“That’s why you ugly!” Erica yelled.
Her long hair swung with her words. I stood on the damp grass in P.E., fuming. The fight started because I had finally snapped at her about making “jokes” that sounded more like making fun of people, people like me.
Mr. Valentine blew his whistle so hard that I could see specks of spit ricocheting off of his mustache. The shrill sound ended the fight before I could come up with a clever comeback.
That’s why you got buck teeth. / That’s why yo breath stank. / That’s why Rachel whooped yo butt in that fight.
Thoughts that never made their way to words.
Our argument marked the beginning of the end of the Rough Riders, a group of ten girls with one commonality: being the only black girls in our gifted middle school classes. We would twist our fingers into R’s and smile wide for photos taken on one of our digital cameras, cementing the legitimacy of our group.
The Rough Riders offered me an anchor, a safe place where I could avoid being the girl who sat in the cafeteria alone. It was a group I belonged to, but I also felt out of place with them. Like when Erica would mouth-off to Mr. Valentine, refusing to change into our P.E. uniforms--baggy shorts and a golden t-shirt plastered with an alligator on the front, our mascot--all because she didn’t like the activity for the day. I would cross my arms in solidarity, refusing to do the same, even though the thought of getting points docked from my grade was terrifying.
Slammed lockers, tardy bells, and kids smacking on chewing gum swirled around for the rest of the day. But all I could hear was the word replaying itself in my head. Ugly. UGly. UGLY.
I had braces with remnants of breakfast or lunch forever stuck in the brackets, wild eyebrows that grew like weeds, and a too-skinny frame. High school was just months away. I imagined the large brick building that was three times bigger than my middle school swallowing me whole.
On my walk home from the bus stop I looked down at my khaki pants that were too short for me since my recent growth spurt.
All I could think of was how Erica was right.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Danielle Lomas is a graduate of Georgetown University where she studied Accounting and English. She was a member of Georgetown University’s Black Theatre Ensemble; her theatre credits include In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O’Hara. Danielle enjoys playing the piano and running in her free time. She works as an accountant at a private equity firm and resides in Washington, D.C.
Danielle encourages you to get to know Erika's Lighthouse, an organization committed to educate schools and communities about teen depression. Visit erikaslighthouse.org.