The fat girl

Posted: August 12, 2019 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: ,

Image by pixabay.com/users/pgbsimon

It was an incredibly hot day as we wandered around the Arts and Wine Festival in San Jose. The heat was unusual for us. Sure, we had a hot day here and there when it would get close to 100 degrees, but it would quickly cool down once the fog in San Francisco arrived. The fog was magical and cooling and made everything seem right with the world again.

I loved the fog and hated the heat, so it wasn’t a hard choice to leave my house without air conditioning and go with an acquaintance Casey to the festival. It’s not that I wanted to go, as I didn’t like her much, but anything would be better than sitting in front of two fans on my bed all day. That was a guaranteed recipe for an onslaught of apathy, despair, and just the general “My-life-sucks-and-I-hate-myself” mantra that is always so readily available, with or without my permission.

I met her there and was proud of myself for remembering to put on some sunscreen. I don’t usually wear it because I’m an odd person that actually thinks the sun is good for you, but I knew I’d probably be out in the sun longer than I wanted. I didn’t bother with a hat because I can only wear one for a few minutes before it starts to give me a headache.

I found her at the entrance. She lived much closer than I so did but didn’t want me to pick her up. I didn’t ask why as I am someone who never has people over. I’ll meet my ride down the driveway, but they never make it past the gate. It was simply a matter of space. I live in a very tiny house that I share with a roommate, a dog, and two cats. My roommate sleeps on the couch and has that entire space and I stay in my bedroom. It’s only about 600 square feet and there is no place to sit, not even me. I have a bed and he has a couch.

The cats hide under my bed if anyone dares to cross the sacred threshold of the front gate, but I’ve got no place to put my dog. He’s 80 pounds of muscle and mouth and doesn’t have great manners. He gets too excited and is impossible to control once he hits his over-excited zone. He will either be happy to see someone and jump all over them, or he’ll be scared and growl and bark.

Either way, no one wins so I avoid it at all costs.

So, no one is allowed in so that I can maintain my sanity and friendships.

We greeted each other and quickly found the beer and wine stand. We bought our tickets, got our drinks and began the obligatory walking and admiring of the vendors. The heat started to get to me immediately and I wanted to leave, but I knew my house was at least another 20 degrees hotter, so I walked in the shade as much as I could.

Casey had a full-blown summer festival outfit going on. She wore a huge straw hat, large sunglasses, and a summer smock that was bright colors. She had sandals on but they had a slight heel. Her make-up, as always, was flawless and heavily painted on.

“How do you do it?” I asked. “You know, the whole make-up thing going on in this heat? Mine melted off before I even got into the car.” That was true. Though I didn’t wear much and didn’t want to put any of since it was hot and a Sunday, I had put on some foundation and mascara. I wore my usual Vaseline on my lips and had my long hair pulled back into a tight ponytail.

She chuckled. “You are so funny,” she said which is a comment I never know how to take. It’s like when someone says you are interesting. Interesting is a good way or interesting in a bad way?

No one ever answers that question.

“Well, yeah, I’m hysterical but…how do you do it? How come your make-up never smears or fades away?”

“That’s because I don’t sweat,” she said.

I had no response so I just nodded and kept walking.

We came upon a stage with all the cute little kids dancing in their tutu’s. The music was coming from 2 large speakers on each side of the stage There were a few people sitting in the seats. Probably just the parents and volunteers.

I wanted to sit down and so did Casey. I didn’t particularly care about the performance since I didn’t know any of them and it was a school event, but it felt good to sit in the shade and sip my beer. I stretched my legs out and put my feet on the portable plastic chair in front of me. Even that was hot in the shade, but it was better than walking any further. I kicked my flip-flops off and watched the kids on the stage.

There were about 10 of them and looked to be about 6 years old. The did look quite cute in their costumes as they spun around, trying to be in sync with each other as best as they could. Their teacher was in front of the stage, smiling and encouraging them. The music was loud and their smiles and pure joy made me smile and forget about the heat for a few minutes.

