Almost all I remember of seventh-grade history
is sitting in the back right corner
where I could lean my head against the wall
and look as if I were listening.
Those were the days when we still learned
that the Europeans had “discovered”
new worlds, and the indigenous people
were “found,” implying a subject/object relationship.
I never thought to question Ms. Estes about the terminology.
I only knew how desperately I wanted
to be discovered—preferably by Ron Didonato,
though he barely knew my name.
It was mid-semester when the note
arrived on my desk, passed along the back
of the room. Though the handwriting was messy,
the blue-ruled paper was folded neatly.
It was from the boy in the back left desk,
wondering if we could go together.
Circle yes or no. I certainly didn’t want
to be found by him, but I also
didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Ms. Estes, up by the green chalkboard,
rambled on about European dominance
of a non-European world,
and meanwhile I prayed that an ocean
the size of the Atlantic might appear
in the middle of the classroom
so I could fall in or sail away before the bell.
It was only a few years later that history books
began to use the word “encounter” instead of “discover,”
which implies a reciprocity—though it doesn’t
change the fact that the Europeans
conquered the lands anyway and killed
and displaced those they encountered.
I remember I didn’t circle anything.
I remember I wrote something
about a boyfriend in a different town.
I remember the weight of the lie.
I don’t recall if I looked him in the eye
when I handed him back the note.
For the next five years, neither of us
ever mentioned again the encounter, perhaps
grateful for the ocean that rose between us
every time we met.