Five Times I Felt Awesome But Was Wrong

by a contributor

from Rebecca Schwab, author of Dear Ms. Bradigan:

  1. Summer 1987, when my mother and sister convinced me that monkey bars weren’t that hard to master, and I believed them, for a minute. I started with both hands on the first rung, then trusted my right hand with all of my body weight and swung to the second. My left fingers made contact and curled around the bar. Dangling, my feet bicycle-peddled the air. I can do this, I thought. I bit my bottom lip and mustered my puny strength. I swung again, reached for the third rung, and fell. Flat on my back, my right arm was pinned beneath me. I’d heard the brittle snapping sound, but it took a moment for the pain to register. I spent the summer in a cast, trying hard to draw birds with my left hand, but they always looked deformed, and too much like dinosaurs.
  2. January 2002, at Georgia State University in a communications class. During the second class of the semester, our teacher insisted we play an ice-breaker game. We stood in a circle, and each person had to say the name of every person who went previously, and then his or her own, so the first person selected only had to know his or her own name, and the last person had to recite twenty-two names. The seventh person in this order was a girl named Vigante (pronounced vuh-JON-tee). All the other students—the other savvy, smart, socially not-awkward students—stopped when they reached her, acting like they couldn’t pronounce her name, making her say it FOR them again and again. Her voice got quieter each time, and she looked at the floor. Well, I wasn’t going to put her through that.I mean, all I had to do was not accidentally say “Vagina.” I went around the circle, index finger wagging from student to student like a 60s-era back-up singer: “Doug, Sharon, Melissa, Tyler, Erin, Aaron, Vagina—” I froze, finger mid-point, horrified. My hands flew to my mouth, like they could keep it from doing further damage. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” I shouted.  Vigante kept her head down and whispered “It’s okay.” Of course, it wasn’t. I sat in the back for the rest of the semester. Vigante never came back to class.
  3. May, 1993, when I called the boy I liked and “asked him out.” He said yes, but dumped me two days later. He’d only agreed in the first place because my mother was dead.
  4. Spring 1986, when a box of hand-me-downs from someone at church contained a pink-and-white striped one-piece jumpsuit AND a pair of red dress shoes. I immediately put on this winning outfit and tap-danced in the driveway, feeling like the ideal combination of princess and pop star.  After only two sets of tappety-tap-tap-spin-jazz hands, though, my stomach gurgled a loud warning. I ran inside to the bathroom, but the complexity of quickly removing a one-piece jumpsuit proved too much for my chubby fingers. Neither princesses nor pop stars pooped their pants, not even in emergency situations, and the jumpsuit was ruined.
  5. Winter, 2000, at a house party one town over, when a stranger accused my friend of burning her “titty” with a cigarette. The stranger tried sucker-punching my friend, but I blocked the attack with a cat-like karate move. I’d been taking lessons for four months; I already had a yellow stripe on my belt. The stranger turned on me, but I hit her twice in the face and my first-ever-and-only fight was over. She left. I got high-fived. That girl came back with friends. Someone had a gun. We escaped by jumping out of a small bathroom window, leaving our coats behind, hiding in back yards until we could circle back to the car. Also, the party was themed: Hawaiian luau. We wore bikinis and grass skirts. We live near Buffalo.