In primary school I was put into the last class of EM2. The principal called a group of us into the office and told us that by right, we were supposed to be in EM3. But most fortunately, she was giving us a chance. I remember sitting on the floor, drawing invisible circles on the cold tiles, wondering why she was telling me something I already knew- I was a failure, always, always, saved by a certain someone’s smug all-empowering grace.
Once, at night, my mum threw me a math problem which she claimed the whole family couldn’t solve. It was part of my elder sister’s maths homework and she’s two years older than me. I looked at the question, and it was the typical kind of “thinking” question you find at the end of each chapter of an assessment book, with a typical illustration of a light bulb next to it.
My mum had passed that math problem to me for fun. She knew I wouldn’t be able to solve it, since I was infamous in my family for being horrendously bad at maths. Until now, I don’t know my mathematical times tables. I count with my fingers (sometimes my toes), and I can’t read time. Sometimes I mix certain numbers up, like 3 and 8, or 6 and 9 and 0. Somehow they just seem to look alike.
I spent fifteen minutes on that problem, armed with my elder sister’s magical and most miraculous calculator, and came up with an answer and wrote it on a piece of paper. I gave it to my mum. She stared at it for a minute, and then shouted for my dad to come and see what I had written.
“What lar,” he said wearily.
She laughed and laughed and couldn’t stop, “I can't... Oh my gosh I can't believe it! Come and look! Faith got the answer!”
“Sure not?” he asked.
“Yah! I checked! Come and see, come and see!”
He looked at the piece of paper, carefully reviewing the neatly pencilled gigantic numbers on it.
“Faith," he said sternly, "Come here. Tell daddy, how did you get the answer?”
“Don’t know,” I said, “Use calculator. My workings correct not?”
He turned to my mother, and let out a most genuinely delighted smile. She returned the smile.
I think that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Each time someone called me slow or stupid or both, I would think back to that very moment and say to myself, “It's okay lar. You’re just different.”