by Imee Cuison
The buses are late. The children play out in front of the school waiting for them. Hot. Humid. Sticky sweat. She’s ten. Almost eleven. Talking with her girl friends out on the grass.
The boys are running around. Tackling each other. Yelling over the girls’ heads. The girls sneak glances at them. Curious. What’s it like to be a boy?
The boys run circles around the girls now. Her chest tightens. The girls giggle. One girl, Heather: “Thomas, don’t you have anything better to do?” Thomas ignores her. Heather lets out a huff and rolls her eyes.
Eric Esposito has joined in now. They throw a hacky sack to each other as they run. Jamal Wooley and other boys run into the circle. The boys are smiling, winking at each other. Laughing.
Katie Staton: “Quit it! We’re trying to talk, Eric!” She tries to run after him, but he is too quick.
She says nothing. Crossing her arms over her full breasts. Maybe the buses will come. She looks up the road.
Then, Jamal Wooley reaches his hand out as he circles around the girls. And grabs her.
This is why she stopped wearing skirts with only her white thin cotton panties to block her skin, her newly blossomed pussy, from their hands, dirt under the nails. With jeans, the boys can’t touch her bare ass. With jeans and baggy shirts, she can pretend.
The boys laugh and run away. Eric and Thomas and the other boys shove Jamal. A congratulatory tussle.
The girls turn away from her. They have something very important to talk about now. She is not allowed to listen.
She speaks, “I hate when they do that.”
“Shut up. You know you like all that attention,” Katie rolls her eyes.
They go back to their girl chatter. They’re planning a sleepover for the weekend.
“I don’t know if you can come anymore. It might be too many people over anyway,” Heather says to her.
This is the way it is. In two days time, the girls will forget and accept her back, but now, they are angry. None of the girls know why they hate her, but they do.
She sees the vice principal standing, hands on hips, eyes squinting, waiting for the late buses.
She speaks, “Jamaal Wooley grabbed my butt.”
He looks down at her. “What was that?”
“The boys. Jamaal Wooley. This time. He grabbed my butt.” Her voice is soft. A whisper.
The vice principal laughs. Throws his head back in an open mouthed chuckle. “That’s not something to bother me about, okay?”
She walks away still hearing his laughter. Still seeing the sun reflecting off his glasses. His open gaping mouth.
She stands on the concrete away from the girls, away from the vice principal, away from the boys that are all in the grass.
She waits for the buses.
It’s getting late.
About the authorImee Cuison is a freelance writer based in Charleston, SC and Brooklyn, NY. She is the creative executive for Intrinsic Value Films, an independent film production company. Her prose and poetry work have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies such as Maganda Magazine, Tayo Literary Magazine, and Phatitude Literary Magazine.
Brilliant and poignant story. I remember this time in life. Peer pressure to touch; peer pressure to reject. None of it felt good. Thank you!
I agree Terry. I think Imee captured the complicated relationships young girls negotiate with each other when boys and sexuality first start to become prominent in their lives. The narrator feels violated, and hates the attention, but her friends don’t get it. It’s so hard to be a young woman.
Beautiful!!! Powerful piece captures the cruelty of adolescence. I love this line: “None of the girls know why they hate her, but they do”. Strong writing. Thank you for sharing this story.
Love it! I think I know that vice principal…when I went to mine to say someone grabbed my butt, his response, “Boys will be boys.”