I went back four years later to listen to a bunch of middle schoolers sing inspirational songs in languages that neither they nor I understood. I didn’t think about my own performances there, or how many halves of bologna sandwiches the walls saw me consume. With crusts, cut straight down the middle, of course. My dad’s always been very pragmatic. The little blue sign outside says All-purpose room. But it’s not, really.
When I was in middle school myself (then the older sister of an abnormally feisty elementary-schooler), I distinctly remember standing on that same stage, during play practice for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was a candy kid, and I was left to my own devices to lick my imaginary lollipop and to be generally fetching in the background. I was always bad at being fetching on demand, so I quit the play. Being able to see my school bus leaving from the window, carrying my crush along with it, may also have helped.
I ate lunch in this same room. The food being sold was hidden behind a wall. I’d be embarrassed by nachos, Boardwalk fries, and blue and green slushies if I were Westland Middle School, too. When I didn’t come complacently toting a bologna sandwich, which was about once a week, I always bought a green slushy. I never ate Boardwalk fries.
There’s not even a hint of green slushy here four years later. The room means nothing to me. I don’t think of what I did or didn’t do here, of who I sat with or what we said. I must have had more purpose than lollipops, bologna, and slushies.
She and I would never, ever have the same friends. Hers are always extremely dramatic. “You’re my rock. With moss growing on it,” she says to me. She wore a little plaid skirt to school for four years straight. Her necklines plunge, her eyes glitter with cosmetics, and her most common greeting is, “Good Lord, what are you wearing? Is that another sweater from your grandmother?” It probably is. She would never do such a thing.
She gets so worked up about sunscreen that she puts it on the tops of her ears. She’ll laugh in expectation, before anyone even begins to tickle her. She calls me in tears when someone she loves is dishonest. She dated a whole string of ugly guys because she liked their personalities and because “they make such great pillows!” She’s always dragged me along behind her as she quests to make friends.
We used to play “Pavilion” under the ironing table in her basement. We ate parmesan cheese with the stuffed animals. We ran rampant in the preschool playground leading our pet Aslans, who were on leashes. I was always Wendy, and she never minded being Peter.
Sometimes she tells me things she shouldn’t. Sometimes she forgets how to graph a linear equation. Sometimes the greeting is not about my clothes but about her soul.
I went on one of those community service trips with a bunch of American teenagers during the summer after junior year, and I spent the first several days shitting my brains out. If that’s possible. Though I still feel reasonably intelligent. Anyway.
I had not watched a single episode of “Family Guy” in my entire life, which put me at an immediate disadvantage. Strike two: the toilets in the cheap Panamanian hotel got tired and would only flush sometimes. I could not manage to sit up in bed without exhausting myself. Joining people for dinner’s out. Strike three. I’m out, too.
No Devra, no Mom, just me, my half-eaten bowl of white rice with soy sauce, and the fun outside. “When I first met you, I thought you were, like, mute.” Spectacular. I resolved to watch “Family Guy” before college.
People are not just people. I used to think that if you believed that people are not just people you were racist, sexist, ageist, religion-ist, whatever. But it has nothing to do with theology or skin color, where you’re pierced, who you want to have sex with, or whether you like math. People think differently. Duh, “You are special you’re the only one you’re the only one like you!” Would the saccharine purple dinosaur and his kid chorus lie? Of course not. I spent an entire episode trying to give myself a chin dimple like the oldest kid. If that’s not admiration…? I’ve known for as long as I remember that what people thought about was different. They come to different conclusions, they argue. Like our dino friend said.
He doesn’t get it. At the root of our disagreement? frustration? innocent conversation? were genes, neurons, culture, or all. Sitting on a lofted bed in a relatively smelly room (male, naturally). He doesn’t understand me because his thought processes themselves are too different. Somehow, my feelings are dependent on my thoughts, and his thoughts ARE his feelings without words. I’m not really sure if I’m writing to myself about it here, or if I’m writing for the benefit someone else. Maybe the italics and the caps are a clue. He thinks in pictures, and I think in words. How can we get through to each other?
People~ Here I played a little
We’re the “Crunch Bunch,” isn’t that cute? Laughing is painful in the Crunch Bunch. Tonight was the best-ever turnout: a shaker, a sweater, a runner, a trier, a failer, a pusher, and me. No particular order. The sweater is my normal crunch partner. Pusher is new on the hall, Shaker is smiling, as always, regardless of shaking. Runner introduced a new exercise, Failer was agreeable, Trier was a bit embarrassed, I think, which means that Trier was also silly. Me was somewhere in the middle, trying not to laugh when non-participators 1 and 2 were joking. Because laughing hurts. Sweaterette arrived somewhere in the middle and made an amusing comment about Sweater’s color, while Sweater was doing leg drops, which Me did not think this was very nice, considering.
Leg drops reminded me of that movie, “The Rock.” Sean Connery is escaping from Alcatraz. He has to roll through a space with alternate bursts of flame and body-crushing gears, but he knows the pattern. Go Sean Connery! Me knew he’d make it! Non-participator 2 has to get to the door to go to a meeting. Go Non-participator 2! Shaker’s legs can be the flame bursts. Sweater’s are the body-crushing gear. Me had less faith in Non-participator 2 than in Sean Connery. But it all turned out alright, after all. Me’ll do anything to pass the time.