I don’t understand why we have to move and I don’t think I ever will. Our lives were perfect in Venezuela. Well, not exactly perfect; we were very poor and that will most likely stay the same no matter where we are. My mom and dad both speak english well considering they were born and raised in Venezuela. They’re hoping that’s enough to get a good job because even though they had an education in Venezuela, it means nothing here.
School is horrible. I really don’t think I’ve ever been so scared to go to school in my entire life. Usually I’m good in school, but I’m too busy thinking about what people are thinking of me to concentrate on the teacher. Even if someone just glances over at me, I assume they’re internally laughing at me and I can feel myself start to turn red. From the minute my older sister, Nana, and I walked into Desert Mountain High School, we felt like foreigners. What we would call las gringas in Venezuela. It’s immediately clear to me that the majority of the students here are white. And rich. Meaning Nana and I stuck out like sore thumbs. We couldn’t stand out more if we tried.
After a solid minute of staring at everyone, I grabbed Nana’s hand.
“Um, excuse me, can you tell me where the main office is?” I asked the closest person, a girl with long blonde hair and fair skin.
“Ugh, no!” I could hear the attitude coming from her voice, but I decided not to reply to her and instead asked someone else.
“Uh, hi, can you please tell me where the main office is?” I was trying to sound exasperated so that someone would take pity on me.
“Keep walking down this hallway, make the right right, main office is the second door on your left,” A tall boy with curly light brown hair answered, smiling.
“Oh, thanks,” I replied. I could feel myself turning red. All I could think about was if he noticed my accent and what he thought of it.
Once we made it to the main office, we had to get our schedules and check in with attendance. Even the wrinkly old lady sitting at a messy desk glared at us like we did something wrong. It seemed like she was simply annoyed by our presence. I stood there, waiting for her to say something, a simple “hello” would have sufficed. Yet, she looked back down at the paper she was writing on. After too much uncomfortable silence, I cleared my throat, and said,
“Excuse me, my sister and I just moved here. Can we have our schedules please?”
The woman fixed her big, red glasses and heaved a great sigh.
“Are you Naynah and Camomile?” She said our names so completely wrong that it was hard not to laugh.
“Yes, I’m Camila and this is Nana.”
“Here are your schedules. You’re already late to first period, so try to get there as fast as you can.”
I had math first period in room 109. Nana had art on the third floor, so we had to go our separate ways. Math was the only class I was actually looking forward to, because even if my english wasn’t that good, the numbers are the same.
I get to the class and walk in, not wanting to stop to look in the room. I walked up to the teacher, and quietly said,
“Excuse me, I’m new.”
“Welcome Camila. I’m Mr. Martin,” the plump man bellowed. “Why don’t you go sit behind Jackson, Jackson raise your hand please,” he said, looking at a boy who seemed very focused on his math work. He is the only one who seemed to be doing anything.
“JACKSON!” The teacher yelled, trying desperately to get the boy’s attention.
“Oh, sorry,” I heard a familiar voice say. As I looked up to see what Jackson actually looked like, I realized he was the one person who offered to give me directions. I quietly made my way down the aisle to sit behind Jackson.
Math flew by. I knew everything. I don’t know why I’m so good at it, or why everyone else is so bad at it. I guess if you don’t like something, it’s harder for you to understand it because no matter how hard you try to study for it, there is something inside of you that tells you no and makes you forget absolutely everything. That’s me for history. It’s all just memorizing dates and people’s names. I understand why we learn about it, but I just internally refuse to, I guess.
The day flies by, and soon enough it’s already lunch time. I text Nana on my flip phone quickly, trying to ensure that no one would see it.
“Meet me near the main office.”
I look up from my phone and I notice all the cliques. There’s so many different groups of people. The jocks, the nerds, the populars. Being athletic or pretty instantly meant you were popular. No one cared about you if you weren’t. I can feel eyes on me, and I automatically turn red and start to sweat.
“Go back to your own country!” I hear one of the popular girls, Olivia yell. A bunch of giggles follow her comment. I roll my eyes and try to ignore them.
The comments continue.
Suddenly, I see all the girls turn around and walk away. I’m shocked and curious as to why they left me, then I see Mr. Martin walking toward me with a concerned look on his face. Of course, it’s my first day and already the teachers are concerned about me.
“Are you okay, Camila?’
“Yea, thanks,” I reply calmly, trying to sound as if what had just happened didn’t make me want to punch a hole through the window.
Mr. Martin accepts defeat, and walks away. I watch him walk and see him turn back to look at me one more time. Just as he is turning his head to look where he is going, I see Nana walking down the hallway towards me.
“Hey sis,” she starts cheerily, “how’s your day been so far?”
“Really Nan?” I reply, suddenly very annoyed at Nana.Why was she so happy? Did she not get the same treatment as I did?
“Guess it didn’t go well then,” Nana answered, rolling her eyes back so far that I’m surprised she can still see.
The rest of the day is a nightmare, but the walk home is even worse. Our family just moved here, of course we wouldn’t live in the fanciest or biggest house. We actually lived in an apartment, not a house. All the privileged white kids drove their cars back to their overly decorated mansions. Nana and I walked to our apartment complex. The whole way walking back, there is a black porsche following us. Nana is nervous at first, but I know it’s just Olivia, trying to scare us. I don’t even get the point of that. Why would anyone want to make someone else feel so low?
Suddenly, I feel something hit my eye, and hard. I lose my balance and Nana tries to catch me yet fails. When I regain my balance, all I see is the black porsche speeding away. I kneel down and pick up the flying object that nearly blinded me. It’s a lacrosse ball, probably left by one of her boyfriends. Nevertheless, it was definitely going to leave a mark. The rest of the walk home is dead silence. I don’t think I’ve ever had nothing to say to Nana.
The next day, I am terrified to show my face at school. My eye is so black and blue it looks like there is a whole going straight through my head. Nana and I enter the school and immediately part ways. I look down to avoid glares and practically run to math class.
When I get to math, I’m the only one there. Well, other than Mr. Martin. I guess I should’ve walked slower.
I look up.
“Camila, what happened to your eye?” Mr. Martin questions.
“Nothing, it’s nothing.”
“Camila,” he is interrupted by a crowd of kids walking into the room, all lead by Olivia. When she sees my black eye, she can’t help but laugh hysterically.
“I guess you have to watch out for the lacrosse balls next time!”
I look at Olivia and immediately look down at my desk. As more students enter the classroom, I can hear Mr. Martin’s dress shoes tapping on the floor.
“Camila,” he squats next to my desk. “You are staying after class. Do not leave.”
I shake my head in acknowledgement.
He lets out a sigh before he stands up and I can hear the tapping of his shoes getting softer as he walks away.
By the time math is over, I’m dreading the talk I know Mr. Martin is going to have with me.
When all the students have left except for me, Mr. Martin calls me over to his desk.
“Camila, come here please.”
I quietly follow his orders.
“Now, explain to me what is going on here.”
“Nothing,” I reply, looking down.
“Camila, you have to tell me if something is going on.”
“There isn’t anything going on!” I raise my voice, very frustrated at him for trying so hard, but I’m still grateful that I know someone actually cares about me.
“Camila stop. Breathe, and just tell me. How did you get the black eye?”
“I got hit.”
“A lacrosse ball.”
“Is that what Olivia was talking about at the beginning of class?”
I shake my head to say yes.
“And what happened yesterday. When those girls were crowding around you?”
“They were just calling me names, it’s not a big deal Mr. Martin.” I try to sound like what they were doing was actually okay.
“Did they say something along the lines of ‘Go back to your country’?”
“Yea, how did you know?” I ask him, completely shocked.
“Because it happened to me to, Camila. I was born in Argentina and moved here was I was eight. Everyone made fun of me for looking different and because of the way I spoke.” I look at Mr. Martin and I’m actually thankful for him right now.
“No one should treat you badly just because they don’t like something about you that you have no control over. It’s not fair. They’re harassing you because of who you are and your culture, but everyone has different traditions and beliefs. That shouldn’t be something to fight over, it should be something to bond over.” I know Mr. Martin teaches math, but he totally sounded like an english teacher. For a few seconds, I thought about what he said, and about how this shouldn’t have to affect me so negatively. Suddenly, I look up at him and just hug him.
“Thank you Mr. Martin,” I say as I collect my belongings to head to science. I’m almost out of the door when I remember I need a pass.
“Can I have a pass?” I ask frantically.
“Yes you may Camila.” I see him scribble a quick signature and he hands me the pass. I just smile at him before I leave.
After our conversation, I didn’t try to run to class anymore. I didn’t try to hide my face or my culture, for that matter. I realized that being from Venezuela is who I am, and where would we be today if everyone was the same? I took Mr. Martin’s motivational lecture to heart, and even made a few friends along the way.