Letters for Shyness

Year 1999, it’s kindergarten and they’re learning the shapes of the alphabet. Each day they use a different medium to create the letters. Today is toothpicks and she figured out that you need at least three toothpicks to make a capital A if you don’t break one stick. The class is turning into an arts and crafts session; everyone is yelling and screaming and having a good time. Except, for that little girl in the corner. With baby blue eyes and light blonde hair she looks like a stereotypical angel but never smiles.

This is normal; she rarely ever say a word in class. She’ll talk your ear off if at home, or at brothers’ soccer games, but never in the classroom. And it is all because of those freaky cards. Arranged by color to match traffic lights, the little cards say how well you’re doing in class; whether you’re being naughty or nice. If you talk in class too loudly or when you aren’t supposed to your little card is flipped to the next color and the teacher scolds you. No one knows what happens when your card gets turned to red.

One day teacher decided to flip her card to orange because she said one word to another student during quiet time. That moment of humiliation scared her so much that she didn’t dare say anything all day long. This is why she is sitting silently at a table of three and sticking her toothpicks together like a worker on an assembly line when her teacher walks over and gives her a long look. Being impertinent like only a kid can, she stared right back up at her. At last she says, “Why don’t you talk to the other kids? You need to socialize more. You’re too quiet.” The toothpick snaps in her hand. She stares down at her desk hoping that she will walk away. She is little, but she still knows that she is suggesting that she’s different. Different isn’t good.

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