The first time I felt different was on my eighth birthday party. We had set up the balloons outside the gate to signal that fun was happening in our garden. My family friends had all arrived with their dads who worked with my dad and their moms who were friends with my mom. My best school friend, Georgia, was running late and I was excited for her to arrive. It would be the first time she was at my house.
In those days we didn’t have cellphones so I would run up the driveway every few minutes to see if she was there. In between I would hang out with my other friends, sipping on frozen juices, and eating chips.
I ran up the driveway again and she was there. I can remember her outfit clearly, even though I have no idea what I wore that day. She wore a black pinafore style dress with white lapels and she had a red alice-band in her hair. I gasped when I saw her standing behind our gates.
‘Come in! I’m so glad you’re here.’
Her mom waved at us from the car and drove away, as I took her by the hand to lead her down the driveway. As we neared the bottom something awful began to happen.
Our dog began to bark. He barked and howled and bared his teeth. I hadn’t called my mom to walk up with me and I was sure what to do. He bowed his body down to the ground, and it looked as though he would pounce. Georgia began to cry. I began to cry too.
‘Mom!’ I cried, frantic with fear.
She materialized and whistled for the dog to calm down. He gave her a look that said he’d rather continue barking. She screamed at the dog, I screamed for her, Georgia continued to cry. Mom started to run towards us and in the anxiety of the moment the dog got more aggressive, stopping the barking and evolving to a low growl. Mom grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and held him still.
‘Sorry Georgia. He’s just not used to new people.’
I realized that new meant black and my tears of fear changed to tears of shame.
‘How could he act like this mom?’ I asked later, when the festivities had ended, and Georgia had long since left.
‘It’s his nature,’ she said.
I fell asleep unsatisfied by the answer.