The year was 2003,
and I was only nine years of age at the time. School had always been a fascination to me. I had the chance to learn something new every day. I got to raise up my hand and feel good when the words from my mouth were correct. I had always been seen by others as peculiar and dressing up like a hybrid cross between Angelica from the Rugrats and Urkel did not help at all. I was a nine year old, obsessed with Saturday Night Live, anything Lisa Frank, metallic butterfly hair clips and vocabulary books. Anything I thought looked pretty, I wore. Even if it was a baby blue fuzzy sweater that fit me tight, I felt like no one else owned that piece of fashion and that no one was me. I never tried to be someone else, because I never did know that was an option. A boy named John Godey seemed to think otherwise.
Up until the day that third grade began, I had never been noticed by anyone. I made my way through the early years of grade school by being quiet and only speaking when I was spoken to- manners my parents had taught me. I was well aware that I was always the chubby, brown girl in my classes. Other girls my age had the same characteristics: straight hair, light colored skin, thin little bodies. I sat in my designated seat that first day of third grade, next to the person whose last name came after mine, next to the person that would make the next year of elementary school a hell on earth. I noticed that he too was different like me. He was bigger compared to Ricky Sanchez, the boy who I had a crush on. His head peaked above everybody else, he seemed to have no neck so all you could see was a big head mounted to a big body, much like a play dough figurine.
One day on our way to dinosaur-shaped nuggets and macaroni n’ cheese, I heard the following conversation:
Boy 1: Hey who’s going to be the leader of the group?
Boy 2: We chose King Kong dude don’t you remember? Right John you’re our leader?
John: You know it! Hey but at least I’m not black like her…
I felt my ears get warm, followed by nervous perspiration from my forehead and an accelerated heartbeat. All I wanted to do was eat my favorite kind of food, and maybe ask someone who hadn’t eaten their mash potato if I could have it. But I felt like throwing up when I turned my head and King Kong and his posse were laughing at me.
The days that I looked forward to until then, now became dark days that forced me to take a verbal beating, without knowing how to fight back. All I could do was cry and no one seemed to notice. I did not want my mother to know because her lack of knowing how to drive at the time prevented her to pick me up from school any time they sent the sad girl to the nurses office. So my own remedy to John Godey was hiding. No one ever went to the restrooms near the gym, all because one unfixed light flickered and everyone said it was haunted. I laid my head on the cold floor of the handicapped bathroom stall. It was the most spacious and it was my favorite. Some days, I would spend such a long time inside one that I could imagine it becoming my bedroom. I saw my bed on the corner next to a rail, and next to it my bookshelf with every piece of literature I owned. This was my safe haven during dark third grade days at Farias Elementary.
Pretty soon, the name ‘Hershey’ caught on and that’s what I became known as. ‘Truffle with glasses’ was also another good one, but Hershey hurt more because I was aware that Hershey was a chocolate and at the time I was not acquainted with what a truffle was. During lunch time one day, John’s words to me seemed to not be enough for him anymore that he decided to move on to the next level. I sat down ready to eat the food of the day. I opened my half-pint carton of chocolate milk, and John Godey decided to take my carton and pour it over my only slice of pizza. How could no one see what had happened and why did I sat quiet? My body had never hurt so much and the floor of that restroom never felt more comforting. Soon after, Mr. Curry finally noticed I had been missing after lunch time for nearly three weeks and the truth finally came out. John Godey was moved to another classroom, but teachers knew that would not fix anything and that he would do the same. His parents decided to move him to another school. John Godey disappeared from my life, but his words lingered within my thoughts and my self-esteem for a very long time.
Some say it’s a part of “growing up.” But a person’s childhood should be as eccentric and unforgettable and filled with things around us that make an impact on our lives that shape who we grow up to be. I fought hard with myself to accept this theory. I tried to compare it to chickenpox, where even as an adult, if you had never had it, you had to have it.
Two years ago, I walked into a McDonalds. I remember being last in a line of four people waiting to order. As I walked closer to the counter I realized that the cashier was John. He was much taller, slightly thinner than 2003. John Godey was a man now. I thought of getting out of that line and driving to a different location, but then I realized how many unsaid things I had kept to myself all these years. Would he understand just how many school days I wasted, laying on the floor of a restroom waiting for the day to be over? I got clammy hands, my blood went cold and I felt two hands wrapped around my throat, preventing me from even thinking of what I would say next. Then it dawned on me to think of where we both were standing, and I grinned just a little, just enough to feel my satisfaction. I walked up the counter and he said to me, “Good afternoon, what will it be?”