As a result of my recent move, “new” things have quickly become undesirable. New weather is too hot, new friends are too slow in the making, and a new routine nearly impossible to establish.
But, as with all changes, the bad is often accompanied by the good. The nice thing is that I can sit here beneath a big tree, plug in my headphones, and ignore everyone around me with no sense of remorse or loss of conversation.
I do what I want.
But there was one thing I had been wanting do to since I moved that I hadn’t done until last week: Shop at Kim’s Asian Market.
I didn’t think I was qualified to shop there—the labels on the merchandise weren’t written in English and the pictures on the wrappings were of things I have never seen. But one day, I figured I had nothing to lose except a few dollars on something foreign, so I crossed the threshold.
The first person I saw was a white woman picking out some baby corn and arguing with the woman in charge about its price. Alright, I reasoned, she’s not Asian either. The second two people I saw were an Indian couple. Now, I buy tofu for $1.29 and have my choice of seaweed brands, tapioca balls, and wasabi peas. My first impression was so wrong. Thank goodness.
Another thing that was good for me to be wrong about:
Last Friday my class and I made our way across the campus to the school library, a walk which I was sure held the potential for ruckus, but which was really full of hand holding, loud-mouth joking, and insecurities made painfully aware through teenage movement.
I was keeping my eye on one boy in particular, whom I’ll call “A.” The first day of school, he duck-walked his way to the front of the room—shoulders back, jaw set, pants buckled though not around his hips—to introduce himself and his partner in a get-to-know-you activity.
“Oh, ‘scuse me,” he insincerely apologized from the front of the room, his peers held captive by their desks and their wonderment of whether he’d get away with this shenanigan. “Lemme jus’ fix this,” he smirked and turned his back on the class, unbuckling and re-adjusting, glancing over his shoulder the whole time.
“A.,” came the voice of my resident teacher, “Next time why don’t you dress yourself before you come to class.”
So, on Friday in the library, I kept my eyes open. Most students were wandering around the library with their friends, a few even thoughtfully selecting their SSR books for the semester. “A.” was among the wanderers whose emphases were on “friends” and not “books,” so when he whirled around from a selection enthusiastically wanting to share what he’d just found, I was ready. Well, I was ready for a joke or a snide comment. I definitely wasn’t expecting what came out of his mouth.
“Oh, Ms. Q. I thought you were Ms. M.,” he and I hadn’t ever spoken to each other and he stopped abruptly.
“What book do you have?” I inquired, quickly realizing he’d wanted to share something and stopped just because he didn’t know me.
“Oh, it’s blah blah blah [I forget what he said]. This is my favorite author though, Darren Shan. He’s written a whole series. I’m in the fourth book right now.” He looked at the novel he held in both hands with an unspeakable desire to read. He wanted to tell me about it, but he mostly wanted to read it.
“How many are there?” I asked, hoping to get more authentic words from A.
“Ten. But I think he’s written other things too, like, single books. Here, I’ll show you,” A. started duck-walking (pants still buckled lower than his hips) to his familiar corner of the library and found exactly what he wanted. I couldn’t believe it. He really was into these books.
When he talked about them, his mind moved, eyes glazed over, and disappeared into a world only he and his author had created. Suddenly, he wasn’t just a baggy-pants-wannabe-gangster.
Yesterday he came to school without any supplies—not even a pencil.
“A., where’s your stuff?”
I waited, not saying anything, but still asking the question.
“I wasn’t at home last night,” he answered.
I don’t know what his life is like, but I know he’s experienced the escape from it in at least three books (because he’s in the fourth in his series), and it’s clear he’s enjoyed the time he’s spent inside those pages. My challenge with him (along with many others) will be to get him to realize the value of his intellect.
This is the Stone Ground Story of righted wrongs.