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Weirdo is what we called her
because her name couldn't fit into our mouths.
In our second-grade classroom while we were throwing books
across the classroom and wrestling on the rug,
she was reading a chapter book.
In the corner, alone,
with concentration that couldn't possibly be natural.
It was like watching water stand still.
And I can't remember her saying a word.
She didn't like playing tag either.
She ran funny.
Her skinny legs took her nowhere.
Once she was it,
that was it – game over.
She wore green leggings
(Sometimes, they still had tomato sauce stains from last night's dinner)
with “sensible sneakers”
without any brand name.
Because her dad refused to condone Nike sweatshops
A view that I would adopt later in life
But was allowed to be blissfully unaware of until she told me
while she sat on the sidelines during gym in middle school.
That same day
she told me she wanted pink spaghetti strap tops
and platform sandals like all the other girls
She'd started crying in a shoe store once
when her mother wouldn't buy them for her.
I nodded my head
But she never gave me the chance to tell her
before she went back to reading.
But I didn't know that it mattered then
I used to think of her when I watched “Matilda”
I imagined that one day
she was going to prove us all wrong.
and start moving glasses of water with her mind,
and that her name would be chanted in the schoolyard
roll rhythmically off our tongues.
Mostly I imagined her huddled in the public library on Saturday mornings
reading every book in alphabetical order.
She must've been in the Gs by now.
Smack in the middle of Great Expectations
She would show up in my dreams when things got lonely
usually a white turtleneck and green legging ensemble.
It was only in those dreams that I realized that the green matched her eyes just right
I saw her for real once.
I was fifteen
and there she was on a fire escape,
with a cigarette dangling from her lips,
wearing a pink dress.
I had to look away.