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Nice to meet you.
What’s my name?
Oh, that doesn’t really matter now.
Why am I here, alone in the dark?
It’s simple, really.
Here, let me tell you a story.
As I recall, I was in first grade at G.W. Elementary School when the nightmare began. Pigtails, pink-checked skirt, smiley-face t-shirt; I was your average six-year old. My teacher, whose name and face have long faded from memory, announced that it was high time we “little people” got to experience the miracle of science firsthand. Since we were learning about the planets, naturally the experiment called for was the construction a 3-D model of the solar system, right then and there in our classroom.
I think the teacher was fairly new to the ways of first-graders because she handed each of us small amounts of wire, styrofoam, and glue, fully expecting a masterpiece to be crafted from our itty-bitty fists. Within minutes the entire class was dashing around the room shredding up sheets of paper, smearing glue on each other’s faces, and shrieking as only six-year olds can. Yet somehow, in all the mayhem, nine colorful spheres were constructed, although how much they resembled the real planets I can’t say.
Once she had succeeded in seating us in a circle, our teacher proceeded to explain how the nine planets were arranged around one object: the sun. Realizing that in all the chaos a sun hadn’t been manufactured, she snatched a table lamp off her desk and planted it in the center of the “planets”.
“You see, when all the planets rotate around the sun, the half nearest the sun are exposed to light--it’s daytime there. And the other half is dark--it’s nighttime over there,” she explained, flicking the mobile with her finger so the planets would be sent spinning.
Was I the only one who was bemused by her attempt to educate us? I doubt it, but I am certain I wasn’t alone in being mesmerized by the light flashing on and off the planets as they spun round and round, casting tiny round shadows on the table below. Sam Carroll broke the spell by leaping up and thrusting his chubby hand in between the revolving mobile. Triumphantly, he procured the magnificent sun, which was greeted with ecstatic cheering by rest of the class.
The teacher tried to grab him, but Sam wriggled out of her grasp and pranced around the circle of first graders, stopping at each one in turn to shine the “sun” first on their back, then in their face.
“Nighttime, daytime, nighttime, daytime!” he giggled as he traipsed around gleefully. Everyone else laughed, delighting in Sam’s mischief. He reached me in no time, and caught up as I was in the ruckus, I didn’t notice that the chortling had died down until a few moments after the fact.
“What’s that black stuff that everybody else had ‘cuz of the sun?” Sam had stopped dead in his tracks, and was looking at me in a puzzled and curious way. The classroom was silent for a few more seconds until our teacher discerned that the question was directed at her.
“Why, Sammy, those are--”
“She don’t got one of those black things.”
Despite being interrupted, a mercilessly condescending chuckle escaped the teacher’s lips. “That’s positively ridiculous, Sammy. Don’t be silly. Everyone has one.”
Hannah Greene, always the teacher’s pet, stuck her hand up in the air and yelled, “She doesn’t!” She yanked Sam’s hand forward so he held the lamp inches from my shoulder. Waves of heat pulsing from the lightbulb licked my neck. I suppose most six-year olds would’ve pushed the lamp away and fervently denied the accusation, but I was frozen in confusion and embarrassment.
The teacher sighed heavily and walked over, entirely prepared to prove, once again, that adults are always right and children are most often wrong. The blazing lightbulb was moved from my neck to the top of my head. I was asked to stand up. Now the heat roved over my entire body: my back, my elbow, the side of my thigh. The teacher’s breathing quickened, and after about five minutes of inspection held in a stony silence, she muttered hoarsely if I could be so kind as to accompany her to the nurse’s office.
The nurse was a big, burly woman whose stern expression called for no nonsense. She had an equally big, burly lamp that she thrust against every inch of my skin. Yanking my legs and arms every which way, she roasted my already sweaty skin but could not find anything to disprove my teacher’s fear. They finally left me to sit on the paper-covered bed and retreated into a corner of the office to speak in hushed whispers.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“I ain’t got a clue. She ain’t sick, that’s for sure. I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
“What should we do? Call the emergency room?”
“What’s the damn emergency room gonna do about it? This girl’s a freak, that’s what she is. We’ll just have to call her parents. Let them deal with it.”
My mother arrived no more than a half an hour later. Her crisp gray suit and impeccable hairstyle told me she had come straight from work which, even at six, I knew meant that something was terribly wrong. She came over to me immediately and took my hand.
“Are you feeling ill, sweetie?” Her voice, so familiar, caused unnecessary tears I shook my head, sniffling. The teacher and the nurse were watching me with wary eyes. With such keen expressions, they couldn’t have missed the tiny gasp that my mother uttered when she glanced at what was below my feet. Which is to say, despite the glaring ceiling lights above my head, nothing.
“I’m going to take you home now.” Mom stood up and pulled me to my feet. We walked out of the office without another word to the school employees, but I could feel their eyes on me all the way to the door.
My mother did take me home. However, after a few years, she got tired of hiding me and my...condition. And...well, now I am here.
Why? It’s simple, really.
A truth anyone can learn from.
No one wants a freak.
No one wants an oddity.
No one wants a shadowless girl.