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  • My parents moved me around a lot when I was a kid. I never got too attached to any one bedroom, or best friends, or crushes. I made split-decisions and heart-hardening escapes with a kind of efficiency that's typically reserved for people who are old enough to have a personal vocabulary for loss.

    The summer before my senior year of high school, my parents bought a new house 100 miles away, and we were off.

    At least until the 90s, there was a file that followed every public school student in California, or maybe everywhere. This dossier would be full of the reviews, report cards, disciplinary actions, artworks, IQ tests and ephemera that someone deemed to be the most important and representative sampling of what amounted to a developmental material history of each student. The school district would maintain these records, and neither the students or their parents could see this secret history without a court order. When the kid graduated, her file would be destroyed.

    By the time I was a high school senior, my file was expansive, exacting, and full to its very edges. I shouldn't have ever known this file existed, but that August, the school district mistakenly sent it via certified mail to my new house rather than my new school. Obviously, it was ON.

    It was an armory of subjective, mostly half-assed and superficial evaluations of my character and potential, with occasional glowing reviews from other weird kids who had grown up to be my teachers. It carefully contained twelve years of innocuous reviews, alongside high praise and bitter disappointment. It was a mash of drawings and report cards and playground citations. There was a newspaper clipping from the year I was "Miss All-American Student", followed immediately by my fifth-grade teacher's confounded evaluation that I was "very smart, but a precarious influence on others."

    The best bit, though, was the psychological evaluation that my school had conducted on me in kindergarten.

    I played well with the other kids, but whenever we split off into groups to color, my teacher explained, I only ever wanted to use the black crayon. I was coloring neatly, but even when she directed the class (and then me specifically) to use another color, she said I would flatly ignore her and keep on working in black and shades of gray. This had gone on for a few months already, and she couldn't convince me to use anything brighter. Wasn't this a sure sign that I was disturbed? How could a six-year-old girl be so averse to color unless she was a victim of something terrible?

    The psychologist apparently never asked me those questions directly, but he danced around issues of my parents, my sisters, what my bedroom was like, and whether I thought my family loved me. Before I saw the evaluation in my file, I only vaguely remembered this conversation and none of its content, but I remembered when I was six it felt like I was being interviewed like a famous person. His only report concluded with a few phrases: "Bright and very verbal. Not apparently withdrawn. Gifted, advanced, possibly disturbed? More evaluations are recommended."

    The psychologist never noted having asked me why I only used a black crayon. If he had, I would have told him that no matter which pile of crayons was in front of me, the black one was always the sharpest and it was never sticky, since I was the only one who used it. The answers are very simple when people ask the right questions.
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