I was the only child of my color who rode the school bus for years. Being “different”, of course meant that I stood out like a sore thumb among the crowd. Young and naïve – I thought that I could partake in the same games, sing the same songs, joke with the same people, and say the same words as they. Early on though, I found out that this was not the case. I remember crying and feeling so hurt because I just couldn’t fit in with the others. I was pinched, laughed at, spat upon, had my hair pulled, had my face scratched, had my lunch or my lunch money stolen countless times. I was denied a seat repeatedly until someone would finally feel pity for me and gave me their seat by moving to another row completely. The instructions from my parents were never changing – “Just pay them no mind”. I was not to say anything to them. I was not to respond in any way. “Don’t pay them any attention and they will stop.” I did just that, and it never worked. But I never told Mom.
I remember once, the bus driver passed the turn-off for my road and cursed when he looked up in the mirror and saw me sitting there, wild eyed and too afraid to say anything. I was the only child to ride the bus from my road, and we lived way at the end. Everyone sighed and complained that they had to go way down my five mile road just for me. I remember that when we came home and turned off the highway onto our road, I would small-up as much as possible and try to make myself unseen.
I wished to be invisible so that attention would not be drawn to me. No one wants to be called ugly, or dirty, or smelly, pinched, slapped or have their head flicked.
The bus ride, a twice daily hell-ritual, was my way to and from school. Getting home at the end of the day was such a treat. I could see my mom, have a snack, watch my favorite after school shows on the television set out in the den, and forget all about the kids on the bus until the next morning. Scooby Doo was a favorite of mine. I can still imagine my walk up the rocky drive way between the two matching millstones and hearing the moan of the bus as it faded into the distance. I remember how the weight lifted off my shoulders just to be alone, and home again on familiar turf. It was great to be in a place again where I was accepted, no, where I was KING – kissed by my happy dog and hugged by my mom. THEY were happy to see me. “White boy”, “soda cracker”, “big head” and “hunkey” no longer. . . well at least not until the next morning!
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