Because it’s the colour of mud! Your skin is the colour of mud and only pigs like mud!” She spat with disgust.
There goes the first raindrop, then the second, then the third and then I couldn’t see. “See” She shoved her skinny, hairy, white arm directly in the path of my gaze, a stark contrast to those ash coloured stones I was wishing would cause her to slip over.
“See?” she repeated. “My skin is nice and clean, and yours is dirty, like our pigs. And you’re smelly like them too!” She cackled.
Everything was grey. The pitter-patter that tapped against my outer shell had dropped its perky tempo. It was true. My skin did look like dirt, I’d heard kids say that before, but only the ones from this school. I hated this school. And I quite liked pigs and the way they would ‘oink’ at me when I fed them scraps from our kitchen. Maybe they liked me too because they thought I was one of them.
“Your skin is dirty, like our pigs” she reiterated, “and look, mine is nice and clean.” I stole a glance. It was true. She did look clean; her skin gleamed at me as if agreeing with her. I looked down at my hands, knotted together now as if that could add more power to my wish. My wish to make my hands miraculously clean.
I closed my eyes. Our bulky, school-bus was making its way towards us, splish-sploshing through the potholes. Closer and closer still, until it was in clear view; the deep vroom of the engine getting slower, deeper until it arrived: our bus, filled to the brim with lots of loud, laughing, children, children of all ages, children who were clean.
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