Nebraska Center for Writers

from "Message to the Nurse of Dreams"
by Lisa Sandlin


WHAT A RELIEF it would have been if Johnetta Pierce and I had met ina dream. We could have traded legs — a white set for borwn, brown for white — and walked around the schoolyard in our new ones. Sawed open ribs and looked inside. Tried on each other's tongues. Traded brains and dreamed each other's dreams — all in order to answer the two questions neither of us ever asked aloud: Are you or are you not the basic same as me? Could you consider yourself my friend?
But we met in the ninth grade of Port Sabine high School. Curious as magnets, skittish, our hands fluttering from pocket to hip to lap to twirling pencil, we kept our distance and memorized each other.
I noted how Johnetta's eyebrow hairs looked like the shavings in an etch-a-sketch board, how she held herself formally, with both knees pointing in one direction and her ankles lined up, how she could hardly talk to me without breaking into an embarrassed smile, how she didn't try to hide 3 like the white girls — a stomach that wasn't dead flat. I don't know what she recorded about me. But early on I caught her calculating if I was human in the same way she was. I swear. That's what made me like her 3 that she'd do that. Johnetta studied me, puzzled, trying to determine what sort of shape flickered inside me and measure it against her own. That was the kind of logical, common sense activity I understood.

Reprinted with permission
from Message to the Nurse of Dreams
Copyright © 1997
by Lisa Sandlin
Cinco Puntos Press

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