Monday, December 19, 2005

Vicki's Story, Part Eight

Click here to read Part One
Click here to read Part Two
Click here to read Part Three
Click here to read Part Four
Click here to read Part Five
Click here to read Part Six
Click here to read Part Seven

Part Eight

At this point, I was half way through sixth grade and I already felt like I was forty years old. I sat at my desk, surrounded by eleven-year olds, feeling like I’d been here before many times already…decades ago…reliving my youth over and over again like some desperate character in some ironic Greek myth. I didn’t feel wise beyond my years by any means…just tired.

One afternoon, the teacher passed out our Weekly Readers and we took turns reading aloud, one paragraph at a time – voices winding up and down the rows of desks like a rattlesnake about to strike. This was a situation of complete safety. While some of my classmates struggled to read well aloud, I loved to read. I counted ahead and figured out which paragraph I was to read and scoured it for the bigger words. I practiced it in my head several time. However, when it came to my turn, instead of asking me to read, the teacher asked me to answer some poignant questions about the material we had just read.

I, of course, couldn’t answer any of them because I had been too busy practicing my paragraph to be paying attention to what anyone else had been reading. I admitted defeat which resulted in the all-too-familiar gales of laughter from my merciless classmates, who just seconds before my reproof had themselves been sweating their way through the exercise, mispronouncing words as simplex as “cereal.”

Angela, the smartest girl in the class, was sitting behind me. Stripped of my reading privileges, my thoughts retreated deep into another world as Angela flawlessly read through my paragraph.

I relived the moment of humiliation over and over again in my head as Angela droned on, citing boring, useless facts about the rock badger. Only one word came to comfort me as their laughter echoed in my head, “reality…” This life of mine, it was just reality. Face it.

I wrote “REALITY” vertically down the side margin of my weekly reader in big, block letters. I had never written a poem in my life, unless you counted that Haiku incident in second grade, but that was all done under duress, so it hardly counted.

From out of the “R” I penciled in, “Roses are not always read.” I was intrigued by my own cleverness to pun the word red, which is probably the only reason I bothered to go on. Almost without any thought, I scribbled out phrases after each of the remaining letters until I had a poem scrawled all over the back of my Weekly Reader.

R Roses are not always read

E Even beauty has thorns in its bed
A Always look at every side
L Look in deeper, see the pride
I In your heart you’ll find the key
T Try to change it, you will see
Y You cannot change reality

Okay, so it was dripping with irony and self-pity, but it wasn’t too bad for an eleven year old. What I realized then and there wasn’t necessarily that I had the ability to write poetry, but that poetry had the ability to break the spell of self-pity. Because I was able to articulate my hurt, the hurt went away. I know all of life isn’t this simple. But at eleven years old, I felt empowered. If I could write a poem about how I was feeling, then I must be feeling something very normal. If it wasn’t normal, it wouldn’t have words. As long as it had words, it meant that it was real, and if it was real, then I was real and all the lies about my not belonging on the planet and not fitting in and no one loving me couldn’t really be true.

I was so pleased over my new discovery, and a poem to read to my mom on the drive home from school that I didn’t even fight back when Brian, my arch-nemesis, tripped me on my way out the door. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and just kept walking towards the door, the Weekly Reader proudly tucked under my arm.

“Icky Vicki! Icky Vicki!” He called down the hall after me.

Icky Vicki….that’s really original!” I yelled back, suddenly realizing how uncreative the taunt really was.

Then, it was that very moment, the poet in me rose up and took the baton. The frightened, insecure girl that had once been holding onto it so tightly, relinquished her burden. It was the poet’s turn now. Self-confidence spread all over my body as I sat in the parking lot in mom’s car reading my poem to her, her face beaming with a blinding smile.

It was a whole new ball game now. Poor Brian…he never stood a chance after that. Yes, Brian, as he was very soon to find out, would have to watch his step from now on….especially if his shoelaces happened to be untied. Ah yes, Brian’s shoelaces…but that’s another story entirely…



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