Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pen Pals and Salami

One of my worst memories is the year when everyone in the sixth grade in my elementary school had a pen pal from another school, a school where most of the students were African-American.  The idea, I think, was to promote understanding and brotherhood.
Yes, everyone had a pen pal, except for one child.
Me.
I wasn't allowed to have a pen pal because of my handwriting.
It was hard having to listen to my classmates read the letters they received from their pen pals.
But that wasn't the worst. 
One day, we were told to bring our lunch to school the next day.  There would be a special assembly, and everyone would be eating in the auditorium... with their pen pals.
Mom said I had to go to school, but she sent a note asking that I be excused from the assembly.
It didn't do any good.
So there I was in that crowded auditorium that might as well have been empty as far as I was concerned.  There I was, sitting in the aisle,  listening to everyone else talking to his or her pen pal,
wondering what they thought when they saw me not talking to anyone.  Did they think it was because I was prejudiced?
That was the loneliest moment of my life.
Almost everyone had a salami sandwich.
I used to like salami, but that day the smell of it, added to the way I already felt, made me sick.
It was a long time before I could stand the sight or smell of salami, and I've never been able to
eat it since that day.