6th grade didn’t start off that well. On the first day of school my best friend, Amy, wanted to try out the brand new zip line that our school had built over the summer, and I most certainly did not. It was a metal zip line that was probably only 15 feet long and 7 feet high. In order to “zip,” you had to grab the handle and jump off a platform that then would propel you swiftly to the other side. I was afraid of heights, even little ones. I hated anything fast that I couldn’t control. But most discernibly, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my own weight. My upper body strength was pretty grim. What can I say? I wasn’t the energetic sporty type. In fact, during free time, I was more of the hide out in the shrubs while daydreaming of a different life type. Amy, on the other hand, was athletic and exceedingly social with boys. I would describe Amy as a slutty tomboy if that makes any sense. She wore jean shorts, never dresses, and she must have gotten her period over the summer because she had a rack-attack going on. She confidently was aware of it too. I on the other hand, while I had received my period over the summer as well, was still wearing a white training bra. I had definitely gotten hairier and smellier though. I, too, was aware of my bodily changes but they had made me quite insecure. I wished I had Amy’s confidence or cup size.
It was recess, and there was a long line to try out the new zip line. “Come on. It’ll be fun. Look. Everyone’s doing it,” Amy pleaded. Now this was the first day of middle school. A new start. I already had a new wardrobe that my aunt had bought for me over the summer, along with a brand new red L.L. Bean backpack with my name stitched on that I BEGGED for since I was the only one who didn’t have a personalized L.L. Bean backpack in school. At least, that’s what it felt like. I desperately needed this fresh start. I was going to be cool this year and get everyone to like me. Especially the boys. I got made fun of a lot for being chubby and weird last year. Even by Amy, behind my back of course. But this year, it would be different. Because when I looked in the mirror, I always saw a pretty face, and sometimes I even thought I was funny. It just made sense that everyone then would see a pretty face too and laugh with me, not at me. It was a matter of time, and the time was now.
So we waited in line in the noisy playground to ride the zip line. No one was scared before they jumped off and glided to the other platform. They actually seemed like they were having a lot of fun. It was mainly aggressive boys though. So of course that made me feel more anxious. I really didn’t want to plunge off that zip line though. I came up with a plan that I would back out at the last possible moment directly after Amy’s turn so she wouldn’t be able to say anything to me. Done.
Amy’s turn was approaching. “You go first,” Amy suddenly prodded. That wasn’t part of the plan . What was she doing? “No, you.” I insisted. My heart started pulsing. I was sweating profusely and wasn’t wearing deodorant yet. I thought everyone could smell me through my new clothes. It didn’t even matter that my clothes were new. Nothing mattered other than me getting out of this predicament. Kids behind us had zero patience and were getting annoyed. “JUST GO, DIXIE!!!” one boy shouted. “But it’s Amy’s turn!” Next thing you know Amy pushes me off the platform as I barely grasped onto the handle with my sweaty palms. I fell within seconds.
I twisted my ankle as I fell onto the gravel. The pain was electrifying. I didn’t want to cry since everyone had stopped and was staring at me. I looked over to Amy, and she was making an insincere sorry, pouty face. It was her go-to look whenever she would see that she’d hurt my feelings. I covered my face with my hands longing to disappear. I was scared. How was I supposed to handle this problem? I couldn’t think. The burn outweighed the embarrassment, and I began to howl. It hurt like a motherfucker.
Ms. Allen, a petite science teacher who took dressing modestly to the nth degree, came running over, scoped out the situation, and then got Ronnie, the 6’3 African-American janitor, to pick me up and spread me on the bench like I was a war victim. A recess war victim.
Ms. Allen called my dad, and he came within 20 minutes since we lived close to the school and he never worked. He picked me up and swung me over his big shoulders like a sack of potatoes. Upside down, I glanced back at the playground. All the kids continued to enjoy their recess as if nothing had happened. As for me, we drove straight to the emergency room. The doctor said I had broken my ankle. He put me to sleep, and when I woke up, there was a cast all the way to my upper thigh. He said it was best if I stayed in a wheelchair for the whole time the cast was on. I wasn’t strong enough for crutches.
So I began middle school in a wheelchair. Not exactly the start I was hoping for.