A glass of crazy, p.9
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.9

           Tina Laningham
 
From way down the hall, I spotted graffiti on my locker and dreaded finding out what it said, but in five seconds I'd be reading it in front of everyone and there was nothing I could do about it. The hallway chatter practically stopped, except for a few whispers. Kids stared, watching for my reaction. I couldn't decide whether to have no reaction or some kind of outrageous over-reaction. I mean really, I hated to disappoint my audience. Okay, whatever. I was practically there and I could start making out the words: Ghetto Girl.

  Taped underneath it was a photo of the run-down apartment complex where Mom and I lived. All I can say is my reaction surprised even me. Even though this was clearly the work of the triple Ps plus Megan, it still hurt. Actually it was the plus Megan part that really hurt.

  It's not that I had anything against poor people because unlike Megan, I wasn't a snob-or at least that's what I thought. Now that I was poor, I looked forward to coming to school just to get away from that crappy old apartment. But there was my new ghetto home, staring at me in living color, right on my locker. Truly, I was stunned, which was probably the reaction they wanted.

  "Ghetto Girl." Rafa draped his arm over my shoulder. "I like it. Makes you sound like a rock star." He snatched the photo off the locker and wadded it up. The photo was gone, but the black spray paint wasn't coming off.

  "It does sound kinda cool," I said with a weak smile.

  "Open your locker. The bell is ringing."

  I got out my books and Rafa walked with me to American Government even though it was out of his way.

  "You don't have to come in," I said when he followed me in the door.

  "Just sit."

  I slid into my desk, but didn't look up, even when I felt Rafa's hand messing up my hair.

  He backed away and pointed with both hands. "See ya, Ghetto Girl." To the rest of the class, he said, "Ghetto Girl rocks!"

  That was okay since he was pretending, but when he patted his heart, I turned bright red. It got worse when the other boys oohed and whistled like they believed him. Truly amazing. Not one person laughed at me through the whole class.

  I stuffed a book in my backpack and shoved everything else in there too. Next period wasn't going to be that easy. As embarrassing as Rafa's little drama had been, secretly I was glad to see him waiting outside the door, ready to escort me to Mr. Oliver's English class.

  "I don't need a babysitter," I said with my most ungrateful tone.

  "Hey, I'm doing this for me." He winked. "I don't want to miss a chance to be seen with Ghetto Girl."

  "You're such a liar."

  "So are you."

  It was true. We were both lying.

  Rafa shoved me in a corner behind a door and pulled a pocket knife out of his backpack.

  "What the-?"

  He slit my shirt at the shoulder, grabbed a sleeve and ripped it off.

  "Stop!"

  "Be still," he said, doing the same to the other sleeve.

  "You know that knife is like totally illegal at school."

  "That's a stupid rule," he said.

  "What about that paper you wrote about always following the law?"

  Rafa didn't answer. Instead, he ripped the T-shirt shorter and gave it a slash over my belly.

  "What, are you a clothes designer now?"

  He messed up my hair again and said, "We're late."

  Definitely gay.

  Before we got to the room, Rafa tucked the knife away and pulled out some shades.

  "I'm not wearing those."

  He slid them on my face anyway. By the way his jaw clenched, it was best to not argue.

  The triple Ps plus Megan, a.k.a. the locker vandals, sat on top of their desks when Rafa and I drifted in, acting like we didn't notice them. Mr. Oliver was busy writing something on the board.

  In the back of the room I put one hand on my hip and the other on Rafa's shoulder. We did this weird mumbo-jumbo-pretend-talking thing. I tried to keep a straight face when Rafa let out the lamest fake laugh I'd ever heard. Whatever we were doing, I just hoped it wasn't going to backfire.

  Right after the tardy bell rang, a kid from my first period class stopped by to high-five me on the way to his desk. "Wassup Ghetto Girl," was all he said.

  I didn't move my head, just my eyes, and behind those dark shades, the triple-Ps didn't know where I was looking. But I was looking at them and they were looking at me.

  A girl I barely knew squirmed around in her seat and smiled. I didn't know what to do, so I smiled back. When she waved meekly, I kept my hand on my hip and nodded.

  "That's Ghetto Girl," someone whispered. Two kids gazed at me in awe. The triple Ps looked disgusted, but Megan had no reaction. She was way cooler than them.

  Mr. Oliver cleared his throat, obviously not amused by any of this. "Today we will discuss grammar."

