8th grade, I had just migrated the 10 blocks to the public school from a parochial school. I went from a class of 7 to 70. My parents were afraid I wouldn’t know how to do algebra and make the family decision.
The small town I was born and raised in still doesn’t have a stoplight. Or a McDonald’s.
We created our own fun and our own trouble.
Mostly revolving around bike rides down Windy Hill Road into the country, sitting on top of the abandoned trestle, playing in the creek, laughing at the cows. I can’t make this stuff up.
It all started when I made the cheerleading squad. I don’t think I even liked cheerleading. It was just something to do. Putting into use the three years of below-rate gymnastics classes to do cartwheels down the court and getting to leave class early and ride the bus to the basketball games. The maroon and white pleats of the skirt, the tights with the paw print on the left butt cheek were…cute, I thought at the time. I liked cats.
The first anonymous note shoved in my locker. Graduated to notes passed directly to me in class unsigned, then signed. The boldness of 8th graders ratcheting up, a herd forming. And then in the hall between classes, bodies ricocheting upon bodies, it elevated to pointed whispers and sideways glances as I walked by, and finally comments to my face.
“You’re ruining everything. Go back to where you came from.”
The trouble is, where I came from was literally down the block. I could see their houses from my bedroom window.
I think of this today, because two days ago, a facebook message popped up from the queen bee of them all – let’s protect the guilty with their initials – SRO. It was unprovoked. We live thousands of miles apart. We haven’t talked in years. Or at least since I was diagnosed with cancer when a schadenfreude parade of “friends” I purposefully lost reappeared to possibly watch me die, and maybe even take enjoyment in it.
This time, SRO said something to the effect of, “you’re the most amazing person and have the best soul. I hope my daughters have an ounce of your goodness.” I sat on that for…well, I’m still sitting on it.
Does she not remember the scene?
I have an image a la the West Side Story in mind. SRO, striding confidently down the locker-lined hallway, KLM and KAP flanking her, chasse, chasse. TBS in the back, hesitant and torn but ultimately deciding this dance was her ticket to skyrocketing popularity.
Striding down the hallway, high hat tsk tsking in the back. SRO gives my shoulder a shove.
“Want to join our club?”
Yeah, our new club?
What is it?
It’s the “I Hate Meaghan Club” and I’m the President.
From stage left JAB enters and as a narrator of sorts, solemnly states two observations. Or truths to all of the young women standing before me, in formation. 1) you look like a beagle. 2) you have a big butt.
I wish, I WISH my answer was better.
I said thank you. And stood there, tears wetting my face. Taking it. Turning the other cheek like that damned parochial school had told me to do, on repeat daily over their decrepit PA system.
Those women tormented me, hot and cold, cold and hot. The tears I cried could have filled an ocean. Wailing into my pillow, my mom soothing me with a gentle pat on my back, day after day.
Mom, trying to explain this, rationalize it to me, help me see that the future was around the corner, they would be in my rearview. That they were jealous. That they were insecure. That hurt people hurt people. But I was jealous and insecure and hurt too.
She even tried to suggest that they got dropped on their heads as babies. Anything to rationalize the venom they spit my way and put it into perspective. She threw everything she had at building up that protective armor night after night when it got torn apart piece by piece each day.
That was then, this is now.
But it’s there, a millimeter below the surface. The scene, the heat, the malice.
The facebook message blinks and blinks. Unanswered. Undeserving of a response.