"Lupe, honestly, you're a smart girl. You're probably one of my smartest kids. You have such an aptitude for English that you could easily teach my first and second block classes," Mrs. Stevens said to me, pressing her thin brown lips together.
I honestly didn't have anything to say given that my mouth was so dry and my lips were so chapped. I felt like if I said more than ten words, they would crack and bleed. I just stared into my English IV teacher's face, waiting for her to finish her lecture. Either that or her telling me I could go on to lunch. Seeing that she was waiting on me to give her some type of response, I shrugged my shoulders so hard that it felt like I had almost dislocated them. For a second, she appeared to be smiling but after the situation I'd just been involved in, there was no time for smiling.
"Why?" she finally said after what seemed like hours of silence.
I was perplexed and I'm sure my face showed it.
"As smart as you are, why would you let someone of that level drag you down? You have so much potential and I can see it in you, Lupe. You are a bright, beautiful young lady and I see you going places. I see you going down in history. I see you changing people's lives? I see great things for you, Lupe," she said, each word flowing out of her mouth rhythmically. There's no denying that Mrs. Stevens is a a beautiful woman. She's so beautiful that I almost don't want to look at her.
"I have to defend myself," I finally said.
She nodded, I was hoping she would understand my situation from a different perspective, any perspective other than that of a teacher's. She had to realize that even though I was the only black kid in all of my Advanced Placement Courses, I still faced the problems of my neighborhood. Some of them even followed me into school.
Even though I had an IQ of 127...even though I placed in the top quartile of students in the entire state of South Carolina...even though I'd been in advanced classes since the third grade...even though I made nothing below a B...I still lived in the ghetto.
I lived in the ghetto where bullets rang through the air in the night like fireworks on the fourth or July. Where I lived, the smell of weed was common. Where I lived, it wasn't shocking to hear of someone you'd known since you were five being killed in a driveby neighborhood. It wasn't shocking to see someone's life being taken either, however, it was disturbing and would leave me with plenty nights without sleep.
And even though I had "so much to offer to the world with my intelligence and aptitude for reading and writing", I was still labeled a hoodrat by those who didn't even desire to take the chance to recognize who I really was as a person. I, Lupe Ocean Dawn, was perceived as something I definetly wasn't.
"Lupe, you can defend yourself in other ways," Mrs. Stevens sighed, looking down at the stack of papers in front of her. She reminded me of how my social worker looked when she finally decided to put me back in the "care" of my mother. Stressed and obligated.
And yes. When a girl twice your size pushes you into a trashcan in front of the whole school, you can defend yourself. By walking away? No, I don't think so. Of course, I'm labeled as a target for bullies noting the fact that I'm 5 feet tall and one hunded and twenty pounds. I'm small, even though I've got my mothers wide hips and round behind. Anyways, I've been targeted all my life because of my size, but that doesn't mean I'll allow myself to be pushed around like worthless ragdoll. I retaliated even though I believed in talking myself out of confrontations.
"Mrs. Stevens, with all due respect, I don't think you understand, and I'm kind of tired," I said.
She nodded. "You're dismissed. Stay out of trouble. And go straight home if you have to."
Easier said than done.
I got up, looked at Mrs. Stevens one last time and walked out into the hallway where my loyal friends, Tori and Amber, stood waiting for my arrival. Tori, was tall and had skin the color of lemons. With her green eyes and curly brown hair, she was a complete babe. I'd always gotten attention from guys everywhere I went, but not like Tori. Tori was absolutely gorgeous, too bad she didn't know it. Amber on the other hand was short like me, but dark like cocoa. I mean she was dark. Her skin was almost the color of tree bark, but it was smooth and clear, not a flaw in sight. Her dark skin contrasted so well with her thin lips and pearly white teeth that her smile caused other people to smile even when they didn't have a reason. Her dark eyes and dark hair matched perfectly with her skin. And then there was me. Short, curvy, and brown skinned with brown eyes that seemed to be the color of mud to me. My hair wasn't super straight like Amber's, or deliciously curly like Tori's. It was wavy and if I didn't straighten it or do anything at all to it, it just hung in my back. Too bad everyone thought it was weave.
"Did she give you a lecture?" Tori asked.
"On staying out of trouble,"
ghetto?" Amber asked. "Good luck with that."