  I cringed when Mr. Oliver headed straight toward me and I actually considered removing the shades, but decided to finish playing out my leading role as Ghetto Girl. While sliding down in my seat, I spread my legs and slung an elbow over the back of the chair. If Mr. Oliver wanted the shades, he'd have to come and get them.

  "If you don't use proper grammar, you're not writing." Mr. Oliver towered over my desk but never looked down. Instead, he snapped his long, skinny fingers in front of my face and held out his hand. "Writing is like learning to drive an automobile. First, you must learn the myriad of laws pertaining to traffic."

  By now, most of the class had turned to see what Ghetto Girl would do. I didn't know what the freaking heck to do. I wasn't as cool as Ghetto Girl.

  Rafa grinned at my dilemma.

  I ended up being my usual nerdy self. I sat up straight, pulled off the shades and placed them in his hand. "Thank you Mr. Oliver," were the words that came out of my mouth. That came from years of growing up under the reign of Queen Doreen.

  Eyes widened. Did I just blow it? The triple Ps smirked and I'm thinking, yeah, I blew it. This whole thing was a stupid idea anyway.

  Rafa low-fived me under the desk. Whatever.

  "In the world of English grammar, some things actually make sense." Mr. Oliver chuckled in a self-amused way. "For example, let's examine this rule. Shall we?" He pointed to one of the rules he had written on the board:

  Two negatives make a positive.

  "Ah, a pencil." Mr. Oliver waved a pencil in the air in a desperate attempt to wake up the class. "If I were to say, 'I don't have no clue what this pencil is made of,' what does that mean?"

  Presley fluttered her fingers way up high and made "oooh, oooh" noises like she was having a seizure.

  Mr. Oliver had a rare look of astonishment, probably because one of the triple Ps might have actually been listening. "Yes, Presley," he said with a hint of excitement.

  "It means, um," she twirled a long, blond lock of hair, "that you're absolutely sure you don't know what the pencil is made of."

  The room was silent.

  "No wait," she said. "That's not right." Presley stared hard at the pencil on her desk. "It means you don't know the things the pencil is not made of, like it's not made of plastic. That you know for sure. No, wait. That's one of the things you don't know."

  By now, the class was laughing.

  Mr. Oliver looked pleased. "Thank you, Presley, for illustrating to the class the confusion created by double negatives. Actually, one negative cancels out the other, so the person is saying they do know, even though that probably wasn't their intent."

  Nothing was duller than talking about grammar-probably because I didn't have to think about it anymore. Grammar had become instinctive, thanks to the old Queen Doreen. Maybe in the world of English grammar, two negatives made a positive, but in life, it didn't work that way. Like when the whole school teased me about Dad's affair (this was the first negative), I reacted by wishing for a hurricane (this was the second negative). But the mean girls didn't get wiped out and now they're meaner than before, which meant in life, a double negative makes a bigger negative.

  "Ab
by?" I heard Mr. Oliver say. "Abby!"

  The whole class stared at me, waiting.

  "Would you repeat the question, please?" I sounded like a contestant on a game show.

  Mr. Oliver pursed his lips, but quickly gathered his British composure and said, "In the original example given for a double negative, what was the other grammatical issue?"

  "It ended with a preposition," I replied.

  Mr. Oliver's face lit up. "Well done. Yes indeed, well done."

  The lesson moved on and Mr. Oliver pretty much left me alone. After class, it was kind of freaky the way kids gazed at me on their way out the door.

  "Ghetto Girl has it going on in the cranium," one boy said.

  "Totally cerebral," said a girl who looked star struck.

  The triple Ps plus Megan filed out the door like a little army of ants.

  Rafa winked at me and smiled. "A babe and a brainiac."

  It's weird because I used to hate that the old Queen Doreen had been a task master of proper grammar and etiquette. Now these things were part of me. Maybe they were the good part.

  "This whole Ghetto Girl thing is truly psychotic," I said to Rafa on the way to lunch.

  "Chill," he said. "Have fun with it."

  When Rafa held his arm out to protect me from a group of kids who wanted to know where I sat in the cafeteria, I did feel like a rock star.

  "Ghetto Girl does not eat in the cafeteria," he said. "She likes to be in nature."

  The truth? We were totally anti-social and would rather eat on the dirty ground than sit with them in the cafeteria. That's why for the rest of the day, I decided to keep my mouth shut and let Rafa be the spokesperson for Ghetto Girl.

  - 10 -

 
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