Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Counter Spark

There. The conclusive multiple choice answer to the one hundreth question of my last final. I am one of the first to finish. Bonus! With renewed vigor and confidence, I bolster my now textbook-free shoulderbag over my arm, throw open the doors of Old Main and walk into the sunlight, onto the quad, and away from my first year of college.
Growing older has changed my perception of myself. I slept in this sweatshirt. My hair is piled haphazardly into a messy braid. Even so, I still feel pretty. I can smell the shampoo in my hair and the intermingled scents of several perfumes that ordinarily would be awful, but make up a kind of personal medley of smell. I smile at all who pass, sniff the air and reflect on the coming summer. As I speedwalk to the shuttlestop, I catch a whiff on the wind-- it's a mixture of wet hay, mud, and the early morning smell in spring-- and I am transported.

I used to walk to school.
That was before a bus came to the end of our street-- before all the black ice in winter, when Angela Turnbow let her little brother fall on his bottom so she could hold me up while we walked down the hill.

8:00. My socks are folded, the perfect tinted fushia to match my shirt with the cat faces.
"Today's the day," I would remind myself each morning, as I zipped up one of many colored jackets.

Malibu Musk. $4.75.

I borrowed Sasha's tight yellow and black shirt and I'm wearing one of Koseli's sports bras, even though I'm not even close to needing it. They won't know. No one will.
I won't take off my coat.

It's early morning, and I hear the loud bell from Monte Vista Elementary School from my backyard. It fills me with nerves. Koseli jumps from the swingset.
"We're going to be late!"
She runs faster than me over the dewdrop grass, a spot of red jacket beyond my reach.

Recess. I'm lying facedown on the blacktop. Rocks. Blood. My tooth has fallen out. My glasses are broken.

Mrs. Terran's kindergarten class. Chalkboards. Graham crackers.
The tiny desks and chairs are filled once again with my classmates. I hold Cecily's hand as the teacher asks, "Joslynn, where are you going?"
Not knowing how to respond, I tell her, "I'll come back!" as I grab my pink backpack off its hook and ran.

First grade. I chatter to Koseli on the bus about a turquoise crayon I found in my totetray. Sun-warmed leather. Dirty leather. Dust. She corrects me; it is not turquoise, it is blue-green.

We cut over the canal road and the blue corrals on the way to Mrs. Tripp's class. The horses lift their heads from damp hay and whinny a welcome, their hot breath frosts on their noses and their eyes are warm and brown... anxiety.

The shuttle arrives at last and I am snapped from my reverie.
For one instant-- one single, flashing moment-- I begin to climb onto the bus and I am still the little girl I once was; the shy girl with scared eyes, big glasses, and even bigger teeth.
The next second I am myself again-- the embodiement of that little girl; her dream, her future, in physical form.
I square my shoulders and step onboard.