The dance ended and they left the stage and got ready for the next performance.

“God they are cute,” Casey said. I nodded. She was right. I scanned the audience and saw so many proud parents.

They started the music again as a young girl walked onto the stage. She owned that stage. You could see it in her eyes. Her smile was from ear to ear. She was wearing a leotard with blue glitter all over it. She had on blue ballet shoes and blue leggings. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and had blue and purple flowers.

She looked like the cutest blueberry I had ever seen.

She was also very large. She was at least twice the size of the other girls.

She began to dance and could barely contain her enthusiasm and joy at dancing for the small crowd. She glowed and I found myself smiling and silently cheering her on.

“Wow, isn’t she a little too big for this?” Casey muttered. “I mean, she’s really fat.”

I ignored her comment because I wanted to slap her for saying it. It made me sad because it was only a matter of time before some asshole came along and made it clear that she wasn’t good enough because of her weight. It was only a matter of time before she would learn that she would be judged on her looks and not her talent and contributions. It was only a matter of time before she would be indoctrinated to what was acceptable for life and what wasn’t.

It was only a matter of time before she learned that as a woman, she would have to learn to ignore what anyone said or thought about her and live the life she wanted.

I suddenly felt sad. I told Casey I wasn’t feeling well and left. I knew her comment was simply from her life of battling her weight and the naysayers she had fought all her life, but I always expect a woman to be kinder and more understanding of another.

I have battled my weight for most of my life. I’ve been thin and I’ve been heavy, but it wasn’t until that what mattered was my health, then if I was healthy, my looks and weight would figure it out.

I saw a beautiful dancer on that stage and that’s all that matters.

That’s the world I want to live in and that’s the world that I know we all fight for.

I’ve had plenty of times of people judging me and I’ve gotten old enough to no longer care, but how do you deal with it?

Following

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

An asshole, that’s who.

I was shocked he was going to take off and leave me there. I am not someone that posts pictures online of people without their permission, but this is one time I wish I had. I wish I had taken his picture before he took off and been able to post it here. I know I’m being vindictive and mean with my thoughts, but that’s where my head is at right now.

It was last Sunday. The weather was near 100 degrees when I got the ride request for someone right down the street from me. I was bored and had just logged onto the Lyft app. I figured since I needed the money and there wasn’t anything left to do for the day — except clean my house, but let’s not go there — I’d drive around for a bit. I just needed another $20.00 to make my financial target for the week. I was super happy to see the fare coming in was over 45 minutes.

I happily hit “Accept” and took off.

I got to the location and waited a few minutes. There wasn’t much traffic since it was a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon, so was able to park EXACTLY where the pin on Google maps said.

After 3 minutes, I called him because the app was getting ready to cancel the ride as a “No Show.” He answered and I told him I was outside waiting. He kept asking me where I was and I said: “Right in front of the XXX apartments….”

Ends up, after he booked the ride, he decided to walk away from his location and wait on the corner.

I’ve realized after being a rideshare driver, never underestimate the stupidity of some people. Apparently, there are those that think the rideshare app is a tracking device.

It is not. This is not Harry Potter. The rideshare app is not “The Marauder’s Map.” We don’t know where you are if you walk away. We are not mind-readers. We are not going to drive around to find you. We are going to arrive where the app places us and wait. You’ve got 3–5 minutes before your ride is canceled.

We have to find you by following the app, pull over safely and find a place to safely park until we get your happy ass in our car.

  • Please don’t order your ride while standing on a curb that is painted red. Read the signs; we can’t stop for you and we’re the ones that have to pay the ticket.
  • Please don’t request a ride on a street that has been blocked off due to a street event.
  • Please don’t order your ride from your third story condominium. I can’t drive up there.
  • Please don’t be a dick and wait for us to call you before you decide to come down to the car. I’ll cancel your fare before you know what’s happened, collect the $5.00 no-show fee and block you from ever contacting me again.
  • Don’t make us wait. It’s rude and even though we are getting paid, it’s our car and our time. It’s not as if we are making a shitload of money doing this.

