THE DEAN’S OFFICE
People always make it sound like God is a man. But we’ve got no proof of that.”
Everybody gasped. Then a few snickers and giggles.
I felt myself blush, but I hurried on. “The whole idea of God looking like a man is a European concept. Back in Ancient Greece—”
“You saying God is a girl?” Eddie Evans shouted. “So God’s got titties and a—”
The class erupted in laughter.
I kicked my volume up. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. God is not male or female.”
“So God is a transvestite?” Jay shouted from the back row.
“Not a transvestite, dumbass, a hermaphrodite,” Cassie said. “That’s when you got a package and a coochie.”
Ms. Howard’s face reddened. I didn’t know if she was going to pass out or go postal. She yelled at everyone to settle down, but no one paid attention. She turned on me. “Just hand in your paper and sit down. We’ve heard enough.”
“You’re not gonna let me present it? I spent a lot of time on this.”
“Too bad you didn’t choose a more appropriate topic.”
“But this was one of the choices you gave us! It was topic seven—explore how different cultures—”
“Sit down,” she snapped.
Knowing when to shut up wasn’t usually a problem for me, but I heard myself saying, “This isn’t fair. You’re the one who assigned the topic.”
The class went, “Oooooohhhh.”
“Go to the dean, Julia.”
The class was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. As everybody watched, I picked up my books and stalked out. You really should have seen her face. She didn’t think that A-student Julia DiVino would dare stand up to her.
My legs felt like jelly, probably more from the stress of the situation than anything else. Dad was going to kick my ass if he
had to take off work to go to a suspension hearing. Or would he be proud that I stuck to my guns? I doubted it.
I surprised myself by heading toward the bathroom on my way to the dean’s office. I guess I needed a few minutes to let the redness in my cheeks go down.
Everybody knew Diana the bathroom lady. She was in her forties, with bleached-blond hair and heavy-metal tattoos. Her job was to spend her entire day outside the girls’ bathroom, making sure nothing nasty was happening—no drugs, no fights . . . no suicides.
“Hey there, baby.” Diana reached out to receive my bathroom pass, but I shook my head.
“I don’t have one.”
“I’ve been sent to the dean’s office by Ms. Howard, but I want a minute to . . .”
“Go ahead, sweetie.”
Our bathrooms were like a mini Brooklyn housing project, littered with trash and covered in graffiti. The graffiti was mostly gang stuff: RLB rock da house, Hermanas Mexicalis is bad bitches, Crab girls got crabs. The worst culprits were the school’s biggest girl gang, the RLB, aka the Real Live Bitches. I’d spent lots of toilet-sittings deciphering their codes. All you needed to know was a little pig Latin and a little Creole and you could crack pretty much any code.
I splashed cold water on my face and let it spike my lashes and dribble into my eyes. The shock of the water made me feel a bit better. I patted my face dry with scraping brown paper towels, careful not to smear my (thankfully waterproof) mascara. Running my fingers through my hair, I headed out to face the dean, thanking Diana as I left.
I jumped when I heard the voice behind me. Turned out it was Black Chuck. “Chuck, what up?”
“I told you, don’t call me Chuck. I’m going by Black now.”
“What kind of a name is Black?”
“My kind of name, Ju.”
I rolled my eyes. “I told you not to call me that. Everybody’s going to think I’m Jewish.”
“So? Nothing wrong with that, is there?”
“ ’Course not, but—”
“No butts. Only asses. So where we going, Ju? Don’t tell me you cutting. Not Miss DiVino. You got a sub in Howard’s class?”
“Actually, she sent me to see the dean.”
“I’m serious. It’s because I said in my speech that God wasn’t a man and didn’t have a package. She got upset.”
Black Chuck burst out laughing. “I got you. Well, if they gonna suspend your ass, I’ll walk you down there.”
“You’re so sweet.”
He dropped me off outside the office. As he walked away, I shouted over my shoulder, “Your pants are falling down.”
He shouted back, “Damn right they are!”
The dean’s office was a large space with about a dozen orange plastic chairs and several connecting rooms. It used to be guidance central, but the admin switched the offices when they realized that more students needed suspensions than programming advice.
I’d always felt sorry for the poor suckers who got sent here. Today I was one of them, along with a hot Hispanic guy who sat outside Dean Hallett’s door.
The guy lifted his eyes, meeting mine. I looked away quickly, sitting down two seats away from him. I felt him giving me a once-over before looking back down at his iPod.
Just my luck, Hallett was on duty today. She was the strictest of the deans. I took a deep breath, wondering what she’d do to me.
The guy didn’t seem worried. He was nodding his head to his music.
“Is it too loud?” he asked, removing one of his earbuds.
“No, it’s fine,” I said without looking at him.
I was hoping he’d put the earbud back in and go back to minding his business, but he kept looking at me. “So, you in trouble or something?”
“Well, I am in the dean’s office.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. I’m just here to get my ID card.” I glanced at him. His smile was smooth, easy.
“Not me, unfortunately.”
“I feel you. I’ve been at the dean’s office myself a few times at my old school.”
Okay, so I had to ask. “What school’s that?”
“You wouldn’t know it unless you know Detroit.”
“Detroit, huh? I hear that place is gangsta. Guess you won’t have trouble getting used to Brooklyn.”
“No trouble at all.”
“How’d you end up in Brooklyn?”
But he couldn’t answer, because that’s when Hallett’s door opened. She was a heavyset woman with the shrewd eyes of a criminal prosecutor.
“Hi, Eric. Come on in.” Her eyes landed on me. “Was there something I could help you with, Julia?”
“Uh, well . . . Ms. Howard wanted me to speak to you.”
“All right. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She let Eric into her office and closed the door.
I sighed. Wait until she found out why I was there.