Over there to that side were girls standing in some sort of grid bouncing a ball in some game she hadn't seen before, (girls games = boring!) and further beyond were the older boys playing basketball. (dangerous!) Some kids were playing soccer in the south west field and the older scarier girl (6th graders!) were flopped sullenly against the wall, already practicing at being disaffected teenagers. She decided to head to the ...what did they call it...a Big Toy? where it appeared a game of tag was going on. Kids were swarmed around it like ants on left behind ice cream and after watching for another moment figured she knew enough of what was going on to slip into the game. Tag was a game she knew.
She had been racing around screaming and getting as sweaty and dirty as the others when the person who was "It" touched her. She smiled and shrieked and was instantly off trying to find a person here, no there, no up there, no there! It didn't take her long to bead down on a person when to her surprise he stopped and whirled to face her. She tagged him and was stunned when like a flash of lightning he touched her back and yelled "No touch backs!"
"What?" she said startled. "You can't do that!"
"Yes I can," he sneered. "I called it."
This was an unfamiliar term. "You called what?"
"I called no touch backs."
"What does THAT mean?" She was getting even more out of her comfort zone which meant her voice was rising and she was getting angry.
"It means you can't touch me back after I tag you!"
"But I just tagged YOU!"
"Yes, and I tagged you back!"
"But you said you couldn't do that!" She felt like she had gone a little crazy. She could feel herself, hot and angry.
"You didn't call it!"
The game had stopped by now and the group was gathering around trying to ascertain what was going on.
"C'mon!" one said, "Who's it?"
"HE is!" she said.
"No," he sneered again. "SHE is. She tagged me and I got her back and called no touch backs."
Like a mob jury the verdict was given, "So, she's it. Then let's go."
They backed away from her like the grease on a Dawn commercial. She stood there trying to figure out what had happened, what was going on. Unfortunately she stood for a little too long because some of them started yelling at her.
"Come on! Let's GO!"
She started chasing and running but her heart was no longer in it It seemed every time she would near somebody they would pull the same trick as the first boy. She could never remember to proclaim "No touch backs!" because it was stupid and those WEREN'T the rules and since they WEREN'T the rules, she couldn't bring herself to do it. She felt herself growing angrier and angrier every time she neared somebody and they would turn and face her. That ISN'T how you PLAY!!!
Mercifully the recess bell rang across the screaming yard and the game broke up as the mob of children started streaming into the dull square building.
She sighed and started moving slowly with them, her heart still hammering from the exercise and the frustration.
"You just have to say `No touch backs.'" a girl said quietly.
Startled she looked over to see another girl about her age...was she in her class that morning? walking by her.
"You just have to say it and you won't always be IT." the girl explained.
"But..." she started, struggling to express herself. "It's DUMB. You're not supposed to tag the person who tagged you right after anyway so why do you have to say it?"
"That's just how they DO it." the other girl tried to explain.
"It's NOT the rules." she said stubbornly.
"It is here."
"I'm not FROM here."
Another group of kids ran by laughing. One of them called back at her, "Just SAY it and you won't be IT!"
"NO!" she bellowed back, the days frustration erupting out of her.
The girl walking quietly by her sighed and looked over.
"You're going to be IT for a long time."