The app was just about to cancel his ride when I looked around and saw someone standing on the corner. I called him and asked him if he was the guy with the backpack, wandering around in circles on the corner.

He said he was. He said he saw me drive by. Apparently, it didn’t dawn on him to walk towards my car. Instead, he called and waited for me to find him.

I made him walk over to me. I wasn’t about to pull away from the curb WHERE THE PIN CORRECTLY TOLD ME TO BE, go 100 feet, make an illegal u-turn to pull up to him and wait for him to get into my car.

He came over, got in the front seat and off we went. He was a nice enough young man, but about 10 seconds into the ride, his body odor was apparent. I cracked my window a bit, looked down at Google maps and saw I had 45 minutes to get him to his location.

“I can do this,” I thought. I know people of his culture do not bathe as often as us native-born Americans. It was still enough to make me want to roll down the windows and forgo the air conditioning. I also knew he was hot from standing out in the sun, so I just decided to buck-up and ignore the stench.

We chatted quite a bit and had a very pleasant ride and I actually enjoyed his company despite the smell.

It was about 30 minutes into the drive when I hit the turnoff to make our trip shorter. It is a freeway that goes between the two major freeways in Livermore California. You end up going up into the hills for a few miles and then dumping back onto the main freeway. It’s a slick little highway. It was packed with cars doing the exact same thing we were doing, taking a shortcut.

Everything was fine until I got behind a truck that was going very slow. It was over a hundred degrees outside so I had the air conditioning on full blast. As we ascended a steep hill I put on my left blinker and began to pull out from behind the big truck when suddenly there was no power. My car shook for a few seconds as I attempted to pass the truck and then the check engine light came on.

That dreaded check engine light that strikes the fear into the marrow of my bones and stomach. I lost all power. Fortunately, I was able to pull over to the shoulder right next to a highway patrol call box. I put the car in park and shouted: “Oh my God my car has stopped working!”

I got out of the car and it was extremely windy and hot. I walked over to the call box and picked up the phone and waited five minutes or so for an operator to respond.

Image by pixabay.com/users/dotlizard

There were so many cars going by and it was so windy and hot that I could barely hear her. He got out of the car and got on his phone and was making a call. I couldn’t put my phone down but I wanted to get his attention to hold on while I ended his trip. About 10 minutes later, I got back into my car and called AAA. I began the process of getting a tow truck while he continued to talk on his phone and walk up and down on the shoulder.

He got back into the car and told me he had just ordered an Uber and it would be there in a few minutes.

I looked at him and said “What?”

I couldn’t believe what I thought I heard. Maybe it was windier than I realized and the heat was getting to me. By then we had been on the side of the road for at least 15 minutes. My feet were already showing a slight sunburn from standing outside.

He said he had just ordered an Uber and was going to go and would I please take care of his fare so that he wouldn’t have to pay for it.

I had already driven him 40 minutes. I looked at him and said “Sure. I’ll tell you what. First, let me get my car towed and safe. And then I’ll need to make sure I don’t die or get killed out here and then I will very happily take care of your fare. No worries, I’ve got my priorities straight.”

He smiled and thanked me. Not only was I pissed off he was leaving, but I was also angry that my sarcasm was lost on him.

Right then a car pulled over and he jumped in and took off.

He didn’t stay.

He didn’t wish me luck.

He didn’t even wave as he got into the car.

The Uber driver didn’t check on me. He had his fare and was good to go.

I watched him drive away and could not believe that anyone would leave a woman stranded on the side of the road. I began texting my roommate and waiting for the tow truck. My cell service was spotty because I was in the mountains and away from the thousands of towers in Silicon Valley, where I call home.

Fortunately, my text got through to my roommate. I thanked him and told him I was fine. I said I was sorry to ask for help because he was going to have to drop what he was doing on a Sunday afternoon and drive an hour and pick me up in the middle of the mountains.

