Carokashu: Kiss Chase

It was second grade when she returned to school in Louisiana. Her teacher was a large, imposing woman with bouffant hair whose pantyhose made swishing sounds as her heels clacked on the smooth classroom floor. The teacher had a habit of pinching the intimidated little girl’s irresistible cheeks.

She was at the chalkboard alone in front of the class scraping numbers after the equals sign. Her face stung, she was petrified, tears began streaming down her flushed face. The teacher said, “What’s the matter crybaby?” The class giggled and chanted crybaby, crybaby. She was frozen, her ears hot, the children’s voices became muted, far away. She was a crybaby, she wanted to stop crying, but the tears poured. Her stomach felt tight and she just wanted to disappear.

She wanted to like her teacher, but she could never trust her again after that. Her teacher would smile and hug her against her squishy belly, pretending that she cared, but the little girl knew better, she was really mean and cold-hearted. That teacher frightened her, she was a bully disguised as a nice, smiling, motherly woman in a floral polyester dress, a grownup but not really.

One day Carokashu’s sitter came to pick her up from school early for some reason, she couldn’t recall. She ran into her arms like she was being rescued, like a stray animal, crying tears of relief, what a wonderful surprise! Her sitter was so sweet and kind to her, young, bright-eyed, cheerful, innocent, almost child-like herself. She trusted her wholeheartedly.

Second grade blurred into third, then fourth, she can’t recall much of significance from those, except her drawings were chosen to be displayed and she had her appendix out at some point. She’d awaken during the night it must’ve been evening because her father would still be awake. She’d sleepily stagger out down the short hallway into the harsh light of the dining room and softly say, “My stomach hurts,” with her hand over her belly.

In third grade they did calisthenics in the classroom, she liked that. Nothing stands out at all from fourth grade. Fifth grade was her favorite teacher, Ms. Bauman. Her dad also got her a violin in fifth grade because she made good grades. She took lessons at school and remembers playing Bad Bad Leroy Brown.

Ms. Bauman made her feel smart, accepted, even special. Those were some of the happiest days she’d had in school. She was timid and shy with other grownups but not with Ms. Bauman. She felt at home in that class, it was in a T building. The dusty playground was in the back. A memory that sticks is when this wiry, tough little boy named Johnny cornered her up against the back wall of the T building during recess, his body pressed up against her, his face in hers, she could feel his breath as he said something about “p****.” She didn’t understand. He had angry, dark eyes and she was shocked, couldn’t move, she didn’t comprehend what was happening, but it was over in a few seconds.

Why did he do that, why her? She was wary of him after and avoided him if she could, she was terrified it would happen again, but it didn’t. There had been some school bullies, another one was in 8th grade, more “p****” talk from a girl in choir, also out of the blue for no reason. The girl asked, “You like to eat p****? You ever had your p**** ate?” Carokashu was speechless and confused. Later as an adult, she wondered if these children were sexually abused.

A vague memory of falling in the mud and having to depend on a classmate’s mother to bring her clothes rises like a phantom. She can see herself wearing a polyester baby blue pantsuit with some shiny tan and beige shoes like pointy Mary Jane’s. She felt grown up wearing them except for her thin white lacy edged anklets. A picture of the big oak near the muddy puddles of water that formed a miniature creek in the dusty playground after it rained flashed in her mind and she could see the bright red thin wriggling worms she was fascinated with one time.

Children running everywhere, no teachers in sight, or maybe one. Oh, the sweaty thrill of playing kiss chase with Mark and Kurt, crushes in 6th-grade, mwah. They’d gather at the farthest corner near a chain-link fence so there would be less risk of them being noticed. Oh, the scandal!

Andre was over, they were in her room. “Let’s play doctors,” it was agreed. They knew it was forbidden so they slid the wooden slatted closet doors shut. She laid back while he pulled her shirt up and pretended to listen with an imaginary stethoscope. Her mother slid the door open scolding, “What are y’all doing?” They stared wide-eyed, caught, “Playing doctors?”  “Y’all come out of there where I can see you, that’s enough of doctors for today!” Her mama smiled and led the way out down the hall to the living room where the huge toy chest and piano beckoned.

Andre was her first crush. They were around four or five years old. Their eyes would lock and they’d both smile, all lit up though they couldn’t place a name on the feeling, that special excitement, like swinging really high or spinning too fast on a merry go round type of rush. Later she’d experience that same crush with another Andre her freshman year in college. Ooh, la la, ooh la la. She and pre-school Andre played doctor at every chance, in the closet, in big cardboard boxes, they somehow knew they should hide, they felt naughty with the added fear of getting caught.

Fourth excerpt from Carokashu

Michelle Miyagi
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