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A Hand to Reach For

I put on my striped bright pink shirt and matching pink pants to wear on my first day of second grade at the Holy Spirit Catholic School and then headed downstairs two steps at a time to eat breakfast, which my mom prepared for me each morning, usually cooking over-easy eggs and dressing them with fresh tomatoes, Canadian bacon, and a double-fiber English muffin, a smell that caused my mouth to water and my stomach to growl furiously, demanding to be filled with food; after satisfying my hunger, I walked to school, which was only two minutes from the front door of our cobblestone dwelling, of course looking both directions before crossing the street; the church was located directly across from my bedroom window so that whenever I glanced outside I was always reminded to say my daily prayers, which we said out loud simultaneously in church each morning at precisely nine o’ clock; as I entered through the carved wooden double doors of the cathedral, the scent of warm vanilla sugar candles wafted through the air; my dark eyes scanned the pews and the glossy stage near the altar, searching for Father John, but instead of seeing the usual pale wrinkled face, I spotted a smooth African man with rectangular glasses perched on his wide flat nose wearing clean, iron-pressed robes and a crystal rosary hanging around his slim neck; I stared at him confusedly before sliding in a pew nearby as he began his lecture, his accent heavily emphasized, so much that I couldn’t understand a single word he uttered; I turned my head in all directions, hoping to spot Priest John’s familiar face; the black man began to discuss something about Moses, his voice was giving me a terrible headache; I felt trapped in between other people’s body heat, crammed within a sea of students; I couldn’t deal with the heat, the proximity, this unfamiliar man’s voice; the room started to spin as I concentrated more on deciphering his mumbling, beads of sweat forming along my hairline, pressing my clammy palms against my jeans; I wanted him to stop talking, I begged him to shut his mouth, trying to send him telepathic messages; it wasn’t working; unable to handle it anymore, I staggered towards the girls’ restroom, outstretching my fingers towards the doorknob, but it was too late; I vomited all over the stage near the priest’s polished dress shoes, hearing disgusted gasps and seeing a black hand reach for me, his soft voice gurgled in the background before darkness completely enveloped me; but the voice that I didn’t understand, a voice that was foreign to me, belonged to a stranger who was willing to help a young girl with the stomach flu; a voice of incomprehensiveness that was just within my grasp.



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