Affected

This essay was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club:
“This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.

Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.”
Of course, being a word nerd, I turned to my beat-up college dictionary (Webster’s New World) before starting:
1.    A mental or emotional state or tendency; disposition or feeling
2.    Fond or tender feelings, warm liking
3.    A disease; ailment
4.    An attribute or property of a thing
5.    An affecting or being affected
 I think I’ve got definition two covered.  Possibly number five.  Maybe a tinge of three if you look up the word on line.
Anyway, I was really going for a kid’s POV here, as something else I’m writing is written from the perspective of a youngster.
Affected
I was in the third grade.  I wore new baby blue corduroy pants with an elastic waistband and a matching jacket sewn by my mother at the dining room table.  One by one, the teacher called the students to her desk to retrieve their math tests.  Perhaps the tests were in order by grade.  Or alphabetically.  Or maybe they were arranged by row because he passed me on his way to get his paper.
He looked at his test.

His face crumbled in upon itself like a half-eaten apple left to dry in the sun.  He was close to tears.  But in a split second, anger replaced despair.  He snatched the paper from the teacher’s hand and stormed back down the row.  His paper was in his right hand, his pencil in his left.
It was a long pencil.  A just-sharpened pencil.  He approached my desk. 
He gripped that pencil.  He brought his hand up.  Up to his waist.  Up to his to his shoulder.   He snarled something.  His lip wore a sneer. 
He drove his hand down.  Down between the cords of my baby blue pants with the elastic waistband made by my mother at the dining room table.  Down into my thigh.
I stared at his hand.  He snapped off the pencil tip and continued walking to his seat.
My eyes filled with tears.  I examined my pants.  There was a little pencil mark; there was a tiny hole where the fabric had parted to accommodate the sharp pencil tip.
I said nothing.  He was the cool kid.  He was the liked kid.  He had everyone’s affection in the palm of his hand.
When a sufficient time had passed, I asked to go to the restroom.  I pulled down my baby blue corduroy pants and sat on the black toilet seat to study my leg.  It was white.  It was angry.  It throbbed. 
I pulled up my pants and returned to math class.  With an eraser, I rubbed at the pencil mark on my pants.  With a fingernail, I coaxed the fibers of the fabric together.
After school, I changed out of my pants and again studied my leg.  The skin was gray and hard and tender.  In the center, I could see a tiny speck of pencil lead.  I worried at my leg until it bled: Nail scissors wouldn’t extract that lead.  Nor would tweezers or needles sterilized in alcohol.
In time, a clear piece of skin grew over that pencil lead, entombing it permanently in my thigh. 
We got older.  He became a star athlete.  He was popular.  Handsome.  Loved by all.  I suppose even I shared my classmates’ affection for him, admiring his talent, his athleticism, that easy, confident smile. 
Any time I want, I can look through the window of skin in my thigh, see the lead embedded there and be reminded of him.
When he reaches for a pencil, I wonder: Does he remember me?


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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Affected

Monday, June 13, 2011

Affected

This essay was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club:
“This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.

Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.”
Of course, being a word nerd, I turned to my beat-up college dictionary (Webster’s New World) before starting:
1.    A mental or emotional state or tendency; disposition or feeling
2.    Fond or tender feelings, warm liking
3.    A disease; ailment
4.    An attribute or property of a thing
5.    An affecting or being affected
 I think I’ve got definition two covered.  Possibly number five.  Maybe a tinge of three if you look up the word on line.
Anyway, I was really going for a kid’s POV here, as something else I’m writing is written from the perspective of a youngster.
Affected
I was in the third grade.  I wore new baby blue corduroy pants with an elastic waistband and a matching jacket sewn by my mother at the dining room table.  One by one, the teacher called the students to her desk to retrieve their math tests.  Perhaps the tests were in order by grade.  Or alphabetically.  Or maybe they were arranged by row because he passed me on his way to get his paper.
He looked at his test.

His face crumbled in upon itself like a half-eaten apple left to dry in the sun.  He was close to tears.  But in a split second, anger replaced despair.  He snatched the paper from the teacher’s hand and stormed back down the row.  His paper was in his right hand, his pencil in his left.
It was a long pencil.  A just-sharpened pencil.  He approached my desk. 
He gripped that pencil.  He brought his hand up.  Up to his waist.  Up to his to his shoulder.   He snarled something.  His lip wore a sneer. 
He drove his hand down.  Down between the cords of my baby blue pants with the elastic waistband made by my mother at the dining room table.  Down into my thigh.
I stared at his hand.  He snapped off the pencil tip and continued walking to his seat.
My eyes filled with tears.  I examined my pants.  There was a little pencil mark; there was a tiny hole where the fabric had parted to accommodate the sharp pencil tip.
I said nothing.  He was the cool kid.  He was the liked kid.  He had everyone’s affection in the palm of his hand.
When a sufficient time had passed, I asked to go to the restroom.  I pulled down my baby blue corduroy pants and sat on the black toilet seat to study my leg.  It was white.  It was angry.  It throbbed. 
I pulled up my pants and returned to math class.  With an eraser, I rubbed at the pencil mark on my pants.  With a fingernail, I coaxed the fibers of the fabric together.
After school, I changed out of my pants and again studied my leg.  The skin was gray and hard and tender.  In the center, I could see a tiny speck of pencil lead.  I worried at my leg until it bled: Nail scissors wouldn’t extract that lead.  Nor would tweezers or needles sterilized in alcohol.
In time, a clear piece of skin grew over that pencil lead, entombing it permanently in my thigh. 
We got older.  He became a star athlete.  He was popular.  Handsome.  Loved by all.  I suppose even I shared my classmates’ affection for him, admiring his talent, his athleticism, that easy, confident smile. 
Any time I want, I can look through the window of skin in my thigh, see the lead embedded there and be reminded of him.
When he reaches for a pencil, I wonder: Does he remember me?


