Being the youngest of eight children, I was always the last one to do things. I was the last one to ride a bike, the last one to shoot a gun and the last one to get underarm hair. I would have developed a complex, if I hadn’t of had my next-door neighbor, Vanesa, a brown haired girl, the same age as me. She was my equal and had done nothing before me. And I loved her for it.
But then one day, conflict arose in Eden, and we were no longer equals. I guess it started this one day when Vanesa and I were walking around her front yard shirtless. I don’t remember our exact age, but I think we were around 16. No, I’m just kidding. We were 7 or something like that. Anyway, Vanesa’s mom screamed at her and told her to put on a shirt. She’d never had to wear a shirt before, so we were both baffled at Vanesa’s mom’s response. Especially Vanesa, who threw a fit and then ran into her house.
The next day when I went over to Vanesa’s, she was wearing a shirt. I asked her why and she told me it was because she was a girl and her momma told her that girls had to wear shirts. I still didn’t understand, but for some reason it made me so happy and I felt so special that I didn’t have to wear a shirt and Vanesa did. It was the first time I felt like I was better than someone at something. It made me feel like a movie star. So from that day on, I never wore a shirt. Even in January when it was freezing outside, I didn’t wear a shirt. I’d wear a coat but didn’t have a shirt on underneath. And I soaked up the power like a sponge. I know you’re thinking, “This guy is crazy.” But you have to remember, I was seven years old at the time and having a shirt option felt like power to me.
And then one day the carnival came to E. Broussard Elementary and my reign ended. It happened at the hula hoop contest. I entered the competition because they were giving out trophy’s and I wanted one of those so bad. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even able to get the hoop one loop around me before it fell off of my thirty-pound body. I started thinking that it was humanly impossible and no one would ever be able to do it and that I might still have a shot at a trophy. But then Vanesa walked up and entered the contest and took home the first place trophy! I was so mad and jealous, that I went home and put on a shirt. It was like I’d surrendered. She had a trophy and I didn’t. That was way cooler than not having to wear a shirt.
So that afternoon I went over to Vanesa’s house and her parents were having a party to celebrate Vanesa’s victory. Well, I couldn’t handle that, so when no one was looking, I hid Vanesa’s trophy under her bed and then ran out of the house. A few minutes later, Vanesa and her cousin, Herbert came over to my house and searched my room for the trophy.
“I don’t have it,” I told them.
To tell the truth, I was kind of offended that she’d thought I’d stolen it. I was very religious at that age and didn’t curse or steal. Or smoke.
Anyway, so the next day, Vanesa told me that she found the trophy under the bed.
“I told you I didn’t steal it,” I said.
“Well, you put it under the bed,” she said.
I don’t remember what happened after that. We just somehow became friends again. I have never told anyone else that story because I was so ashamed of it. I’ve been carrying this guilt around for 31 years.
So, Vanesa, if you are out there, I am so sorry that I did that. The best times of my childhood were spent with you catching crawfish from the front ditch or playing in the forest by your house or jumping off your swing set to see how high we could get.
I never meant to hurt you by hiding that hula hoop trophy under your bed. I hope one day, you’ll be able to forgive me.
Peace, laughter and happiness,
P.S. If you had looked further under the bed, you would have seen that sometimes I hid your homework under there, because I was jealous that you were faster and smarter than me. I had a lot of problems going on back then.