The tow truck eventually arrived and I was taken to a place about three miles away and waited for my roommate. I never felt unsafe or scared. It was a Sunday afternoon, bright and sunny out, very hot but I was very upset that I had been left alone.

I can honestly say I would never leave somebody like that. It wasn’t as if he was on his way to donate a kidney or accept the Nobel Peace Prize or go off to another country and cure cancer. He was simply going to his mom’s house for the afternoon and apparently that was much more important than a woman stranded on the side of the road.

And to ask about getting the ride for free was the icing on the cake.

Needless to say, I said nothing to Lyft about him getting a refund and I did get paid for the trip, which was great. Just in case there was any dispute on it I cashed out early to make sure I got my money.

The next morning I did get an email from Lyft at telling me my account has been deactivated until I took it to my mechanic and had a very thorough safety check done. They emailed me the form they needed to be done. I got it done the next day and everything was fine.

As far as we know my car just started to overheat a bit and I have learned my lesson:

  • Never run my air conditioning when it’s over a hundred degrees while I’m going up a hill.
  • Never depend on anyone to help you. Assume you are on your own and appreciate those that help you.
  • Block the asshole passengers.

Image by pixabay.com

Yes, there are lots of good people out there but I cannot conceive of a good man that would ever leave a woman or anyone alone and vulnerable on the side of the road.

Photo by Marco De Waal on Unsplash

I wanted to care but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t. Nothing I said to myself could get me to change my mind or feel anything but…nothing. Just…nothing.

It was as if I was reading about some random stranger’s death with a cursory glance while I sipped my coffee and wondered if I had enough gas to get to work or if I should leave 5 minutes earlier to get it.

I didn’t like her, not one iota, but I felt that I should feel something when I heard of her death. I wasn’t surprised by the news. I had seen her posts on Facebook for a fundraiser her son was doing for her. She had pancreatic cancer but wanted to try an herbal program that boasted of wonderful success in remission for all types of cancer.

I had felt sadness when I first found out she was ill but not for long. I had not seen her in years, so she was no longer part of my life.

I didn’t judge her for trying or have much of an opinion about it. It was her life and far be it from me to say what anyone should do once they’ve been given a death sentence. I don’t know what I would do so I can’t say what someone else should do.

She looked horrible in her profile picture. Much older and worn, but that’s to be expected when you’re dying. She still had the great hair and red lipstick and smile, but she had aged 25 years since I had seen her 5 years before.

I felt nothing when I read about her illness. I felt bad that I was ambivalent about her and her pending demise. The more I tried to feel something, the worse I felt.

Is it possible to feel numb and annoyance at feeling numb at the same time?

I didn’t like her when I knew her and worked with her but I tried to. I felt that I should like her since she started working for us a few years before.

Things at work had slowed down. We were looking for someone to bring in sales. I knew things at work would be better if I liked her. I even tried to be nice and insincere to smooth things over. I failed at it and she could tell.

I don’t have a poker face, but there have been times when I would have paid a million dollars to have one. To be able to hide my feelings and thoughts, carry on with an insincere but pleasant conversation, and get away from them as soon as possible.

But I don’t posses that ability. I am envious of people who are hard to read. Is is something a person is born with or is it something that can be self-taught?

My boss asked me if I would be friends with her and include her in my circle of friends. She and I knew some mutual people and they all seemed to like her or at least I thought so.

I was never unkind or cruel. I am not that way, but it’s not a matter of what I do; it’s a matter of what I don’t do. If I don’t like someone, I don’t have long conversations with them. I am short with my responses and greetings, my smile disappears quickly from my face but it’s there just long enough to be seen as polite.

She was brash and rude and the main topic of all her conversations was how great she was. She would go on and on about how many people loved her and how lucky we all were to have her around. By her insistence that we needed her, the back end intention was we were doing everything wrong and she was our only savior and chance at survival. The fact that we had all done well for 15+ years was no longer relevant.

She proclaimed herself as our savior and we were not in the market for one.

She talked her way into our small company and I, like others, were hopeful she would be an asset. We had been struggling lately with our sales and needed a full-time individual to take the lead.

