I could hear the brakes squeal as the car came to a halt. I took one last sip from my juice box and crushed it in my hand like the way buff guys do in the movies after chugging their canned beers. My hand was too delicate and doll-like to do some real damage but in my head I thought I was the toughest chick in the 3rd grade. I could see the fog on the windshield. The rosary dangled from the rear view mirror along with a wooden cross key chain I made last year in art class. The low-rider oldies played softly in the background. My belly was full and I felt confident about killing my math test later. I grabbed my Hello Kitty backpack and scooted to reach for the cold metal door handle.
“Okay mija, have a good day! Love you,” my Cita said as she looked back at me.
She still had her apron on that filled the car with the aroma of bacon and eggs. Her cheeks were rosy from the cooking, cleaning and traffic she had conquered all within a matter of 20 minutes. Her time management skills were impeccable. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why she got her eyebrows tattooed, so she can save time in the morning to do other activities like drown the house in Fabuloso at 5am or mow the lawn way before the sun could even wake up. I idolized that lady for the super powers and wisdom she had. Cita always taught me to be brave and speak up for myself. “Listen to your gut and do what you feel is right” were her famous words. Little did I know, my shoulder devil and angel were plotting to make an appearance to put me to the ultimate test that day.
Tap! Tap! It was the unpleasant sound of keys drumming on the window from the outside. I gasped. Nerves filled my body as me and this person played seconds of tug of war with the door handle. Cita tends to forget to unlock the door sometimes. Whoops.
I’m forced to take a deep breath of thick smog and gas fumes as the door swung right open. Countless numbers of cars and buses drive through that same spot every day to drop off hundreds of kids at school. Oh the joys of living in a well populated and polluted city.
All white Reeboks greeted me as I stepped out. Ah yes, it was Ms. Rapstein. I always admired her for maintaining her makeup and fresh floral scent throughout the day. I mean, have you ever met a P.E teacher who manages to spend her time in a smelly gym all day in the Texas heat with zero air conditioning and still look like they were just crowned Miss America in 1986? I doubt it! But yeah, that was Ms. Rapstein. The amount of Aquanet she used every morning to tame her teased blonde hair is probably why global warming is at an all-time high now. She had that poster Colgate smile you see on billboards that dentists love to advertise. She was the type of female that refused to leave the house without eyeliner and red lips painted on her face, even just to check mail. She reminded me of one of the backups from a Jane Fonda workout tape the way her body was perfectly proportioned and sculpted.
However, on this particular day, I wasn’t fortunate enough to receive a heartfelt greeting nor a pageant smile from her as I had hoped. I exited the car as she proceeded to slam the door behind me. That was Cita’s cue to take off. I took a glance at Ms. Rapstein and thought I saw Aileen Wuornos for a moment. Something felt off though. Is it because it was Monday? My spidey senses tingled as I could feel some sort of negativity in the air. Whatever. I was probably just over thinking like I always do. Kids my age have a habit of forgetting to brush their teeth in the morning while I have the tendency to over jumble my head with thoughts and wanting to please people all the time. It's annoying.
“Is that your grandmother who just dropped you off?” Ms. Rapstein asked, her country accent peering out a bit.
“Yes ma’am it is.” I answered.
“She must be ignorant huh?” she insinuated with ease as she smacked her gum. “Don’t answer that. I know an ignorant person when I see one.”
My heart immediately dropped to my gut. I could feel the apple juice begging to come up as I tried to fight the enormous boulder in my throat. I stood there at attention and stared at her the same way I watched the two Twin Towers crumble on 9/11 through my TV screen. I could choke any moment now. Eyes gleaming, I suffered to keep in the waterworks from bursting out of my eye sockets. Did I hear that correctly? Did she just call my grandmother ignorant like that? Out of nowhere? Who the hell does she think she is?
“Go on now. Get to class.”
I turned around and all I could see were blurry doors with kids running inside of them. Everything appeared to me as if I were underwater. I replayed her comment in my head over and over again like if I had to memorize it for a test. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable in a long time. Maybe I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. I just let this bully get away with insulting my Cita’s intelligence.
Oh no. Suddenly I started to think about what Cita would do if she found out what Ms. Rapstein said about her. Wait, how would I tell her? I began to panic. What is she going to think when I tell her I just stood there like an idiot and didn’t defend her? Ugh why didn’t I say something right then and there when I had the chance? Is it too late to go back and cuss up a storm? No Autumn. Don’t be stupid. Keep it classy. Nah F that. She’s not going to disrespect my family like that! Just wait until I get home.
A barrage of scenarios crowded my brain as I slowly crept to class. I was enraged and my blood was boiling ferociously that I could possibly get away with having a severe fever if I wanted to. OMG yes that’s perfect! I’ll go to the nurse so I can be sent home and not have to deal with the devil during P.E today! But damn that means I’ll ruin my perfect attendance streak that I worked hard all year for. AND I’ll miss so much during labs today that I’ll fall far behind and severely struggle that will most likely cause me to get a B in Mr. Sanders’ class! Heck I refuse to get A-B honor roll!! Although, even if I were to stay, I still wouldn’t be able to concentrate because I can’t stop over thinking to save my life! Why do I have to make these stupid sacrifices? Why do kids have to be put in the middle of grown up problems all the time!! All of this could’ve been avoided if adults actually practiced what they preached with the famous “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” speech.
Now I have to face my fears of telling my Cita who will without a doubt come to the school and burn this place down until she gets an apology. I can already picture her cussing and making threats in Spanish to anyone who looked her way. One fun fact about my grandma is that she was raised in the most ghetto streets of San Antonio. You mess with her and within seconds she’ll have her 8 cholo brothers knocking on your front door demanding you to come outside to “talk.” She doesn’t play. Just ask our pesky neighbor who decided it was okay to steal from her yard. Do you think he even glances at her green grass anymore? Nope.
I bent over to take a sip at the drinking fountain. Cold water touched my lips that sent a quiver down my spine. I had a brief glimpse of reality strike me. Goosebumps elevated from my arms. Is this what it’s going to feel like when I feel Cita’s wrath come out to play?