Sticks and Stones
by: Cheryl D.
Girlie, Hootie, Oogy, Squak. They sure did have a lot of nicknames for me. My mama and daddy gave me the name Girlie. They said I was their cute little girlie. They called me Girlie for a long time until my friends decided to change it. We were playing stickball outside and I had to pee. I tried to cross my legs and hold it but couldn’t. I put my hand down there to try and hold it back, but that didn’t work either. Soon, as the warm, wet pee ran down my legs, laughter flooded the playground.
“Look, she peed all over herself!”
Soon, everyone in the playground was calling me ‘Hootie pee-er’. I don’t know why, but for days after, they called me Hootie pee-er. Soon they dropped ‘pee-er’ and simply called me Hootie. I wouldn’t have minded being called Hootie if it hadn’t reminded me of that embarrassing day. At least it was better than Girlie. Mama said that it was better too.
“You don’t want no boys calling you Girlie, they be thinkin’ you their property or somethin’,” she said.
“I ain’t no one’s property,” I yelled back at her.
“From now on, you will tell people to call you by your given name, hear?”
“Yes mama, I hear.”
My mama was right. Why shouldn’t people call me by my real name? I thought it was a nice name. On that day, I decided to tell everyone to call me Olivia. It would be hard to tell people not to call me Hootie, but mama said I should and that was what I was going to do.
That’s where they got Oogy and Squak. See, my teachers had even taken to callin’ me Hootie. In every class, I had to tell people to call me Olivia. In math class, Miss Peterson called on me to answer a question. She called me Hootie.
“Miss Peterson,” I said, “ I would like for you to call me Olivia.”
The class thought that this was the funniest thing they had ever heard. They began laughing and hollering,
“Hootie doesn’t want to be called Hootie, she wants to be called Olivia! Ha!”
“Miss Peterson, I would like you to call me Olivia,” Brad Stevens cooed.
“She said her name is Olivia, Oogy Olivia!”
That’s where Oogy came from. It only lasted the day though because after school, the whole class was waiting for me outside.
“Hey, Olivia, Why you got to tell the teacher you didn’t like your nickname,” someone yelled.
“I want to be called by my given name; my mama told me to.” I was frightened of giving them any other words to give me a nickname for.
“What are you gonna do if we don’t stop calling you Oogy, tell your mama?” someone yelled back at me.
“If you tell your mama, we’ll call you Squak! What do you think of that?” Brad Stevens asked.
“I told you to call me Olivia. If you don’t I’ll tell my mama and she’ll make you!”
I ran home crying, knowing that they would never call me by my real name. I didn’t dare tell my mama what had happened.
On the way to school the next day, I walked slower, trying to imagine what nicknames they would come up with that day. Would it be Hootie, Oogy, or Squak? Whatever it would be, I would still tell them to call me Olivia.
The first person I saw when I got to school was Brad. He looked me square in the eye and said, “Hi there, Oogy!”
I walked past him, quietly correcting him. “Olivia,” I said.
He just ignored me. The second person from my class called me Squak. I corrected her, too.
“Olivia,” I said again, only louder.
I said my name more times in that day than I ever said it in my entire life. Even Miss Peterson still called me Hootie. Each time I would correct them. “Olivia,” I would say.
That was the longest day of my life. Not one person called me by my real name. I was beginning to get mad. Each time I said “Olivia,” I got louder and louder and angrier and angrier. By the time I left school that day, I was ready to explode. What was so hard about calling me by my real name?
Outside of school, a gang of kids was waiting for me.
“Hey Squak! Come here,” Brad yelled to me.
“My name’s not Squak, it’s Olivia,” I yelled back, continuing on my way.
I knew that if I got near enough to him I probably would have hit him so I just kept walking. I made it about half a block when I felt a hand around my arm. Whoever it was, they were alone because I saw all of the other kids leaving the schoolyard. I never felt so alone in my life.
“Hey Nigger, I told you to come over,” Brad said.
He kept talking, but I stopped hearing him. What was a Nigger? They had never called me that before. I would have to ask my mama what it meant.
“Why didn’t you come when I told you to, Nigger?”
There was that word again. I wanted to ask him what it meant but didn’t want him to call me Dummy or some other nickname so I just kept quiet. He was squeezing my arm tighter and dragging me with him.
“My dad says that niggers are here to serve us white folks. I think it’s time you started serving me.”
I closed my eyes, waiting for what he would do next. I could hear him doing something but I was too scared to open my eyes. After he was done, he told me to get down onto my knees. I did what he said, afraid of what he’d do to me. I kept my eyes shut.
“Open your mouth,” he yelled.
“Why?” I asked, not knowing what he was going to do.
“Just do it, Nigger! It’s about time you served me like my dad says you’re supposed to.”
When I opened my mouth, he put something inside it that felt like a banana with the skin still on it. It smelled funny and it hurt when he pushed it back into my throat. It almost made me throw up. He started moving it back and forth in my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. I opened my eyes and saw what it was that was in my mouth. I felt sick to my stomach. I really don’t know what I did after that; all I know is that Brad was crying and holding his peep. At least it wasn’t in my mouth anymore; it tasted awful. I figured that I bit him because I saw that it was all red and bleeding. It must have really hurt him because he couldn’t even speak. He just stood there with his pants around his ankles and tears running down his face. He must have been embarrassed because he pulled up his pants and ran all the way home. I stayed there, not sure if it was over. I tried to spit out the dirty taste in my mouth as I got up. I was pretty sure that I knew what Brad meant by ‘Nigger’.
I made my way home slowly, thinking of what had happened. I vowed to myself that from that day forward, no one would ever make me feel that way again.
People will call me by my given name, Olivia.