She Wasn't Always Like This

by Gintas Bradunas

The teacher tells her she is ignorant. She wasn't always like this, she thinks. She remembers a time in elementary school when teachers had hugged her, when her dark black hand had been permanently raised and her name, Cheyenne, had been synonymous with goodness. She remembers reading about young heroines along with the scrawled in “fucks” and “shits” in her desk and relishing in every detail. Now she is in middle school. Now she is ignorant. 

She wasn't always like this she thinks but her father tells her nothing. He is gone. She doesn't know where to be exact. No one really tells her. They all assume that she will be fine, always has been. They have yet to see her first report card from middle-school that she carries crumpled in her pocket. Walking home, Cheyenne shares her impending academic doom with Kayla who tells her she is thinking about running away. Cheyenne touches Kayla's stomach and feels the warmth. She has heard that babies kick but feels nothing and wonders if Kayla's baby is dead. She wonders if Kayla would be upset at this. 8th grade is too early to be pregnant. 

They weren't always like this she thinks. Kayla tells her Damon isn't the father and then is gone with a group of friends in the darkness of the corner store. Cheyenne walks home and listens to the solitary sounds of her bouncy ball. She wonders when her friends will start to get pregnant. She wonders if she will get pregnant. It's too early, she thinks. 

Cheyenne sits in class and can't focus. Her classmates are screaming. Some are running. The teacher is pacing. She can't help but wonder when puberty will hit. She has been stuffing her bra for the past two months and wonders how many other girls might be doing the same. Another student throws a water bottle that hits her in the head. “Throw it here bitch!” he says. She doesn't like the sound of that word. She looks to the teacher for help, but he hears nothing. Her options are limited. “Who the fuck you talking to?” she says, standing up to defend herself. She has heard that if someone hits you and the teacher doesn't help you, fight back. She runs across the room. The teacher's attention reaches her, stops her, hugs her to pull her back. It has been a while since she has been hugged but with it, the teacher tells her she is ignorant. But he doesn't say this. Instead he says, “Stop acting like a nigger!” and only after he feels her flinch in his arms does he qualify this with, “which means you're acting ignorant.” She wasn't always like this, she thinks.