S. Smith: Fitting Back Into My Life, 2

Well? I hear Yolanda asking me.

Well, what?

You want to come out and hang with Mimi and Troy and them on Friday? Especially since you stopped tripping.

I ain't been tripping. I try to smile. I say, I told you my Momma had me on restriction until my grades improved.

Umhmmm. Your Momma must have had you on fashion restriction, too, huh?

She cuts her eyes at me. Her long lashes shade them so I can't tell if she is only joking or not. I feel my face get hot.

Before I can think of anything to say, Yolanda asks again, So, does this mean you can hang with us Friday?

She is looking directly at me now. There is a challenge in Yolonda's eyes, like she dares me to stay out past Momma's curfew, but I'm past a time when that will motivate me. Truthfully, the idea of being around them all scares me.

I'll think about it and let you know.

For a second, Yolanda stands still, her mouth hanging open. I keep walking, looking at the sidewalk. I won't stop for her.

Hmph, she says. She quickens her pace to catch up to me. Well, then. You just let me know, ok?

For a beat, she is quiet. Then, Dang, she mutters under her breath.

Yolanda's locker is on the opposite end of the hallway from mine, so we part company without saying another word, except, See you later. It is funny how the last three months of being to myself and just generally avoiding folks has rid me of stress. I mean, before, I would be the first one agreeing to hang out. By the time I showed my face at home, Moms would be like, in a yelling fit.

When I started being in my room more, first Moms was kind of smug, saying stuff like, Oh, you staying home studying? I think she was happy about me studying more cuz that's our agreement. She goes to work and makes money and my job is to get the grades. Pretty soon, though, she starts asking, You mad with your little friends? After a few weeks, it was, Don't you want to go hang out with Yolanda? Or, Don't you get tired of being by yourself? That was the closest she ever came to asking me if I was alright. I think she was afraid that if she asked me outright what was up, I might throw one of my fits and stay out all night or something, like I had started doing last summer. I know she didn't wanna rock the boat, since I was staying around more and, for the most part, we was getting along for once. One time, though, I just told her that teenagers go through phases.

One night after that, I caught her in my room watching me when she thought I was asleep. I had one of my pillows pulled up under my chin, hiding me. She just stood there like the moon. The hallway light only lit up half of her face. She must've stood there like 15 minutes. Then she buried her face in her hands for a minute, like she was washing her face with her hands or something.

I wanted to say something to her then. I wanted to ask her to hold me, let me just be her baby again. I just wanted to behave like I did when I was a little girl. I wanted to believe that she could fix everything. But I was more afraid that she would think I was stupid. Whenever she stressed me about hanging out, I always told her how I knew how to handle myself. I know what I'm doing.

But I was really afraid that if I told her, she would get that hurt look in her eyes and that would be the way she looked at me until the day I died. She always told me that she wanted better for me. I mean, she always told me things. I'm not stupid. I might've acted like I wasn't listening, but I was. She always told me what to watch out for. And she was right.

First period was alright. Homeroom study period, how hard can that be, right? I do some studying, but mostly I scribble on some paper. I just draw an Ankh or try and sketch a glass, half-empty, with a shadow cast behind it. I try to capture the reflection of light on the surface of the liquid in the glass. By the end of second period Algebra, I started tapering off, losing energy. I realize that I didn't get today's homework done last night. I don' t know what I was thinking about in homeroom. I could have done it in there. I can turn the assignment in late, but I'll lose a grade point. And, let's face it, Algebra isn't my best topic. I'm glad to be out of there when the bell rings, even though my next class is history.

World War II don't mean anything to me today. I am just going through the motions of class. I ain't even trying, although I write notes. I can't tell you what they say. I hate Mr. Kirsch, anyways. He thinks that the stuff he talking about means something today, but it don't. How is the battle in the Pacific relevant to my life? My mind floats up towards the ceiling by the end of the class. I feel like I'm outta my body, watching me sitting here not listening. I don't really like these classes, anyways. Not to mention, I didn't get any sleep last night. But that was like a dream to me. It seems like it was so long ago.

On my way to the gym for P.E. fourth period, I keep tugging on my skirt. I feel like it is riding up, up, up. I see Troy across the way. His head is leaned all towards Mimi so that her hair is touching his fade. She got her hair styled short, sections of it are pulled straight and bumped under so that it looks like she got glossy, black ribbons on her head. It is really cute. Troy keeps his head bent toward her, listening but I feel his eyes following me, looking at the swing of that short skirt. I pull at it, when I think he's not looking. I miss my big Karl Kani sweatshirts and those baggy jeans or sweats I been wearing.

Miss Phelps lets me outta P.E. today. She is cool and don't ever stress us. It's like she understands when you be going through something. And she dresses good, too, for a P.E. teacher. She always wearing some phat designer sweats or on those days when they have volleyball games, she wear suits like my Moms. She slender, looks more like a dancer than anything, with those long legs. But I heard she used to run track. World class, even. But she is too cool.

For months, on those days when I couldn't fake it, she wouldn't stress me about not breaking a sweat or anything. That way, I didn't even have to shower with them other girls or hide in one of those closed off shower stalls, jumping every time someone walked by, afraid they might see me. Lots of times during P.E., I would run the track. I'd just run because I wanted to keep myself in shape. And I did, too, because I can fit into this skirt and I am like I was.

Today, though, I told Miss Phelps I was bleeding and that was all it took. And with my flow like this, it is too disgusting to be thinking about jumping or running. I don't think I could, with my cramps being such that they is.

The whole period, Miss Phelps just had me in her office, organizing some index cards on the volleyball team. After class, she come in and looks at me funny. Are you feeling alright, Tanya?

Mmhmm, I say.

Do you have lunch during this next period?


Well, you go on. Thanks for your help with these cards.

I get up to go. I didn't dress out today.

As I walk out she says, I hope you feel better.


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