The Last Black Unicorn(3)

Tiffany: “Yeah, girl, I’m in!”

Miss Gree: “Great, I thought you might like it. Here, read this page, let’s see how you do.”

Tiffany: “Okay, Miss Gree, lemme take the script home and work on it, and I’ll do it for you tomorrow.”

Miss Gree: “I love your work ethic, Tiffany. But no. I’m going to need you to read this right now.”

Tiffany: “Uh . . . I’m not feeling well though, for real.”

Miss Gree: “You seemed very healthy thirty seconds ago. This must be a rapid virus.”

Tiffany: “Oh yeah, it could be Ebola. I better get to the nurse before I infect you.”

Miss Gree: “Tiffany . . . can you read?”

Tiffany: “I can read!”

Miss Gree: “Then just read this paragraph before you go see the nurse. Read this and you have the part.”

Tiffany: “You so pretty, Miss Gree. Did you change your hair?”

She was like no, no, no, no, no. She caught me.

But she was so cool about it. She didn’t tell anyone. She got me out of nutrition class, and had me come in every day and learn to read with her. She took me from first-grade level to ninth-grade level in like, a month. She just sat with me and showed me, and it was no problem.

Once I could read, man, it was like I had a superpower! I wasn’t stupid! All them words made sense!

She had me get into competitive monologue. I had already been in a drama festival as part of a team, and my team won first place for Macbeth, but I was just a witch. Easy shit, like, “Double double toil and trouble.” Super easy.

Now she had me do the Shakespeare Festival. It was a monologue, so I played all the characters. I was doing pretty well at some of the smaller competitions, but then there was the big one.

And I won first place. I beat out 375 drama kids.

When they called me as the winner, it was just me standing there onstage along with this one white guy. We were the finalists. He had won every year previously, so everyone expected him to win again. When they called my name, I kinda freaked out. I remember just being like, “Whooaaa.” I was just trembling all over, and then I started doing the Running Man right onstage. The lady who was presenting the award got mad:

Presenter: “Act like a lady. Act like a lady!”

Tiffany: “I am! I am!”

I think that’s the very first time I had an orgasm. I’m pretty sure I had one onstage. Then, I didn’t know what it was. I just started trembling and freaking out and getting sweats and tingling. Man, I was so happy.

You know what I was most happy about?

This would mean I was going to be able to buy my first pair of shoes on my own.

You see, I had made a bet. A week before the big competition, my aunt’s boyfriend was down on me:

Boyfriend: “You’re not gonna do it. That drama shit is a white thing. You’re not going to make it.”

Tiffany: “I’ve won before, at smaller meets. I did good.”

Boyfriend: “They ain’t gonna pick you. This Shakespeare. This a white thing.”

Tiffany: “I bet you I’m gonna win!”

Boyfriend: “Child, please. I bet you $100 you ain’t gonna win.”

When I got home, I ran in with my trophy:

Auntie: “You won?”

Tiffany: “I sure did. Got my trophy and everything!”

Boyfriend: “You didn’t win! You robbed some white kid for his trophy!”

Best believe I got my $100 out of him. And I used that $100 to buy a pair of Doc Martens boots.

Everybody had them, and most importantly, Audie said he liked girls that wore Doc Martens boots. He didn’t think I could ever afford a pair. Until then, I had been wearing Payless shoes that looked kind of like the boots, but they were regular shoes. I’d wear black socks all the way up to my knees, so it’d look like I had it going on. But I didn’t. I didn’t have it going on.

But I won. I beat 375 drama kids for a pair of Doc Martens boots.

? ? ?

The next day, I missed the school bus and went all the way to the Shoe Warehouse and bought my Doc Martens boots, and then I caught the MTA to school. I showed up at the school about three or four hours late and I was like, bam! Stomping through school in my Doc Martens boots.

And then Audie still didn’t like me. He still didn’t want me.

So I became the school mascot. My tenth-grade year, I became the Conquistador, the Spanish soldier mascot of El Camino Real High School.

At first, I tried to join the cheerleading squad, but the cheerleaders had too many rules. Their rules were nonsense. Like you can’t cuss, you got to be on time, you have to wear mascara every day, you have to have your hair done pretty every day. All these rules. And you can’t just dance when you feel like it. I was like:

Tiffany: “What kind of rules you got for the mascot?”

Teacher: “The mascot doesn’t have any rules.”

Tiffany: “That’s what I want to be, then—the mascot.”

Nobody had tried out to be the mascot, except me. So I got it.

The first time I mascoted, I didn’t have the uniform yet. It was too big for me, so I had my grandma do alterations on it. I had a T-shirt, and I wrote on it in big black letters:

“Will have uniform in 2 weeks. Grandma doin’ it.”

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