The Word Gladiator is a Noun and a Verb: Patricia Frieson and Wanda Bailey

381 total words    

2 minutes of reading

Patricia Frieson[1] and Wanda Bailey[2]

When we could both wear the same seventies outfits
for babies, people always asked my parents if we were 

twins. My father carried my sister, and my mother carried
me on their trip to the used car lot in Skokie, Illinois, 

and the white salesman told my dark father that he knew
who my sister belonged to but not me because I was 

darker than my mother. At age six, my sister was pushed
off her brand-new bike at the corner in the alley, and we 

both got in trouble when we got home. My father said
we should have fought for her bike. “If it happens 

again, don’t come back if you can’t come home with a bike.”
By then I was much bigger than my sister, so we didn’t wear

matching clothes, and nobody mistook us for twins. For the
most part, it was eleven months a year with us being the same 

age during the twelfth month of the year. She didn’t like
me, I didn’t like her, and we didn’t even look like each 

other until the fight broke out in the McDonald’s parking lot
after the football game at Gately stadium. A circle gathered,

and my little big sister was in the middle with Big Betty
talking smack, and just like that at age fifteen, I forgot her 

words “that you’re too fat, too tall, your chest too flat, and
your hair is too nappy,” and I jumped in the arena directly 

in front of Big Betty. “I can talk about my sister, but you
can’t! You got to go through me in order to get to her!” 

“Woah! I heard that!” said the crowd, and I was scared
to death, but I was bigger than Betty, so my bluff was

hyped. Betty looked at me. Betty peered behind me
to glance at my sister where my body hid her frame, 

and Betty walked off. And just like that the crowd
dispersed, my sister looked me in the eye, and I 

looked her in the eye, huffing and puffing and breathing

real hard, we high-fived, and it was back to business
as usual. She still didn’t know me. I didn’t want to know

her, but she was my keeper, and I am hers.

  • Taiyon J. Coleman

    Taiyon J. Coleman is a poet, essayist, and educator. She is Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous collections and magazines.

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