You are the only one in your class, your grade. As you look around the classroom, you are aware that no one shares the yellow undertones of your skin or your wiry straight black hair. They turn to stare at you, and you shrink back in your seat. You are different.
You bury your face into your arms and hide.
They speak rapidly, their voices falling and rising in sharp tones—Mandarin. When they turn to you, you are silent. You do not understand. They laugh in their mistake and continue the conversation in English, to include you. But their eyes flash as you exchange glances with them. You are not one of us, they say.
They notice your accent when you speak. Your palms sweat as you struggle to find the right words. Your throat closes up. She grew up in America, your mother explains. You lower your head, but you feel their accusatory stares. An American.
The words pound in your head. You are different. You are alone.
You punch through the glass ceiling. The world shatters around you, and in the destruction, you see yourself for the first time.
You are beautiful.