I was always too loud.
The curls of my hair always had a way of poking through the hard gel my mom tried to hold them down with. The frilly white socks with ruffles at the top itched my feet. It was my first day of kindergarten.
“Okay, you can go over there with all the other kids,” said Ms. Brown. My bright pink shirt did its best to mask the uncertainty I walked with. My legs refused to move.
“Come on. You can do it. Go play with the other kids,” said Ms. Brown. I nodded and began to walk.
I could barely get my legs to move. The fluttering of my stomach made me ill. My body heat started to rise. And all I wanted to do was hide.
“Hi!” Her blonde hair masked my vision. Her teeth had a weird blueish green tint to them, and I realized it was because pieces of blue crayon were stuck between them.
“What’s your name!?” asked the blonde girl.
“I’m Lindsay. What’s your name?” I asked.
“Oh, my name is—” I never remembered her name.
“Lindsay you can color if you want,” said Ms. Brown. I grabbed a blank page and looked for a blue crayon. I couldn’t find one. The room was split. Half of the kids were playing with toys, and the other half was coloring. A boy named Jason grabbed a doll from the blonde girl’s hand. Her cheeks flushed up, and her tears began to fall.
“Hey! Give her back her doll,” I said. The boy looked at me with a blank expression and left, taking the doll with him. The girl with the tear stained cheeks ran to Ms. Brown crying.
It had been a week since my first day. Every day went the same. We’d color, eat, sleep, and play.
“Okay, guys come back in,” said Ms. Brown. I quickly wiped the crumbs off my shirt. I ran to the door and grabbed the first toy I saw.
“Brittany, here take this! I don’t want Jason to take it,” I said. Brittany, another girl I became friends with, ran towards the Barbie doll on the floor, and reached for it, but Jason got there first. Her eyes turned glassy. The tears fell.
“Brittany, what’s wrong?” I asked. Her sniffles were louder than her words.
“Is this what you want Brittany?” said Jason, shaking the brand new Barbie in her face.
“Give it back. She wants to play with it,” I said.
“I don’t want to”
“Give. It. To. Her. Now.” I reached for the doll.
“Jason give it back! It’s not yours!” I grabbed the doll.
“Yes it is! It’s mine!” He caught the fabric of my collar and pulled me down.
“Jason, leave me alone!” I pulled him down.
“Lindsay!” I looked up and there she was. Ms. Brown standing with her red beady eyes. I thought she was ready to yell at him.
“What are you doing, Lindsay!?” asked Ms. Brown. Feet stopped. Playing stopped. My breathing slowed.
“Jason, was trying to take the Barbie and I want—”
“You are way too loud. You need to be quiet,” said Ms. Brown.
“I was just trying to—”
“You are too loud,” repeated Ms. Brown. I was always too loud.
I was always too opinionated.
I wiped the beads of sweat off my forehead. The bell had rung minutes before.
“Hey Lindsay!” smiled Mr. Glaze. His bald head shimmered in the sunlight. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
Yes, I did. I had somewhere to be. I had to be home.
“No… not really,” I replied. He didn’t have to say anything. I knew what I had to do. I lugged my heavy bag over my shoulders and headed for the stairs. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to go home.
A boy sat in the stairwell. He had a beaten up black backpack, with paint blotches all over. His pale skin crept through the tear at the bottom of his jeans. My foot hit the cement stair, and he glared at me.
“What?” I said. I was 12, and that was the first time I’d ever been called the N-word to my face.
“It was a joke,” said the pale boy. I wasn’t smiling.
“It’s not funny. You shouldn’t joke about that. Don’t call me a nig—”
“I can call you whatever I want,” argued the pale boy. His dirty matted hair stuck to his forehead. Spit laid across his cracked lips. His lips nearly bled as they creased into a smile.
“No, you can’t call me that. That’s rude,” I immediately replied. The fury that boiled inside was a kind of rage I never even knew existed. My legs went numb, my hands started to shake. It became clear that my own body heat was an uncontrollable sense, an overwhelming feeling that started to turn me inside out. “You don’t call black people that. You can’t call me a n*****”
“Shut up,” he wittily retorted.
He didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Frankly, at the time no one really wanted to. I remember his name, I remember his stupid face, but I also remember the way that he made me feel like my feelings were unimportant. No matter what I said, it didn’t matter. Truly, for the first time in my life, I felt like no matter what I did, no matter how angry I got, whatever I said it was simply not important. I was always too opinionated.
I always had too much to say.
It was my first week at my new school. I was the only sophomore in a class full of freshmen. The sound of the pipes echoed in the room. Everyone was in little clusters, and then there was me.
“Okay, everyone get into groups,” interrupted Ms. Ray. The room immediately erupted back into conversation. Everyone grouped together, except me. I was alone.
“You can go there,” said Ms. Ray. She pointed to a table with a boy wearing a striped shirt. I hesitantly walked towards the table.
“Okay guys, connect the pieces to the right information,” confusingly added Ms. Ray.
“Okay, so do you guys have any idea how we should do this?” I asked. The boy in the striped shirt grabbed the bag and spread the pieces around.
“What are you doing?” angrily asked the blonde girl. He laughed.
“Hey, can we just focus on the—,” I reasoned.
“No.” He scattered the pieces around the table.
“Please can we just—” I tried again.
“No, I wan—”
“Stop! You are making a mess!” I yelled. I was tired. I was done.
“Gosh, why are black women so aggressive?” he said.
Why are black women so aggressive? I’ve heard this line for most of my life. Why are black women so loud? So opinionated? I have been indirectly told that black women are always a problem, that they always had something to be angry about since the day I was born. Growing up, there were times I had to hold back, I had to stay put, to stay quiet. My dad’s friends would always come over to play cards. The TV was on, and I would braid my doll’s hair.
“Man, you will not believe this woman,” he said. My dad laughed and continued to shuffle the cards, “She thinks she can walk into my house, and take my things. I promise the next time I see her I am going to kill her,” he said. He grabbed the cards and dealt them. I ran to my dad and sat on his lap.
“Daddy, why is he being so mean?” I asked. He didn’t hear me.
“So why did you even marry her?” asked another man. He simply shrugged.
“I don’t know what I was thinking when I married that fat bitch,” he said.
“Why are you so mean?” I asked. The shuffling stop. Everyone heard me, “You don’t have to be mean, she’s your wife,” I said.
“Stop.” My father said. I didn’t understand. His eyes were glued on me. His smile had vanished. The wrinkles around his eyes had faded. His warm embrace suddenly turned cold.
“What? He’s being mean,” I said. My dad said nothing else. I knew he wanted me to stop talking. I didn’t understand. He had always told me to speak up and to stand up for myself. That’s what I was doing, but he was so upset. That was the first time I remember not being supported.
The smell of motor oil filled the air. The awning was packed with children. Parent pick-up was the worst. I saw the top of my mom’s faded green car.
“Hi Mommy,” I said. My eyes felt heavy.
“What’s wrong? Are you tired?” asked my mom. I nodded.
“Are you okay?” she asked. She reached a hand in the backseat.
She didn’t have to muster a word. She wanted to know what was wrong.
“My teacher yelled at me today. I was just trying to help,” I said. “The boy said the new girl was ugly, so I told him that was mean. He called me stupid so I yelled at him and I got in trouble.” I was waiting for my mother to get angry.
“You did the right thing,” my mom said. I was confused. “You stood up for her and yourself. I’m proud of you,” she continued. She was proud of me. She supported me.
I no longer shut up. I use my voice. I use it every day, in every situation. I will continue to speak up, to stand up, and most importantly fight for my people, whether it be through my writing, my activism, and or my actual voice. I will use it.