Who’s a donkey now?!

Who’s a donkey now?!

When I was in the second grade my mom bought me the coolest shirt ever. It was around 1980 and I was eight and mostly didn’t care what I wore. But this day was different, this day I was gonna wear the pink cotton poets’ shirt with my burgundy pants and my tall brown boots. That shirt felt awesome on me, soft and girly with two ties that hung down from the opening at the neck and a zig zag stitch that gathered the bottom hem. I felt stylish in that shirt, and super cool. I imagined myself turning dramatically on the play ground like I was in the opening sequence for a TV drama, like Charlie’s Angels or Dallas. I chose one very sleek and sophisticated ponytail rather than the more childish two pony tails. In my vision I probably down played my buck teeth, oversized glasses and uber thin frame. I was Wonder Woman.
I attended 2nd grade in one of the most rural and socio-economically deprived counties in the state of South Carolina. It was just a pond skip beyond the 1970s which means culturally (read: racially) it was more like the 50s. I recall the time the Klan marched right by our school. I remember looking back as those ghost like figures topped a hill just beyond our school playground. Teachers rushed us inside. I was frightened, but I didn’t know why. No one talked about it, we just missed recess that day.
The school was built decades before I arrived on that sunny day clad in my coolest of cool attire. The students had long since outgrown the size of the original buildings and portable trailers had been added on top of the dusty red clay behind the school. Covered walkways served as outdoor hallways connecting various entrances to the brick building.
On this day, as I walked through the crowded walkway I heard a voice from the top of the stairs call my name. Believing that it must be an admirer I turned to see who desired my attention. It was a dirty, stringy haired blond girl who I didn’t know well, but I must have upset her in some 8 year old way that day. Perhaps I made her laugh and chocolate milk came out of her nose and embarrassed her. Whatever the reason, she called out at the top of her tiny dirty voice ” donkey!” To me, star of an unnamed tv drama!? So I did what any scrappy (and well dressed) 8 year old would do. I turned around and shouted back “donkey!” This went back and forth a few times until it occurred to me that I had continued to walk backwards while taunting her. So I turned quickly around in order to get back in my class’ line. Unfortunately it was at that very moment that one of the support beams for the covered walkway happened to be directly and unavoidably in my path. I crashed face first hard into that pole. Blood exploded from my nose and mouth.
My poor mother worked at the school and they quickly called her into the bathroom where I had been rushed. There I stood covered in blood, my mother gasped, not knowing where the blood stopped and my mangled face began. Blood dripped profusely down onto my favorite shirt.
I got to go home early and convalesce on my sofa, defeated in what felt like my finest hour. I iced my nose and fat lip for what remained of the day, probably fortunate that nothing was broken or required stitching. The last time I saw the coolest shirt ever it was floating in a plastic tub full of cloudy water. The bloodstains never came out. It was a sharp reminder that I would be many things throughout my life but cool was probably never going to be one of them.


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