AlvernoINK Spring / Fall 2017 - Page 118

Rain fills my vision, consuming my thoughts as time goes backwards. Snippets of memories reveal scraps. Crumbs of what’s left of the old me. Each remainder has a beginning, middle, and no ending.

At the tender age of four, our story begins. A young little Hispanic girl with a striking resemblance to Dora the Explorer sets her up for failure.

“Hey Dora where’s Boots?” someone shouts.

Laughter fills my ears causing tears to devour my gaze.

“Aw, did you leave backpack and map at home Dora?” another person yells.

A small ounce of courage sparks up inside me as I face my attackers and shout, “Shut up!”

Their smiles fall as I storm away from the scene.

“I don’t look like Dora,” I mutter under my breath.

I’d like to say my battle ends here at the squabbles of child horse play, but alas we must push forward.

School, a place to learn and make friends. Education, progression in the equality of races coming together. Bullshit. School has always been a prison for someone like me. The food was terrible, the inmates weren’t friendly and the warden was a complete joke.

The education system has been my hell on earth for the majority of my life. It was always one thing after another, that boiled down deep inside my stomach acid.

“Andrea, pay attention,” my teacher would always say.

Looking those teachers in the eye and seeing their blind irritation always unsettled me.

“I am paying attention…” I mumbled.

No matter what I said it wasn’t good enough.

“We speak English here in America Andrea. You don’t need Spanish,” my speech and languages teacher would always say.

“But my mom speaks Spanish,” I argued once.

My speech and languages teacher never frowned at any other student more than she did with me. I was different from her usual students. The looks she gave me shook me at my core.

“Then she needs to learn English because we live in America!” she’d yell.

Anything I said didn’t matter to anyone.

My favorite quote will always be from my principal. Oh good old Mr. Rail who openly called me out at the age of six in the cafeteria.

“Andrea Vargas-Brignoni you need to go to the office to take your ADHD medication!” he shouted.

Complete silence after his speech but when all eyes turned to me, laughter inevitably followed. To this day the laughter and my humiliation still ring inside my head.

My face burned in embarrassment as I kept my head down during my walk of shame. Fingers pointing in my direction as I look up to see no remorse on my principal’s face. It’s as if this was my punishment: to be laughed at instead of being a good cookie cutter student and taking my medication like I’m supposed to.

“See, don’t you feel better?” my principle asked.

I couldn’t say anything. Instead, I took my medication and went outside for recess. No, I didn’t feel better, in fact I felt worse.

Over the years I’ve had my own version of the “Walk of Shame,” except it wasn’t from a one night stand to my house. It was from the classroom to the office. From elementary school to junior high, I had to take the walk of shame. There I was given a tiny green pill that was supposed to make me like everyone else. The pill was made for people like me. A misfit.

With no IEP in place, the little green pill was my only savior getting through my debt to society. Even being held back in the fourth grade, the tiny pill never left my side. That pill labeled me. It gave me a name that I couldn’t shake off.

Back in the day, I wasn’t given a nice word like misfit to be called. It was a much stronger word that spilled conviction over like hot lava on my brain, branding it to memory so I can never forget.

“You’re such a fucking retard!” my stepfather would shout.

Never will I be free from the pain that word caused.

“Take your fucking medication you fucking retard!” he’d shout.

Summoning any courage, I had, I looked him in the eye. Hatred reflected back in his coal gaze.

“I am not a retard!” I yelled back.

“Then take your fucking medication!” he would respond.

Remembering the look on my mother’s face will never leave my mind. She just sat there and watched. No emotions racing across her beautiful features. Brown, dull, eyes stared at the scene before her.

My mother to this day will deny the word ever being spoken. Despite ever being witnessed to the event; she will shake her head at me and change the subject. Effectively shutting me out.

“You know name calling isn’t permitted in this household!” she warned.

“Then tell HIM that!” I yelled.

My mother only picked up her book and tuned me out. My pleas meant nothing to her. Tears falling down my cheeks as blubbering words escaped my lips, I was ignored.

