“Hey, can you come out and play?”
I looked at the smiling 10 year old at my door.
“No, I can’t. And I don’t want to play with you.”
My mother heard me, “What? No..go out and play with your cousin. All you did all day was watch Sesame Street. Be active.”
I was not happy. I hated playing with my cousin. He was too rough and liked to see me cry. And besides, Bert and Ernie were having a fascinating discussion on the letter “B” and I didn’t want to miss it. I was only 6 and I was the perfect target for his constant bullying. Maybe today would be different.
I put on my shoes and ran outside.
“C’mon crybaby follow us…”
Nope…won’t be different.
I looked up at the my cousin and his friend. They were standing next to a bright red radio flyer wagon.
“Who’s is that?”
“It’s Brian’s…we stole it from his garage. Get in it crybaby.”
“No.” I began to walk back to my house.
“C’mon. Are you chicken?”
I stopped in my tracks. “No.”
“What? I can’t hear you….all I hear is chicken talk…bwock bwock.”
That was it. I turned around and sat in the red wagon.
And with a flash my cousin and his friend started to pull me down the street. It wasn’t so bad I thought, “they are pulling me around….they are doing all the work…haha.” But, that didn’t last long. I noticed them starting to jog while pulling me. It wa s getting a little bumpy.
“Slow down…..slow down.” But, they acted like they didn’t hear me.”
Faster and faster they went. I was holding on for dear life. Boom, the wagon hit the curb and out flew the 6 year old that was sitting in the wagon. I landed hard first on the concrete and ended up with a huge bloody gash on my right eye. I started to cry. I looked up and saw my cousin and friend run away to leave the scene of the crime. I dusted myself off and walked home.
“What did you do to your face?” My mom was furious. I told her the details.
“That’s it….don’t play with those boys anymore. And don’t you have school pictures tomorrow? Great…that scar will look great in those pictures.” She stomped away from me. I heard a set of keys start to jangle from outside the door. My father was home. He would not be happy. My mother ran back towards the door, she wanted to do damage control. I walked to my room and closed the door. I put my ear to the door to eavesdrop. Muffled voices filled my ear.
“….they are boys…they play rough sometimes. I told him not to play with them anymore.”
“That boy is an asshole. You know that.” My father was heated. My mouth dropped when I heard the bad word. I sat down on my bed with while that one word lingered in my mind.
The next day, my cousin came over again.
“Hey….come out and play.” Here we go again.
“C’mon. …are you a chicken? ”
“Yes. But you’re an asshole.”
His mouth dropped. And all I heard was my mom yelling.
“Who taught you that language? Come here you are gonna get it? You want to use bad words? Fine, you want to talk all spicy? Then you must like jalapenos? Hot mouth gets to eat hot food.” She slammed a plate down on the table filled with spicy hot jalapenos. I was scared. I looked at my cousin still at the door. His face was motionless. But, he ran away a few seconds later to avoid seeing the jalapeno eating contest.
I stared at the plate and looked at my mom. She was smiling. This was weird. Why was she smiling?
“Don’t eat it. I’m proud of you. You have to stand up for yourself sometimes ok? I know you used a bad word. But, he deserved it.” She started to laugh. I joined her. She took the plate away.
“Now go and check to see what is happening on Sesame Street…” I hugged her and ran to the TV.
It’s a weird start, but that’s how my love for spicy food began. There were times after that I really had to eat jalapenos for punishment, but I didn’t care, because I found out that I loved them.