A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
by O’shaji Alcantara
At a private school in New York City, a little girl waited at the crosswalk as the sun shone on her frizzy halo of hair. With a hot dog bun pastry in one hand and the other pulling the brown and black roly-poly backpack, she entered what she would consider her oasis. She roamed the halls covered with posters brick by brick. Walking in her class, she followed procedure and put away her things away. It was like brushing her teeth: simple yet effective.
Moving away is always a burden; in the middle of my first grade year, my mother decided that living in the city was not a proper upbringing. Out with the hot dog bun pastry and jaywalking to school and in with walking to my suburban bus stop, which led to the neighborhood school. Meeting new kids was odd. We would play hide-and-seek, and they would come over and play in my treehouse. I finished first and second grade at this beautiful school in that beautiful state. I never imagined that I would miss wearing layers upon layers of clothing to keep my warmth in, making me look like the miniature abominable snowman. I didn’t think I would miss looking out the window to witness nature change in front of my eyes. But all good things must come to an end.
Third Grade–The Dark Ages
New school, new state, new clothes, new house, new everything. I would have to trade in my pink Timberlands for pink sandals. If you look different, have a different way of saying your parents name than that of your typical Ma and Pa, no one will talk to you. Especially if you have the name that sounds like your mother went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered a Lo Mien dish.
Fourth and Fifth—The Dark Ages continues…
O’sausage. O’stinky. O’fatty. Contracts were made by girls that stated that they couldn’t be my friend. With the constant taunting, the constant tears running down my face during recess, I decided to escape my reality and enter the beautiful imagery that is profoundly exquisite in books. L. Frank Baum, Ally Carter, the infamous Doctor Seuss became my playmates.
By fifth grade year, O’Sausage officially stuck with my peers. Do you know that kid that stays with the teacher at field trips because no one else will walk beside her? That was me. Come to think of it, I honestly believe that beloved Mrs. Courser didn’t approve of me that much either. In fact, the feeling was mutual. The last day was one I would never forget, as all the “grown up” fifth graders walked down the steps one last time, flyers floating around everywhere, posters with big bold words of “Congrats!” swarming us. They cried and said how they would never forget their roots. For me, I wanted to forget the harsh words; I wanted to forget the malicious acts from the lunchroom or the bus. As I saw my dad and sister standing on the grass waiting to take me home, I didn’t cry. I walked away from the place where I had cried many times already.
Sixth and Seventh Grade–The Renaissance
You know the saying, “There is always rain before a rainbow.” In my case, it had to rain a lot. Books engulfed my room, piled on the floor and window seal. My parents separated, and my dad went back to New York. My mom, sister, and I stayed behind. I had a party of one that year for my birthday, mostly because my mom forgot that it was my birthday, and no one I invited from school showed up. Is it possible to wish yourself a Happy Birthday? Not even books could help me escape this reality.
In seventh grade year, someone noticed I wasn’t as dumb as I looked because they recommended me to join the school’s AVID program. Looking back, it wasn’t as prestigious as I thought it was, but it did opened many doors. I made some friends, but it didn’t really help the anxiety. Girls will write bad things about you regardless of how much you don’t pay attention to them. But the less attention I paid, the less it hurt. I made some good friends that year, who helped me a lot more than I imagined. With a lot of convincing and extra credit for AVID, I attended my first dance that year and watched twelve and thirteen-year-olds grind on each other. Witnessing that is the equivalence of watching a Teletubby dancing and acting like the seductive Jessica Rabbit. Two words: disgusting and disturbing.
Eighth Grade—The Renaissance continues…
I was walking from the lunchroom to my class, with my PB&J breath and a stain on my favorite white pants that looked like I didn’t make it to the bathroom. Someone pulled me aside, out of nowhere. I was standing in front of the gym and a pair of lips met mine. I was literally having my first kiss and all I could think about is, how am I going to explain to mom that I sat on a chocolate chip cookie? Shawn, the class jokester, stole my first kiss virginity. I should’ve been upset, but I wasn’t. I just looked at him and walked away to meet my friend. The next day, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Three weeks later, we broke up, and I ended up with another stain on my white shirt. Lessons I learned from that year: writing is somewhat cool, books will always be awesome, gum is essential in every relationship, and never wear white to a school full of hooligans.
Ninth and Tenth Grade year–The Enlightenment
Everyone has a growth spurt. Everyone loses or gains weight, gets taller, and goes from a B cup to a C cup. My genes made sure I didn’t follow the crowd. Still 4’10 weighing in at 140 pounds, I was still a chubby child. My Enlightenment period thus began with English being my favorite class regardless of having the teacher everyone called “Cat Lady.” In her defense, Ms. Korach wasn’t as weird as everyone thought she was. She would cover her ears whenever someone talked about dead cats and call the main office to remove a student whenever he or she used hand sanitizer. Just average things. I guess I enjoyed her company more than most because we shared two things in common: books and love. We studied Romeo and Juliet, the language, the tragedy, the love. Who wouldn’t fall in love with their love?
Eleventh Grade—The Enlightenment continues…
SAT’s, ACT’s, meeting college requirements: everything is difficult this year. I was finally an upperclassmen but without senior privileges. My sophomore year crush became my friend and soon after my boyfriend. He bought me skittles and asked me to be his girlfriend, and he bought me KitKats and roses for Valentine’s Day. Everything was perfect, or so I thought. Wanting to be perfect and everything falling into place, I lost my way. Always comparing myself to others and wanting to be them led to my first breakup. My parents became worried and sent me to therapy to help with my anxiety. Junior year was coming to an end, and my biggest bully was myself.
Twelfth Grade—The Enlightenment
My parents took a picture of me throwing my cap in the air. In that moment, everything flashed before me: the Friday night lights, the decorating lockers, my ex-boyfriend as one of my best friends, and my new boyfriend as my first love. Prom and dresses, grad bash and rollercoasters, driving around on Saturday night with my best friends just goofing around. Having one-on-one conversations with my second family. Finally feeling like I belong, only for it to finish so fast. People will always tell you to cherish it, but you don’t pay attention. It’s amazing what memories you make in that short amount of time and how much it will affect you without you even realizing it. As my family and I walked to the car, I saw people for the first and last time. I finished senior year without even realizing that I had started a whole new chapter of my life.
August 19, 2015. 6:15 AM: I hear the sound of the alarm and hit the snooze button. Flashbacks: my first kiss, eating lunch by myself, conversing deeply with my best friend in his car, chanting “Indians” on the bleachers during games. Thinking about the very first day of third grade and the very first day of senior year. O’sausage, O’sausage, O’sausage. With one final thought, I jump out of bed and say, “O’shaji.”