I woke up feeling sick the next morning. I thought immediately about the worst part of the day before, the whole class laughing as I wet my pants. Not hitting growth spurts until my mid teenage years, I was short and thin for my age. I remember that far back, feeling small, and I remember that morning wishing I were smaller, so small that I might disappear in a gust of wind or altogether. My mom made me go to the bathroom twice before the bus arrived, swinging open its double doors.
I waved by to my mom. I lifted my legs high on the steps of,the bus, sat quickly in the first empty bench, and rode in silence. When we got to R. Elementary School, I stood in line in front of the trailer-classroom, never once lifting my gaze, hoping no one would remember me. Except I was the only Chinese kid in this or any other kindergarten class – in the entire school district – and I’m sure they remembered me.
We started the class like we did before: the heads and shoulders song, the brown worm, and then we were allowed to play outside. The second the teacher excused us from the classroom, two dozen supercharged energy balls, shot out the door and made their way in pairs and threes to favorite playground areas. I got up slowly and walked outside too, unsure about what I would do during free time.
I could tell the other kids were ignoring me or avoiding me. Some kids were talking about me. I felt awful and shameful, so I turned and walked to the far end of the playground toward the giant sandbox.
Halfway there, a set of arms surprised me by lifting me up in a big hug. The arms set me down, and I heard a voice exclaim. “You are fahnny!” I turned back to see a chubby pale skinned boy from my class with a big brown coat, maybe a brother’s.
“You are fahnny! I like uh you!” He repeated.
“Hi,” I offered shyly.
Nick introduced himself as Yoo Krahneeun, which he said was like being Chinese but from somewhere else. He asked me if he sounded funny. I shook my head.
“Do you wanna build and fort over there?” I asked him, gesturing toward the sandbox.
Nick hugged me again and nodded and walked with me to go build a fort. Everyday we got to play outside, Nick and I would always go to the sandbox. I had one friend in kindergarten; I almost had none, but one good friend is sometimes all you need.