lundi, février 09, 2004

Like Silk

My parents went through a health food craze when I was in elementary school. We had carob chips instead of chocolate, a sesame candy bar inexplicably called a "Wha Guru Chew", and, most difficult to explain of all, alfalfa sprout and cheese sandwiches on wheat bread.

As if being a little white girl with a big nose and a strange name (I was dubbed "Pinocchio" for years) in an inner city black school was not enough to draw unwanted attention, I would pull out one of these sandwiches in the lunch room from my metal Holly Hobby lunchbox, and slowly began to eat it, fervently hoping no one would notice. Inevitably, the comments came from all around.

"Shit!" I would hear, "she eatin' grass!" Then the sound of unbelieving laughter. There was no use explaining alfalfa sprouts. Pomegranates illicited mere wide eyed stares. I would look up at the painted mural on the lunchroom walls, meant to be the image of multi-culturalism and inclusion, and gaze at "Jose" happily eating his tamale, and "Mailee" merrily diving into her fried rice, and think, there's no Penelope with alfalfa sprouts.

In the line for the cafeteria one day, my long straight blond hair tempted the little girl behind me until she could stand it no longer. She grabbed it, separated it into sections and braided it, her fingers flying. In an instant, it was transformed into a perfect long plait down my back. The girl let go of it, and stepped back to admire her work. With no band to secure it, it quickly came undone. Surprised that my hair was not coarse enough to hold on its own, she muttered disgustedly under her breath, as if she could think of no more offensive a word,

"Your hair, it's like silk."

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