"Gold is not a color!" Kate insisted, stomping her foot on the slightly muddy surface of the playground, "My father's a jeweller, and I should know."
I didn't really see what her father being a jeweller had to do with my answer of "gold" to the question of which crayon color was my favorite. I liked its different-ness, its metallic reflections, the way it would make a whole coloring book object shine when you pressed down hard enough, and filled up the princess' engagment ring or the prince's crown.
Kate said "I should know" to just about everything, and even though I had just recently met her, I was beginning to suspect that maybe she should, but that didn't mean she necessarily did. It was one of those adult phrases she liked to parrot, and inevitably it would stun most of our classmastes into silence for its brashness. No one dared respond that her father was not in fact a jeweller, but the very effeminate window dresser of a local jewelery shop. I suppose we must have sensed that do so would break some elementary school code of letting people have their illusions. There was Besty who thought she could fly, and would swoop around the halls and playground, her arms extended like a brave eagle. She would run and flap, and shout into the wind, and none of us was ever tempted to tell her that she was still on the ground. She also thought she was a character in a television show, and sometimes insisted on being called "Mrs. Marple." There was Bryon, who was obsessed with Spiderman, and would cover his notebooks, compositions and backpack with remarkably well drawn sketches of the superhero in different poses. No one pointed out to him that he was obssessed with a cartoon character. We avoided bursting each others' bubbles, there was an unspoken solidarity among the few white kids that it was hard enough to be a "honkey" without having your security blanket of an illusion being yanked from your little hands.
The day I met Kate was the first day of kindergarten, and I excitedly came home announcing I had made a "Chinese" friend. Petite and fragile, with a rather large head and ears that stuck out, Kate had worn her too short hair in pigtails tied so tight to the sides of her head that they actually pulled her eyes into slants.
In comparison, I was tall and blonde and outgoing, and I suppose I felt rather like I had stumbled upon a real live China doll I could carry around and protect, and play with until I got bored and left it sitting on a shelf somewhere in my room, remaining on the periphery of my conciousness, jogging a memory whenever I passed and caught its eyes.
To be continued....