She refuses to believe my experiences have left deep scars. Openly, she’ll snarl at the mention of them. There was no sanctuary at home or at school. I was the retard no matter where I went.

As we move past the manipulation, cruel words and mockery for my disability, we hit what I call secondary prison: middle school. Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts held promise to my naïve twelve-year-old self.

My dream was to be an artist. It was the one thing everyone in the world accepted from me and made me feel like I belonged. It gave me hope.

Walking through those doors will never cease to startle me. Going from white suburbia to urban decay, the phrase “culture shock” doesn’t begin to describe my three years of hell. Betrayal, lies, broken promises and pain best pronounce my jail time.

At the blooming age of twelve, I never thought the words “You’re a whore!” would be shouted at me.

Innocently, liking one boy after another and only holding hands gave me my next label. Whore. From the age of twelve to sixteen did that name stick to me like Velcro. The name still leaves a sting on my skin. With the simple phrase, “I like you,” my world would never be the same.

“You’re such a whore! Just admit it!” friends would yell.

Weakly, I’d shout, “I’m not a whore! Stop calling me that!”

“Yes you are! You’re a disgusting whore!” another friend would shout.

Friends. Throughout my life, never once did I have a friend stick.

“Who would want to be friends with a freak!” I was told once.

Sick smiles would never leave my side as constant taunting continued to fill my ears. I gained one true friend through my secondary prison sentence and to this day she is the only good thing that came out of it.

Fast forwarding, we’ve entered High school of the Arts, a school for the gifted and the talented. What a load of horse shit. However, it gave me hope to find something better. Friends, maybe a real boyfriend and a career to consider. I’d like to say these things happened, that I was able to move on. Unfortunately, our tale has more prison time before we hit parole.

New friends turn to bullies, secrets become news-worthy gossip. I became the joke of the school. No one talked to me unless it was to find out more information.

“Hey Andie, like any new guys? Did you ever see James again? What do you think of Gabby? Didn’t you say she was whore too?” supposed friends would ask.

Instead of saying “Hey Andie, how are you?” I got asked a different array of questions. And the answers I would give were torn apart. No matter what I said it wasn’t what the bullies wanted to hear. Instead lies were spread as the truth died alongside my sanity.

“Hey are you a virgin?” a perverted boy would ask with a knowing smile.

I cringed, “Yes I am, and proud of it!”

The knowing smile would disappear and soon the look of disdain would haunt me. Looks of disgust would linger around me no matter where I went. Eyes remained on my lips causing my cheeks to burn.

Admitting to mistakes will never be easy. I made so many. From sharing one secret to getting down on my knees.

Pranks became a regular thing in my life. From prank phone calls to broken promises. One tops them all.

A meatless lifestyle took place in my world, giving me a sense of purpose. I did my best to stay clean and reject any offers of temptation. For my stomach couldn’t handle such strong flavors. This little bit of information would soon seal my doom.

A friend whom I thought I could trust, was tricked into giving me something sinister. There wrapped in a warm, toasty pretzel wrap was a succulent sausage link. He thought I would enjoy it. Cherish the foul taste in my mouth. The bullies awaited my response, overfilled with brutal laughter. There it starts with one wrong bite. The sausage sends my taste buds into a frenzy of disgust as I felt bile rise in the back of my throat. Running towards my only savior, laughter drowns in my ears, as I heave my insides out into the dirty black trash can.

“I can’t believe she actually ate it!” someone shouted.

The laughter didn’t cease even after I got back to my chair.

“Andie, I’m so sorry! I thought you’d like it!” my friend pleaded.

His pleas meant nothing to me. My stomach still burned as my tongue tasted nothing but despair. Not daring to look around, I clenched my fists. Never have I wanted to hurt someone so badly as I wanted to those who laughed at my expense.

That small bit of fun sent me to the hospital.

As I laid there waiting for the doctor, I felt the world drift away. Only one question presented its self in my mind.

“God…can I come home now?”


Andie Stella