from Clay by Carol S. Lashof

Genre: Drama

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Will, male, a high school sophomore.

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I have this dream where I go back to my grade-school playground and I say to the other Black boys: Am I Black enough for you now? Am I? Black enough?

Kindergarten, first grade, second, third, it was always Sophie Janowitz and me at the top of the class and best friends. Math: when the other kids were doing drill-and-kill arithmetic problems, row after row, we got to sit in the hallway with a book of logic games, like figuring out if you told your parents you'd wash the dishes for just a penny on the first day and then double it every day—by the end of week three you'd be making more than $10,000. Sophie and me, we figured out by the time we were ten, we'd be billionaires. Then we got the giggles trying to decide how we'd spend all that money, and the teacher across the hall got mad about the noise and sent us back to our classroom and complained to Mr. Theodore about letting us be on our own in the hallway. But he kept on letting us anyway. He was chill. And he liked us, he trusted us—I could tell.

The third-grade spelling bee: down to the wire. Sophie spelled "orangutan." I spelled "CONNECT-I-CUT," remembering to say "capital C." We both messed up on "vivacious." She beat me on "rhythm."

This school is so big, if something gets screwed up, you can grow old and die trying to fix it. For instance, last year, in ninth grade, they put me in Algebra I instead of Algebra II—and by the time I got moved to the right class I was way behind and the teacher was pissed off about having to deal with me. He didn't think I belonged there—I could tell.

This year, my classes are mostly so boring I don't see the point of going. No one notices whether I'm there or not anyway. There's a computer that's supposed to call home when you're absent, but mostly I can erase the messages before my parents get home. My parents, they're always on me about college, college, college, like going to a good college is the only thing that could possibly count for anything ever. But they're not the ones who have to sit in those classrooms every day. They have no idea...

When I see Sophie with her friends, crossing the park on the way to school, or in the hallway between classes, she always waves and smiles but her friends, they look at me and they just see "scary."

I guess I'm Black enough for them.