My Secret Recess - By Mal Malme
When I was in elementary school, there was a small patch of woods, more like a few clumps of trees, in the corner of the playground, behind the swings and the slide. Once in a while, during recess, I would go there when I felt like being alone, when my mind needed to race more than my legs.
A sunny fall day, I was eight, in third grade, I had retreated to the mini forest. I wove in between each tree, feeling my hand scrape across the cool bark.
I was so lost in my head, a kick ball could have slammed into it, and I might not have noticed.
I was immersed, sifting through the evidence. Trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
I had crushes on girls, like all the time. Right then, it was Mandy, who spoke funny and had just moved here from Florida. And of course, a huge crush on my teacher, Ms. Dougherty, whose shoes I had puked on during the first week of school. Crushes on girls were nothing new. I had had crushes on girls since kindergarten.
I hated girls clothes. Especially dresses and skirts, and anything frilly, or lacy. I begged, more like, cried my eyes out, to get my Mom to buy me Toughskin jeans from the boys’ department at Sears, because that’s what my brother got, and the girls’ colors were gross.
I liked the same toys as my brother. We choreographed many elaborate GI Joe adventures. When the newly designed GI Joes came out, their plastic bodies were all muscly under their combat fatigues. I remember thinking that I wanted to have muscles like that.
As I circled around the trees again and again, I convinced myself that I had the answer:
God had screwed up.
He made a mistake.
I was supposed to have been born a boy.
It was the only thing that made sense to me.
There was a brief moment of relief that I had figured it out. I had spent the entire recess thinking through it all. For a few seconds, I felt grounded. My feet solid on the earth, amidst my quiet clump of trees.
But then the weight of it hit me, the pressure in my chest began to build, the terror spread through me.
I had to keep it a secret. I couldn’t tell a soul. Or I would lose everything.
I would have to try hold it in. Try to fit in. Maybe even, try to change.
As I stood in line at the end of recess, waiting to go back inside, one of the kids scrunched up her face at me.
“Are you a boy or a girl?”
I’d spend the better part of my life trying to figure that out.
Even now, at the age of 50, the conversation continues.
“Mal looks like a boy,” my 6 year old niece said a couple of weeks ago, grinning at me from across the aisle, as the bus bumped along a city street.
“I look like me,” I said, smiling back.
Top quotes from BPL February Vacation tour 2017
What's your favorite breakfast?
What's an animal that lives in the ocean?
A Colossal Squid!
A platypus without a head!
What's the strangest thing that could be in this box?
A whole piece of chicken!