Labels: , , , ,

25 Comments:

At June 13, 2011 at 12:23 PM , Anonymous Thelma Zirkelbach said...

Powerful piece.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 4:16 PM , Anonymous From Tracie said...

Ooooh!

How awful for him to do that to you!

I wonder if he remembers, too.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 4:21 PM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

Thelma is right, powerful piece. I do have to say that I am one of those people that needs life to package itself all neat and tidy so that everything makes sense. How could someone be popular when they have the capacity to be so hateful? I understand when the sweet kind people are beloved or admired, but I don't get why someone that would stab a little girl just sitting there would ever be in the position of being the cool kid. This concept still mystifies me every time I hear of a celebrity acting unconscionable but retaining their celebrity status. I hope he does remember and has a poke of remorsefulness.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 4:32 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I love it! A "poke" of remorsefulness. But he was only a little kid, too.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Tracie! I bet he does remember.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Thelma!

 
At June 13, 2011 at 5:12 PM , Anonymous Miss GOP said...

Love this! I love that image of the "window of skin in my thigh." There is quite a bit of powerful imagery here and sensory detail (which I'm always preaching to my students). I'm also a big fan of short sentences for emphases such as "We got older." Lovely. Thanks for sharing this.

I love this writing prompt, too. I just blogged about writing prompts today, too.

-Miss GOP
www.thewritingapprentice.com

 
At June 13, 2011 at 6:22 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! I'll look for your post at RDC tomorrow.

 
At June 13, 2011 at 6:52 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Orozco said...

Wonderful piece!

When I was in high school, one of my friends stabbed her boyfriend in the thigh with a just-sharpened pencil when she found out he was cheating on her. We were all in shock.

But even he went to see the school nurse.

I can't imagine what that must have been like for a young child...

 
At June 14, 2011 at 6:48 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading!

 
At June 14, 2011 at 9:21 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

I love the repeat of the babyblues. Reads like a Garrison Keeler story somehow. Best line...."His face crumbled in upon itself like a half-eaten apple left to dry in the sun." What a word picture that is.

 
At June 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous May said...

He drove his hand down. Down between the cords of my baby blue pants with the elastic waistband made by my mother at the dining room table. Down into my thigh.

I found the above paragraph to be sheer genius. He assaults and through your mind and your words we are flying through all that has been good, right and secure in your world. Then we end back with his assault. I just think that paragraph has such power. Excellent.

I also love the ending. As the person accosted you still bear the mark, but does someone who lashes out in anger reflect upon it and remember? I would love to know.

Fabulous piece!

 
At June 14, 2011 at 12:17 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, May. I wasn't too sure about the repetition of down but I wanted it to sound kind of child-like. Glad it worked for you.

 
At June 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Hey, thanks! I really liked playing with the repetition here. But I had to be careful. Repetition is like salt: too much and the whole thing is ruined.

 
At June 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM , Anonymous Elise Seaton said...

I just popped over from Lady Blogger. This was a great piece! A very similar thing happened to me as a child. They got the graphite out on my leg, so I don't have the reminder, but I occasionally wonder about him. Weird coincidence... :)

 
At June 14, 2011 at 6:18 PM , Anonymous Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

When I read something that makes me angry or sad or happy, I feel like the piece has really done its job. This made me angry and sad all at the same time. Angry at the popular boy and those like him and sad for you for having to deal with him and his cruelty. You did an excellent job of portraying this memory, of taking your reader back to that time with you and of letting them feel a little bit of what you felt.

For just a moment, when you so perfectly described his face after receiving his grade, I felt sorry for him. But as I read on, I saw his true self reflected through you. I got the sense that you saw through his visage, saw his true colors...so why is it so hard for everyone else to see that? Why do we give our affection to those who are popular simply because they are popular or athletic or physically appealing? I'll never understand that about people, so long as I live.

Excellent response to the prompt.

 
At June 14, 2011 at 7:28 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yeah, that is a strange coincidence! Thanks for coming over to read!

 
At June 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading! Just took a look at your blog. Can't wait to read more!

 
At June 15, 2011 at 6:43 AM , Anonymous Terry Stoufer said...

What a powerful memory. A couple of things about your writing I love...I love that you pick just the right moments to slow down, and you slow them down to the right pace.
I also love your descriptions, the others mentioned his face/apple detail, I loved that too. I loved the detail that your mom made those pants at the kitchen table...that was important and let us peek into some things that tell us about you, with out just telling us. You do well with revealing character, rather than just tell. Great post!

 
At June 15, 2011 at 3:29 PM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, I think we've all made the acquaintance of that mean, but handsome boy that others seem to have affection for but that we remember as a bully, obnoxious, little twerp. In my case it was a horrible kid named Steve. He used to terrorize me on a daily basis, tugging at my pig tails hard, and pulling up my the skirt of my dress. I hated him even when everyone else seemed to love him. I so enjoyed this post. Great delivery of this tangible memory!

 
At June 15, 2011 at 8:46 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Terry. I'm glad you picked up on the pacing. That's something I'm really working on.

 
At June 15, 2011 at 8:46 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Bella. I'm glad you liked it.

 
At June 15, 2011 at 8:47 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading, Jenna!

 
At June 19, 2011 at 3:31 AM , Anonymous sweetbutterbliss said...

How sad. You didn't tell anyone? I hope that doesn't happen to my girls and if it does that they would tell someone. Your writing made me hurt for you.

 
At November 14, 2011 at 3:41 AM , Anonymous MarcyTooTimid said...

Great story. It's such a dramatic detail to still have the lead embedded! Thanks for linking up to "Scene from a Memoir."

 

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