We were doing okay, but wanted to push the business to the next level. It was a logical decision to bring on someone full-time and take the job off of my boss’s plate.

We weren’t looking for a miracle; we just wanted another employee who would learn about the company from the ground up and help us push it further along.

She had had some success with her own small business and she came with some good recommendations. The fact that we all had mutual friends made her appealing to us.

My intense dislike of her wasn’t immediate but it didn’t take me long to begin to dread coming into the office. Having her barge into my office with unsolicited advice on anything and everything, commenting about what I was wearing, and how she thought I could improve my job performance, were things she did on a daily basis.

She had ruined a dinner party at a friends house when she began to tell everyone what an asset she was. When she started on her third glass of wine and told my best friend how lucky I was to know her, my friend rolled her eyes and left the table.

That’s when I began to suspect that I wasn’t the only one didn’t like her.

Funny how we try to like people. We first must lie to ourselves before we begin lying to others.

She shouted when she spoke, barged into offices even if the door was closed, knew more than anyone else. She was impossible to train. You can’t teach anyone who thinks they not only know the subject, but they know more than the trainer.

That particular day was when I came close to throwing the training binder her across the table. I know within a few minutes of working with someone if they can be trained. Most can be, but the few that can’t, it’s because they don’t want to learn. It’s as if admitting they don’t know something, it makes them feel like prey.

  • You have to be vulnerable while opening your mind to new ideas.
  • You have to admit you don’t know something before you can learn it.
  • You have to be willing to be stupid in order to gain knowledge.

All of this we could have dealt with if the numbers had been there, but that was not the case. Her inadequacies began to show up quickly.

First it was the padded (false) stats. Everything sounded good, according to her, but upon inspection, not so much. The money wasn’t there and then when it did appear, the new clients asked for refunds before even starting.

Her appointments kept cancelling on her. It was as if she were a magnet that repelled rather than pulled.

I felt sorry for her. She made me uncomfortable because she seemed so desperate and alone. The more I attempted to befriend her, the more I felt my integrity slip away.

The day she was fired, she cried on my shoulder. I limply put my arm around her shoulder and patted her back. I felt a twinge of remorse for not feeling anything but relief that she would be gone. I felt as if my comfortable world was about to return.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t like her and didn’t have to. I wished her no ill will and had hoped she had gone off onto better and more interesting adventures.

I am sorry she’s gone too soon.

Have you ever known someone you didn’t like but wanted to? Was it something that bothered you or not?

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

In a world that values things more than people, it’s easy to forget what’s important and what isn’t. That can vary from day to day or even moment to moment.

One day, you have a fender bender. No one is hurt, but you’re upset that you didn’t see the car and backed into it in the parking lot. You were distracted with the kids screaming in the back seat or your day at work wasn’t that great because your boss let you know your performance could be better.

It could be a million little things that are bothering you and then BAM! You bump into the car you didn’t see parked there.

You exchange your information with the other driver, apologize profusely, and remind yourself to make sure you paid your insurance premium for the month.

You’re thankful the other driver was kind and didn’t throw a fit.

You worry that your insurance rates will go up again as you drive home, forcing yourself to pay attention.

You’re upset that you were so distracted that you didn’t see the car parked when you back up and you should have.

You take a deep breathe and calm yourself down. You debate whether or not you’ll report the claim to your insurance carrier or maybe bite the bullet and pay for it out of your own pocket. You say another prayer that it won’t be much because you’re about to be overdrawn in your checking account if your rent check clears before your payroll check get deposited.

All of these things are on your mind until you turn the corner onto the street you live and you see smoke.

Lots of smoke.

Pouring up into the sky…near your home.

You see the fire engines as you approach your home but you can’t tell exactly what is happening and you say your third prayer in the last hour that the smoke is from a house way down the street from you.

The last thing on your mind now is the fender bender.

All you can think about is your home being on fire.

Then you realize that if it is, right now all you care about is your family and pets.

You accelerate, with all thoughts of being a more careful driver evaporating immediately.

