Bridget Magee   


Tapping Our Twigs


That school year I was pudgy.

I lived inside my fat armor.
People stared at me. 
Studied me. 
Avoided me.

That school year there was a girl my size.
Every morning she had to squeeze to get through the opening.
The opening where the bushes ended and the fence began.
The opening that the other kids could scamper through.

When she arrived at school, jump ropes went limp.
Balls dribbled away from their dribblers.
Whoops and whistles quieted.

Everyone watched to see if she would make it through.
I stopped my lonely pastime.
I stopped tapping my willow twig against the chain link fence.
I watched, too.

She never looked up from the grass
to see our stares,
to see our glares.
She never looked up.

Once, when I was trying to squeeze through the opening
I heard her panting behind me.
“Wait up,” she said.

I pretended I didn’t hear.
I pretended the playground eyes weren’t watching her.
Weren’t watching me.

That school year I drifted in solitude.
Separate from everyone around me.
Except her.

When I turn the corner to go into my classroom,
we’d almost collide.

When I’d leave the bathroom,
she’d be there,
slurping at the drinking fountain.

When I’d go to the school nurse with my latest stomach ache,
there she’d be,
gazing at the floor,
panting on the cot next to mine.

I had a lot of stomach aches that year.
She had a lot of breathing problems.
When the school nurse left us alone,
that girl would try to catch my eye.
Try to communicate, You know how it feels, don’t you?
I’d look away.

After fifteen minutes the nurse would say,
“If you’re feeling worse after lunch, come back.”

I knew I’d be back.
Maybe, she did, too.
The nurse’s office gave us a place to escape
the stares, the glares.
For fifteen minutes, at least.
After a while, we did look at each other.
Look away.
Over and over.
Eventually, we held each other’s gaze.
We both knew how it felt.

Sometime in the middle of that school year,
we started meeting at lunch.
We sat under the drooping canopy
of the willow trees.
Hidden from view.
Alone.  Together.
Eye to eye.

Sometime in the middle of that school year,
I shared my lonely pastime.
Tapping willow twigs against the chain link fence.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

At first we didn’t even make it to the basketball courts
before the bell rang.
But week after week, recess after recess,
we made it farther and farther.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

To the four-square court. To the swing set. To the monkey bars.
All before the bell rang.

By April of that school year,
we tapped the perimeter of the schoolyard
back to the willow tree before the bell rang.
Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap.  Ring.

By the end of that school year
we looked the jump ropers,
the basketball players,
and the whistlers
straight in the eye
as we tapped on by.

No more stomach aches.
No more panting and wheezing.
No more stares.
No more glares.

That school year,
after the last bell,
on the last day,
she and I walked to the opening.
The opening where the bushes ended and the fence began.
The opening that the other kids could scamper through.

We looked at each other.
We smiled.
And we scampered through, too.
One after the other.






Bridget Magee is a writer, a poet, a speaker, a teacher, and a Mom - not always in that order. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies. You can read her original poetry twice a week at or visit her at not writing, Bridget can be found reading in Tucson, AZ with her husband, two daughters, and crazy dog, Smidgey. She can be reached at: