The Oddball Reveals Herself Early On
I was the only kid in junior high
who kept a trial-size bottle of liquid soap
in her bag. My classroom had a sink,
and during morning break, I washed my hands
until the teacher took note of my raw skin
and said, “Honey, please stop.”
Along with the lyrics of every eighties pop song,
I could recall all the symptoms of lockjaw
and botulism, rabies and plague, parasitic infections.
Like my grandmother, I inspected packaged food
for evidence of tampering.
I was terrified my clothes would grow too tight
as I sat at my desk. In school/prison, who would help
if snug panty elastic began digging into the crease
where thigh meets groin, cutting off the blood flow
and rendering my legs numb, gangrenous
by the time someone believed me?
The solution: garments that swallowed—
baggy underwear, my father’s flannel shirts,
sagging thrift shop jeans, and my aunt’s cast-off shoes:
size eight, when a size seven was plenty big.
While running the mile, one of those ill-fitting
sneakers flew off my foot and plopped on the asphalt
several yards before me. The other students didn’t pause,
not even to point and laugh. By then, they were used
to all the ways I showed the world I was never
going to be quite right.