My mother tells me the first alphabet I ever formed was an ‘elle’. A lower case ‘elle’. Although my ‘elle’ looked more like a caterpillar gliding on a green apple my mother always insisted that it was a perfect lower case ‘elle’. I beg to differ; I think it was just a squiggly line. Like everyone else, writing began for me in school. I don’t remember learning the alphabet or constructing my first sentences but I do remember the spelling bee in middle school; that is when my obsession with words began.
Disappointment. Disappointment. EASY. Okay. Here I go. D – I – S – S – A – P – O – I – N – T – M – E – N – T. Oh my God, yes, that was a piece of cake, I’m going to the district bee, what? What did you say? thud….. What? thud….thud….thud…. OH MY GOD! thud…thud…thud…thud… NO! thud..thud..thud..thud..thud.. What? Two what? thud.thud.thud.thud.thud.thud ‘Esses’, two ‘pees’ not two ‘esses’. Oh my God. Thudthudthudthudthudthadthud. Disappointment.
Earlier in the week my English teacher had taken a 100 word vocabulary test. She said that one top scorer from each English class would compete in a school bee and the top 3 winners will get a chance to participate in the district bee. I was the top scorer in my class. My teacher handed to me what was supposed to be my most coveted possession: a book of spelling bee words for the seventh level categorized according to easy, medium and hard. I was supposed to study it religiously and so I did. My mom first quizzed me on the entire booklet so we could rule out the words I already knew. Next, I started going through the list one by one, starting with the ‘hards’, then the ‘mediums’, and then the ‘easys’. At the end of the week it was time to play survival of the ‘spell-ist’. There were fourteen kids and forty-five minutes down the line half had already spelled a word wrong. Seven kids were remaining and my turn was about to come up again. The kid who went before me had to spell out the name of a fruit with three ‘ayes’ and two ‘enns’. Its yellow, long, the skin peels off and kind of looks like the second alphabet I formed as a kid, a ‘jay’ that looked like a diagonally placed concave lens. I had to spell disappointment. Nonchalantly, I blurted out the alphabets and like the squiggly ‘elle’ that I had formed as a kid, I squiggled a ‘pee’ which looked, or in this case sounded like an ‘ess’. My heartbeat increased a notch higher each time I made one word query. The thud thud thud’s climbed up from my chest like a caterpillar, glided over my throat like a voyage across an apple, and penetrated my mind like a butterfly that would not stop fluttering its wings. The thud thud thud’s pulsated in my mind.
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