Mom waved to me at the bus stop that morning, my first day of kindergarten, as I climbed aboard a big yellow box so full of faces that I forgot to wave back. Only a couple of the faces were faintly familiar -- having been scrubbed earlier, like mine, for what seemed like seven or eight hours.
We took an unfamiliar route to an unfamilier white frame building which, by the throngs of kids gathered around clipboard-wielding adults on the front lawn, I deduced to be The School. The knot in my stomach seemed as large and unruly as the one on the lawn, where kids' names were being ever-so-slowly matched with teachers'. I caught a glimpse of the bus I'd just left as it drove off. I thought I saw people in it.
Nobody here know who I was, especially the men and women with the clipboards. I moved from clipboard to clipboard like a zombie, and gradually began to fear that I'd become one. One of the clipboard people guided me to a Mrs. Franklin's class, where I was to sit near the back of what seemed like a mile-long row of desks until they figured out where I was really supposed to be.
There ensued several hours of confusing, terrifying talk. Mrs. Franklin eventually said the class was going to do something "just like last year."
I slouched in embarassment. I wondered if I would be rescued, or be able to speak aloud, or see my family alive again.
Someone at the school finally recognized my name and called my father, who taught school across town, and told him his son had apparently gotten off the school bus at the wrong school. The bus unloaded at two schools. The school I was at had no kindergarten classes.
When I finally walked through the door of the kindergarten class I was supposed to be in, one day late, everyone turned to look at me. The Kid Who Got Off at the Wrong School. They knew, I was sure of it.
And when I walked through the door on the first day of every class for the next 13 years, everyone turned to look at me. They knew, too, I was sure of it.