I loved pre-kindergarten because we had the best toys and I got to ride the bus and we had cake on my birthday and my teacher was the nicest teacher in the whole wide world.
(Author's note: she really was. You know those teachers you remember forever? Well, she was mine. I still feel all warm and happy when I picture her face.)
I was pretty good at school. For the most part, I got along with the other kids and I stayed out of trouble. I did well at school stuff, like circling the biggest snowman and writing my numbers - except for nines, which I wrote backwards until the third grade. I sped through any work my teacher (the nicest teacher in the whole wide world) gave me.
Some other things, though, took me a very, very long time to do. It always took me longer than the other kids to drink at the water fountain, or pack up my bag, or hang up my coat, or put on my shoes.
It may have had something to do with the fact that I never stopped talking. Or that there were always a million things to distract me. Or maybe I was just a slow kid. Regardless, the result was the same: I was always the last one ready.
I knew that voice.
It was my teacher's Mad Voice, the one that she used with her Stern Look.
There's nothing more miserable than the feeling you get when your beloved teacher - the nicest teacher in the whole wide world - aims her Mad Voice and Stern Look at you.
This was bad.
I froze and waited.
It is very bad when the teacher counts to five.
When the teacher counts to five, it means you are in trouble, and you have to be sitting at your table with your shoes on before she's finished. And if you aren't, then your table group doesn't get any points.
I stood there, frozen. Which should I do first? Go to my table? Or put on my other shoe?
Three! Three is very close to five!
I scurried to my table, still clutching my shoe in my hands. I got there in time, but my shoe wasn't on and my chair was still stacked.
I wasn't ready before five. And that meant that I was in trouble.
I wanted to disappear, so I did: I closed my eyes and hid my face.
I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. That way, no one would see me and no one would know that I was in trouble and my friends wouldn't be mad at me for making them lose a point. Again.
She could still see me!
I pressed my hands tighter against my eyes, marvelling at the cracks and splashes of colour that spread across my vision.
I was invisible.
My eyes were closed. I couldn't see her.
How could she see me?
And that's how I learned that people can see you even if you can't see them.