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My friends don't know I'm special
I slide my hands underneath the child’s arms. As gently as I can, I lift him. The little boy offers no complaint. With my help, he rises placidly onto his stone-colored rental skates. His squarish face, soft with the innocence only a four–year–old possesses, is as smooth as the surface of the rink. The little boy stands on his own for a mere moment before his smooth expression melts. I look around nervously– what other coaches are nearby? I ready myself, but he doesn’t cry.
He raises his doll-like fingers, sheathed in woolly black gloves, to his pale face. Then he laughs. Minuscule shards of ice coat his fingers, in such a number it may as well be snow. He brings his hands to his side. I shift my weight, rocking farther onto my toepicks.
“Thomas,“ I say, “we need to keep going.“
He looks directly into my eyes with his small face.
“Cold,“ he squeaks. He begins to move his hands, playing with the snow on his dark gloves and the sensation of ice on his tiny body. His mouth has shaped itself into a wild smile— I can see each one of his teeth.
It would be cruel to take this moment from him, so I wait. My eyes never leave his fingers. They move as if the boy was given the power of a god, only to try and hold it in his hands.
Finally, I urge Thomas onwards and focus on the air stinging my cheeks instead of my own hands.
I was in a circus. It was school produced, perfectly manufactured. We were so excited. Many of the children rejoiced at the chance to skip class. Mostly I loved watching the members of the show. My favoirte were the acrobats. It was a dream borne in kindergarten, a pint-size idea I knew I needed to achieve, if only for the heck of it.
Things are different when you’re smaller, with a Kit Kittredge bob and the confidence to match.
There are few videos of my hand flapping. I remember once, in elementary school, my mom showed me one of someone else. This alien girl waved her hands.
I asked questions once I began to notice the lack of other kids who moved their hands as I did.
“It’s how you were born,” my mom explained, the same as she would to Davis, years later.
My flapping can be seen in videos taken before I became conscious of my otherness.
Such is the second-grade circus. I am standing slightly backstage, almost bouncing and rocking my whole body. It is nearly time for our act. Tied around my waist is a sash the color of Pepto Bismol. Despite the color, it is the sash, the one I have wanted since I first saw the acrobats perform. The fabric stands stark against my white shirt and leggings. Someone has gathered my blonde hair into a ponytail perfect for performing whirlwinds of cartwheels and somersaults.
I am a perfect child. A sweet acrobat, a second grader. But I am grinning, wide, and I am twitching.
I pause, stretch my lips further, and do this again. Many people have seen the recording of the circus— many people were there to see its premiere.
What did they think of me?
My own oblivion now makes me sick.
I want to laugh at that little girl and her naivete if only to prevent myself from turning my thoughts to darker things. In the video, she links arms with her smiling classmates, who couldn’t have understood her hands. I suppose they were still young. It could not matter yet. One day, though, those girls grew up.
People smile at children with “quirks”. There is an understanding that they will grow out of these behaviors. If they do not?
Then they are named special or broken. They must find a solution or be faced with the bless-your-heart glances, the arched brows, and the double looks.
No god fixed me. I fixed myself, though it's possible I shattered something in the process.
Much like Thomas, my brother is young. Younger than me, I correct myself. Davis is a 10-year-old fifth grader— six years older than my learn-to-skate student. Grown-up enough to stand on a field armored by the Dick’s Sporting Goods version of bubble wrap.
Through a mixture of voices, leaves in the wind, and cars, there’s the chirp of a whistle.
Davis runs. At this moment, I am sure he is fantastical. He is Tom Brady – though on defensive line – or a hero from Marvel's Avengers. Perhaps that is an accurate line of thinking because I see him fluster the quarterback into fumbling a pass.
After the play, he brings his hands to his chest, then swings them against each other. Though I’m far away, I have seen him do it enough that I know his teammates hear the sound of wings.
I have lost count of the treacherous number of moments I’ve seen him do this.
Yet, I am sure it is many. His hands have danced since he was Thomas‘s age— maybe before. But somehow, he’s managed to hold onto his craving for sensation, even managed to sustain his enjoyment. The reason behind this eludes me, as does the number of times I have bothered him about it.
One day, Davis mentioned an incident to my mother and me. Another boy had laughed at the way his hands oscillated while my sweet brother talked about sports. He had defended himself, but I could sense an underlying shroud of upset.
“Why can’t you just stop?” I had asked.
I hated myself the next moment. The question isn’t kind nor fair – I know this. I also know that Davis does have friends, even a budding girlfriend. He hasn’t been ostracized for something he did not choose to deal with.
It’s not that I want him to feel as I do, to sit on his fingers at the smallest tinge of excitement. I hope I am a better sister than that. Yet I am agitated. Perhaps it is the sticking feeling that his luck won’t last. Children are more like ravens than dolls. They are calculating, and cruel. They have keen eyesight – so perceptive that it is easy for them to spot the unbelonging.
Tenafly, New Jersey
Winston Hills, Other
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