A Pet Monkey and Colored Pencils: A Humorous Tale of Tai Chatur’s First Day of Second Grade
Guest Writer: Tai Chatur, Based in New York, New York
I moved to Toronto, Canada when I was eight years old. I was a boy raised with no reservations and maybe a little too much confidence for my age — definitely too much confidence for my height. On my first day of school, the teacher asked if I wanted to tell the class something interesting about myself.
“I am from East Africa, and I used to own a pet monkey.”
Add that interesting little story to the fact that my mom had just bought me a pack of Crayola twistable pencil crayons, in the states, you call them colored pencils, and I was automatically the coolest kid in second grade.
For some reason this was also around the time older kids were throwing the word ‘AIDS’ around. Like “Oh that boy is so gross, he probably has AIDS.” So to dissuade kids from using this word, they decided to teach us about diseases and world health.
So, it’s my first day, and I am already making friends. Kids are asking me about Kenya, borrowing my Crayola twistable pencil crayons, asking about my pet monkey, stealing my Crayola twistable pencil crayons. I didn’t care – it was nice to be the center of attention.
We come back from recess, and Mrs. Lupul starts talking about AIDS. She begins talking about how it has killed so many people in the world and has serious effects to the lives of everyone it comes in contact with. A girl in the class whom I met earlier and already had a crush on – Georgia, I called her “Glitter Pen” because that’s what she used to trade for my pink pencil crayon; she raised her hand and asked, “Where did AIDS come from?”
I can imagine the look on some of your faces and had the teacher caught on that quickly I probably wouldn’t be here today, but she didn’t. Instead, Mrs. Lupul said; “Aids came from Africa…. from monkeys.”
Twenty-three second grade children turned their heads towards me, and then to my Crayola pencil crayons, that had now been passed around to pretty much everyone in the class. By now Mrs. Lupul pieced together what she had just done but it was too late.
Libraries should adopt an AIDS policy because the speed at which my twistable crayons were thrown back at me was truly amazing. Being the center of attention had never felt worse before, and I couldn’t even explain that neither myself or my pet monkey Timon had AIDS; because I had no idea AIDS even existed before today. I picked up all my twistable pencil crayons, got my bag, and ran home from school – thankfully only down the block. I was crying hysterically trying to tell my mom we have to go back to Kenya because I have AIDS and everyone had been touching my pencil crayons.
It didn’t take long for this mess to be sorted, through a phone call from Mrs. Lupul, the principal, and my mom. Of course some more explaining to the students, but I wasn’t required to come back to school until the next day. Therefore, I sat in the kitchen with my mom, she loved to draw landscapes, and I loved to ruin her landscapes by coloring them. As I was finishing up the rainbow with my AIDS-free twistable’s… I looked through my bag, and I smiled because I couldn’t find my pink pencil crayon.
Tai Chatur is a graduate student in forensic psychology where he studied mental health disorders in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Tai is also a stand-up comedian in New York City. You can follow him on Instagram at @canadiantyre
Written by Tai Chatur. 2019.
Edited by Sarah McKinnon