I was in the first grade.
My older brother would grab me by the neck and walk me like a dog on a leash to school every morning, that particular day he didn’t. I got out of our tiny bathroom and stepped into the kitchen to find he’d already left. I wasn’t late, he was just impatient. My mom told me I didn’t have to go to school that day, or if I wanted to I’d have to wait for her and my baby sister to get ready. She didn’t want to leave her alone with my uncle, not after what he had done to me. My mom hadn’t even brushed her teeth yet and Monisha, my baby sister, was still sleeping. “Ami ajkay eka eka jabo₁,” I told my mom. She was hesitant at first, but in the end she caved, and let me go to school alone. I was super ready that day, more ready than I’ve ever been. She told me not to walk through the park, “go straight to 4th avenue first then walk to school from there,” she said.
So I walked to school by myself for the first time that day. I locked the front door of my tiny house in Sunset Park and walked to the left, past the little quarter machines where I would buy little rubber balls for my collection, past the deli and grocery on the corner where my friend Iftu claims he once bought me an orange bag of chips, past the pizzeria where they had the biggest cookies I’ve ever seen for only 1 dollar, and I crossed the street. I walked under the Brooklyn Expressway over-bridge on 3rd avenue and then crossed the street again when I got to the corner of 34th and 3rd. The basketball courts were empty. I felt like I was the only person awake at this early hour. I walked from one corner to the next, diagonally to cut the distance. I remember thinking, if I blinked all the events of the world would change and no one would know because no one knows the future, and so I blinked, again and again and every time I would be in a different world.
I walked up to 4th avenue and started towards 30th street where my school was located. There was a cop car. I noticed it as soon as I got to the avenue. The car moved slowly. I knew they were following me, or least I thought they were. Half a block from P.S. 172 they turned on their sirens; I pretended I didn’t hear it and kept walking. One of the cops opened the car door and called me over. I was so scared, I thought they were going to take me to jail for walking to school alone. At that moment I was so angry with my brother for leaving me that morning, if he hadn’t been so impatient I wouldn’t have to feel this way right now, I wouldn’t be a criminal. I didn’t walk over to the car because I never trusted cops, till this day I don’t. They asked me where I was going, how old I was, and why I was walking alone. It’s not like they didn’t know where I was headed; my school was only a couple of feet away. Stupid cops, I thought, they just wanted to make an issue about it because I’m a little kid and I’m easy to pick on. My whole body was trembling when I told them I was only 6, they asked me to step inside the car. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to be in the same car as two male cops, I didn’t trust men, and my parents always told me not to get into a car with anyone. I just stood there like a deer in headlights. There was a woman walking ahead of me who was taking her child to school, he was probably in kindergarten. She was Hispanic, her hair was dark brown and her skin fair. I remember I thought she was beautiful, like an angel. She offered to walk me to school since she was going there anyway, and I was walking alone. I didn’t wait for the cops to agree I just ran up to her and thanked her. She had saved me from going to jail. I was so relieved; I felt like I could breathe again.
I walked up the stairs to my class only to be pulled out again by my first grade teacher, Ms. Varote. She took me to the auditorium and sat me down. First she started pacing then with great difficulty she sat down, and turned her face towards me. As soon as I saw it I was terrified again, more so than I was of the cops earlier. Her face was as red as a cherry, she looked liked the Pillsbury doughboy blown up to ten times his size. Her curly blond messy hair looked as if it was dripping wet with sweat. She yelled at me till no end, I thought she might hit me; with one hit I was sure I would be dead looking at the size of her. Her hand was double the size of my head! Her cheeks got redder and redder by the second, and her head shook violently as she blurted out words I didn’t understand. I don’t know if she was yelling at me in Italian or I was just too scared to understand the actual words. Her mouth opened so wide when she yelled, my whole head could probably be the size of her bite. I cried and wiped my tears with the sleeve of my worn-out-navy-blue sweater that used to be my brother’s. After awhile I couldn’t even bare to look at her anymore, I just shut my eyes and cried. I don’t know how much time past, but after she stopped yelling at me, she told me to stay there and wait for her. She came back within a minute, took me back to class, and hated me for the rest of the year.
1. I will go alone today
– Shammy 9/29/09