American Fork, UT.
I stood alone by the playground, kicking pebbles. Someone approached me and I glanced up eagerly, hoping for a friend.
“Are you Chinese?” the girl spat at me.
“No,” I mumbled. “I’m half Hmong.”
“Monk? What’s that?” She looked at me like I should be bald and humming in an orange robe.
“Not Monk. Hmong. My mom is from Laos,” I clarified.
“It’s over by Thailand.”
Had this girl even heard of a world map?
“Under China. On the other side of the world?” I answered, trying not to let too much sarcasm coat my voice.
“Why do your eyes look like that?” she demanded, narrowing hers.
“Like what?” I asked, hoping she would drop it. She didn’t.
“Like this.” She used her hands to stretch her eyes into barely visible slits.
“All squinty and stuff. Can you even see?”
I hadn’t thought my eyes were any different from anyone else. They worked just fine.
“I have 20-20 vision.” I offered, hoping that was the answer she wanted.
“I heard that’s not even that good,” she retorted.
Clearly, I had been mistaken. I said nothing, wishing her away. The bell rang, signaling the end of recess. The girl skipped to the front of the line with her friends and I stayed behind. My arms were crossed in front of my chest, attempting to hold back tears. Was I really that different from everyone else? I inhaled deeply and wondered how the rest of 3rd grade was going to go.