I thought of you that morning last week when we sang "Open the eyes of my heart Lord."
I saw you, as if time hadn’t passed. Saw you walking the way you did…one long step, one short, always compensating for your severe lean. You walked with your school books clasped tightly to your breast bone as if for balance, as if for protection, a shield from the brutal epithets. God, how you needed a shield.
Who were you when you were you? When you didn’t have to guard your every glance and step? When you were with your one friend, or at home, with your family? Who were you when you didn’t have to concentrate on surviving?
You were called "rooster" or "hen" or "chicken," not because you were afraid–although perhaps you were–but because of the way you were hunched over. Your one shoulder blade, like a wing standing out on its own, and all that misplaced muscle and tissue, everything horizontal, distended, throwing you forward and to the right. Your body a listing hull…and the names.
Did you survive? Did your friend stay true to you…the one who walked down the Junior High halls with you? Who was she?…I don’t remember. I know now she was brilliantly defiant and as beautiful as you. How I wish I could ask your forgiveness for my silence, my complicity.
Why now, after thirty-nine years, do you glide into my memory on the strength of a song? Your image, invoking shame, guilt and tears. All the names you were given and I didn’t know the right name and now recall I never took the time to learn it.