I belong to a private writing group on Facebook and someone posted the sentence “The pretty girls always had mirrors in their backpacks” as a writing prompt. For whatever reason, my brain-fried, short-on-words mind felt like it had a lot to say about this one. I haven’t written fiction in years. Literally…it must be almost 20 since I’ve written fiction. The last was a rather feminist retelling of common damsel in distress fairy tale (Snow White, maybe?). Anyway, I posted this little piece of fiction on the Facebook group and then decided to cheat a little and use it as my blog post for today.
I know it seems like I’ve fallen off the map with writing just as soon as I declared my grand return. I’ve been writing, but just not here. I’ll share those posts tomorrow. I have also been busy building a Website/blog for a big project that my students and I are going to work on throughout the school year. I think that should totally count for something.
My first day back is tomorrow, y’all, and the kids start next Wednesday. How is it fall already? (Hush up. It’s fall in my world. Work with me, here.)
Tell me what you think about this bit of writing of mine. Unless you think it sucks.
The pretty girls, at least the White ones, always had mirrors in their backpacks. My school was the private type where Whitneys got new horses for straight A’s and Bethanys chirped incessantly about cotillions and trust funds. My tuition was funded by scholarship, and I was too busy earning my own straight A’s to chirp about anything. The only trust I had was distrust; I didn’t trust that they saw me without first stereotyping me by my skin. I didn’t need a mirror to remind me that I was the only Black girl from 6th to 12th grade.
First period was Bible Study and on Thursdays, there was “Chapel,” which wasn’t held in the adjoining church, but was downstairs in a glorified meeting room. Chapel days were mirror days, because all the other 7th grade girls (the pretty ones) knew they’d have an hour to ogle at the high school boys when they should have been singing about the joyous day that the Lord hath made. I didn’t ogle, and I didn’t sing, either.
I did not rejoice when Tiffany tried to gift me with a hand-me-down compact as we shuffled down the stairwell. I could already hear the piano two floors below.
“I heard there’s a new guy in 9th,” Tiffany said as she flipped open a newish compact. “I think his name is Jamal.” She swiped her jawline with the silk-backed, round applicator. “He’s half-Black, or maybe Puerto Rican. Anyway, he’s mixed with SOMETHING, so you finally have a shot, y’know!” She fished around in her purse and produced the older compact. “Here,” — she popped it open as she passed it to me– “you can have this mirror that I don’t need anymore. You’re so pretty! The other girls and me always want to make sure we look GOOD before we get to Chapel. I’ve been trying to get Toby to pay attention to me for weeks. Toby…mmm…he is SO fine! Isn’t that what they say in your neighborhood? ‘Fine’? Come sit in the back with us!”
The mirror was still shiny, but there was barely a ring of the Toasted Tan Lancôme pressed powder left on the other side. Maybe she thought she was doing me a favor by offering a tangible token of “acceptance.” Maybe she thought she was proving how “down” she was by trying to use language that didn’t belong to her. Maybe she was pissed when I snapped the mirror shut and gave it back to her with a curt “No, thanks” thrown carelessly over my shoulder as I made my way up to my customary third-row seat next to my friend Tori, who was White but had hair bushier than my own. Tori, who was in no need of mirrors or back-row invitations, either.
And the day when Toby asked me out and the WhitneyBethanyTifannys gasped in disbelief, I was glad in it.