Pen Pals and Salami (Old Post, Edited)

One of my worst memories is the year when everyone in the sixth grade in my elementary school had a pen pal from another school, a school where most of the students were African-American.  The idea, I think, was to promote understanding and brotherhood.

Yes, everyone had a pen pal, except for one child.
Me.
I wasn’t allowed to have a pen pal because my handwriting was so hard to read.

It was hard having to listen to my classmates read the letters they received from their pen pals, but that wasn’t the worst. 

One day, we were told to bring our lunch to school the next day.  There would be a special assembly, and everyone would be eating in the auditorium… with their pen pals.
Mom said that I had to go to school, but she sent a note to my teacher, Mrs. Harris, requesting that I be excused from the assembly.
It didn’t do any good. Mrs. Harris said that I had to go to the auditorium with
everyone else.
I pleaded with her to let me spend lunch period in the library, but she was inexorable.
So there I was in that crowded auditorium that might as well have been empty as far as I was concerned.  There I was, sitting in the aisle,  listening to everyone else talking to his or her pen pal, wondering what they thought when they saw me not talking to anyone.  Did they think it was because I was prejudiced?
That was the loneliest moment of my life.
Most of the other children had salami sandwiches that day.
I used to like salami, but that day the smell of it, added to the way I already felt, made me feel sick.
I’ve never been able to eat it since that day.

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