Tell me, tell me, won’t you please
what you see when you look at me
am I really just the color of my skin
do you even bother to look within
where there is so much more to us all
souls beyond description, spirits without pall

I wondered if it made me a racist to think of my father’s people as animals as they stomped me in the dark parking lot of the Mid-Island motel. Being kicked in the face and groin while punched, scratched, and pinched on every exposed part of my body led me to the conclusion that is what they were.
Mom was the Night Clerk and I often slept in her room alone when she was on duty. That was quite the upgrade from the adjoining double bed shared by the five of us kids packed sideways, sardine style. We managed to fit comfortably, but for the time we all had the Chicken Pox.

That night, having the room to myself was not so good. It was in an offshoot to the main office where Mom worked. It always made us feel special that our rooms were not part of the rest of the motel. Special was interpreted as better than, I was to learn the hard way.

They woke me with a hand over my mouth and had my limbs pinned to my side. I was lifted and crowd surfed to, and then through, the small window of the storage closet. This was, presumably, their point of entry through my Great Wall of China. Once outside they let me drop to the asphalt where the stomping began. With my eyes swollen immediately I could never have identified my abductors.

They dragged me around the corner where there were no lights, no cars parked, and no hope of salvation. My ears ringing from the blows, it was difficult to clarify what I had done to draw such a vicious response. Okay, so we fought daily on the school bus and/or at recess. I was always on the losing end of those so I couldn’t credit that. I had stolen back my friend’s bicycle, but no one knew about that, if they had I would have been dead long before tonight.

All I could discern through their yelling, and my screaming, was, “…think you’re better than …” This just added to my confusion. Surely not. Not me, the kid so terrified by the threat of this very thing that I peed in my pants when the bully, Snow, whispered his intentions to make hamburger out of me. Not the head of the Audio/Visual squad for Robert E. Seamen elementary school. Yet, that was all I could make out that was intelligible if not understandable.

After they tired, they all stood and laughed at me. Snow knelt to again whisper in my ear. His voice so full of malevolence that I would have peed myself again if I hadn’t already. My white mom and her halfbreeds had to go, or else.

“Next time’ll be the last time, Oreo,” the exclamation, a thumb gouged in my already swollen eye.

Not a door opened or closed, nor curtain ruffled, as I crawled and dragged my ragged butt back across the length of the motel parking lot. My PJs in tatters, my briefs thoroughly soiled, the glass and gravel made me wish it was just salt on my wounds. Strips of skin hung from my knees and the palms of my hands. It took hours to climb back through the window of the storage closet and back into my mother’s motel room. I lay in the tub washing as best I could, trying not to wake anyone with my crying.

Mom didn’t say anything, but dabbed the Bactine gently with cotton balls as she cried, applied the “flesh colored” Band-Aids to my light brown skin as she cursed silently and with her eyes. She was as stoic as I had been the day my dog, Happiness, had been killed by a neighbor’s car. Maybe she was in shock too. She kept me home from school that day and boarded up the offending window. A few weeks later there was an incident that made this one seem tame and she moved us away from there.

In school, some of my classmates, who lived at the Mid-Island motel, told me it was okay to come back, that everything would be all right now. I felt like everything would never be right again after such sustained trauma, in many ways I was right.

M. Zane McClellan

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