sonia-sanchezBy Sonia Sanchez

As a teenager I was very shy. I always felt so conspicuous that I talked with my 
head down, walked with my head down, and would have slept with my head 
down if sleeping had demanded a standing position. It was with difficulty that I mustered up courage to ask Mr. Castor again and again, “But how do you factor that equation? I don’t understand how it’s done.”

And he kept pointing to the book and looking upward, as if the combination of those actions would give me the immediate joy of an answer.

A sound from the back of the class made me turn around. It was the “people”—the “people” who sat in the back and talked when they wanted to, ate their lunches when they wanted to, and paid attention when they wanted to. They were paying attention to Mr. Castor and me. And I shook. I always wanted to be inconspicuous around the “people.”

Odessa screamed, “Sit down, Mr. Castor. You don’t know crap. Norma, go up front and teach that little ‘pip-squeak’ how to do this algebra.

As Mr. Castor moved to the sidelines, like some dejected player, Norma got up and began her slow walk up to the blackboard.

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Copyright © 1984 by Sonia Sanchez. Reprinted with permission from Sonia Sanchez, Homegirls and Handgrenades (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1984).