Once, during my freshman year of college, a friend and I decided to take the bus home—my first venture into public transportation. We caught the bus at the transit center downtown, climbed in like kids going on a field trip and made our way down the aisle to the middle. The seats were hard on our butts, but neither of us complained because we were in air conditioning. We watched people get on and get off and on and off. The light above the bus driver’s seat flashed and I heard the ding that signaled him to pull the bus over, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how this was happening. In the end, my friend and just watched our street pass by. We sat there as the bus took us all the way back to the transit center, where the driver parked it with a lurch and stepped out for his break. Then we quietly got out off and walked home. Neither of us spoke up, neither of us asked for help, and to this day I still don’t know why.
“The girl in the red coat went to the store and bought some apples with five dollars.”
As the words left my mouth, the need to roll my eyes was so fierce, I swear my body shook with it. The woman on the other side of the table didn’t even bother to look up as she wrote my words down on a piece of paper. A tape recorder rolled on and on and on next to her elbow.
The story didn’t end there. I’m pretty sure the girl in the red coat did something with those apples, but I can’t remember. I do, however, remember the anguish I felt at being the only student called out of class to be tested in the English language. I was a junior in high school and hadn’t been in an English language development class since elementary school. This felt like someone decided to wage war on my identity, and it wasn’t the first time.