The Back of the Book: The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen.
‘Why are you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face.
‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my cruing.
‘Is I what?’
‘Now you look here. Ungly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one of them peoples?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed.
Constantine sat down next to be, at the kitchen table. I heard to cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me.
‘Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make tis decision. You gone have to ask yourself, a I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’
I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloureds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.