The boy named David socked her in the stomach so hard it took her breath away. She fell on her back on his driveway and gasped for a breath, what a brat she thought…he had sucker punched her! After about a minute or two she was on her feet again dusting off her blue jeans and thinking about kicking him…right at the place where her mother told her counted the most. She thought about it but instead gave him the best “go to hell” look an eleven year old can give, turned in her Keds and carted off to her own yard. It wasn’t worth it. That David kid was as queer as a three dollar bill and he didn’t even know it. At least she knew…she was as odd as he was and just trying to be his friend.
She had always known she was different, but she had really got to thinking about it in the last month. Every since that day at Harrison Lane Elementary when the teacher divided up the girls and the boys for “the talk.” The girls were sent to the cafeteria and the boys were hustled to the gym. The P.E. teacher, Miss Pam, who looked like Paul McCartney, stood up to speak. She was “different” too, she just knew it. She wore track suits to school every day and had a pair of sneakers to match each suit. Miss Pam bit her fingernails down to the quick and wore no make-up like the other teachers….and no exaggeration, she looked like the Beatle in his mop-top heyday.
Miss Pam doubled as the health teacher and when she stood up that day she started talking about the differences in boys and girls. The girls watched a film on just how different they were and what would be happening to their bodies in the next year or two. Juju sat there kind of disgusted. She couldn’t believe that was going to happen to her…and all to have babies!?! If you knew you weren’t going to have kids why did this have to happen??
The film had prompted a discussion that night with Juju’s mother. At the end of the talk, Juju knew what her mother had done to have seven babies, she would never do. She got the nerve up to tell her mother she day-dreamed quite a lot, but wouldn’t tell her mother about what. She was told that day-dreaming was perfectly normal and to not be worried. Juju wondered if she were somehow broken. She knew the day-dreams were not the normal thing for an eleven year old girl to think about…she was worried. That day however had yielded too much information, her worries would have to wait for another day. Until then, Juju went about her daily activities, hoping one day she would have all the answers to the questions swirling in her mind.
Juju knew why the neighborhood boys wouldn’t let David play with them. He was called a sissy-boy most times..or told to go play school with the other “girls.” But the thing she didn’t get is why they let her, an actual girl, play tackle football with them? Her best buddy, Rod, had looked at her and said, “I don’t know, you can just play, but don’t spit, girls don’t spit.” Okay, note to self, stop buying the gum that came in a package that looked like chewing tobacco…and stop spitting like the boys did. Juju had it, David’s differences excluded him, her’s kept her in the clique. The boys thought it was odd if she jumped rope or played school with the girls, but they always reminded her there were certain lines she just could not cross.
This being different thing was hard to deal with and issues came up just about every day. Juju had been thinking weird thoughts since she was five years old and now she was beginning to think that they had something to do with the film at school and the talk she had with her mother. Those thoughts, her day-dreams, were going to remain hers for a while, she needed to figure this out for herself first, then tell somebody. Juju had learned some valuable lessons that week. The most valuable one she had learned was to be careful with whom she reached out to…David had not liked her inquiry that preceded the punch. By his reaction Juju knew he had day-dreams too and she had secretly smiled as she walked back to her house that day holding her stomach. Wow, she thought, mother was right, the truth does hurt.