I was the only girl in my projects who couldn’t double Dutch.
Lisa Flores, Puerto Rican like me, could double Dutch. The Jehovah’s Witness sisters, Carmen and Ramona, hitched up the long skirts their parents made them wear when they jumped. Even Gail, the Jewish girl who lived in my building with her slow brother and their obese mother with the oxygen tank. Gail was already 13 with boobs and smoked behind the building after dark, so she could do anything, even double Dutch.
The black girls dominated double Dutch. Their knees high, two, sometimes three girls jumped at once. The tips of their sneakers tapped the black top, and the barrettes and ponytail holders on their so-many braids clicked against each other, all in time. The black girls were bold. They spun, turned, jumped in, then back out as the ropes whirred above and below. They kept their elbows close and hands in fists while the ropes slapped the black top, and all their sounds joined into one beat.
All the girls knew how to stand close to the ropes and pulse forward until they felt the moment they could jump in, and they did. I never could. The ropes moved like the beaters of mami’s mixer, and I was like the thick clumps that stopped the motion and made mami curse the mother of the mixer in Spanish.
Colors bounced, spun, and dizzied me. The black girls in rainbow-colored, puckered tube tops, and the multi-colored tips of their bouncing braids. The two-toned ropes and colored handles in the turners’ hands. The black top covered with chalk-drawn names and flowers, and the reminders from NYCHA in bright yellow paint that bicycle riding was prohibited on Ravenswood Houses property.
“Jump now! Now! Now!” the girls repeated to me every time I tried to jump in, but I never saw the opening. I didn’t stand close enough, didn’t pulse forward, and couldn’t feel the rhythm. I only knew how much rope stung my face and bare shoulders.
The turners slowed the ropes so much for me that girls said Gail’s fat mom could wheel right in. Gail laughed and said even her retard brother could walk in. I always closed my eyes and flung myself sideways into the ropes, and they always dropped lifeless onto the black top.
“Damn girl, how slow we gotta turn for you?” the girls asked until they stopped trying.
They could jump forever without me, and stop when they wanted to, not because I’d messed them up. I was too defeated and hopeless to keep trying. I rode my bicycle outside of NYCHA property, and read books in my room, lost in words until I couldn’t hear the constant beat and chatter outside my window, and in time forgot that I was the only girl in my projects who couldn’t double Dutch.