As you get closer, you can see that it’s not your house, but a neighbors home 6 houses down.

You heave a sigh of relief, suddenly grateful that you have not lost your home and family and pull into the driveway.

You stand there and a new emotions step in and it is one of compassion, worry, and care for your neighbors.

You’re happy you are safe and you are worried that your neighbors are not.

And that, that right there, is your greatest asset.

You thought I was going to say you are your greatest asset, didn’t you?

Well, you’re not wrong but you’re also not right.

Your greatest asset is more than something you can put in a Hallmark card or quickly write as in inspirational quote for Facebook.

Your greatest asset is what you do with you. It’s:

Your empathy

Your ability to understand others

Your level of ethics

Your integrity

Your moral compass

Your ability to be kind

To be decent

Sometimes it feels as if you have to be mean and unfeeling to get through life. There are days when the worries and stress of the world, or just the day, weigh on you relentlessly.

Sometimes we feel weak if we aren’t constantly being rude or unkind. We don’t understand why life has become such a burden.

We feel justified in snapping at the person who is moving slower than molasses in the store aisle and you can’t get past them.

What do they expect if they are slow AND blocking the aisle? What? They think they’re the only person on the planet?

There are always plenty of reasons to be mean and unkind, but there are just as many to be kind and decent.

Your biggest asset is when your heart reaches out to resolve a problem. When you let yourself be kind even though the world has given you plenty of reasons to be ornery and mean.

It is your heart and soul that is your biggest asset and it is often not your first reaction when you’re about to take the bait.

It’s important to give yourself a second or two or three to decide how you want react to a situation. Your emotions and actions are always your choice and one else’s.

And that’s what puts you high on the food chain.

Your ability to see, to decide and then to act.

No one is perfect, but don’t fall prey to those that tell you to be harsh in order to get ahead. Pay no attention to anyone who tells you that you don’t matter or you don’t make a difference.

Kindness can never be overrated and if you find yourself tempted to lash out, don’t beat yourself up if you do.

The beautiful thing about time is there is another moment right around the corner.

You are important. You influence the people around you and you make a difference in their lives.

Life is hard enough without being too hard on ourselves.

Your biggest asset is what you do with you.

Being an Invisible Person

Posted: July 14, 2019 in Writing
Tags: ,

urban-1658436_1920

Image by https://pixabay.com/users/anwarramadhan

Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash
Image by pixabay.com

I didn’t expect for someone to be standing there as I climbed over my backyard fence. We had moved in a few months before but most of the houses in the new development were vacant. The Harris’ lived 3 doors down and I had met Judy. She and I were the same age and getting ready to start the 3rd grade. Pam lived up the street at the top of the hill. Pam, Judy and I were friends by default. I liked them well enough, but Pam could be bossy and Judy liked to have tea parties in her bedroom with her toy troll dolls and talk baby talk to them. I loathe baby talk, so my visits to her house lasted until she started to pull that shit.

Her dad was some type of an engineer and her mom was an anomaly; she worked full time as a nurse. This caused the housewives on our block to cluck and sneer with disapproval behind her back that she chose — or maybe she had to — work outside her home and not dedicate her entire heart and soul to her family. I don’t know why she worked, but I liked the fact that often times, Judy and I had her house to ourselves for an hour after getting home from school. We mostly spent it in front of the TV watching “Dark Shadows” and gorging on as many cookies as we thought we could get away with. We thought that her mom wouldn’t notice as if she couldn’t count. Once we heard her car pull into the garage, we quickly turned off the TV, no matter what was happening with Barnabas, and brush the cookie crumbs off the couch and our mouths. We’d grab a book — usually the latest Nancy Drew, and pretend to read when she came through the garage door and walked into the kitchen.

I first met Kathy a year after Judy’s family moved in and we were best friends even though she knocked out her front tooth in my garage when we were going round and round with our skates in a hula hoop.

“Hello. Who are you? My name is Kathy,” I heard as I hoisted myself up the fence and straddled the middle in preparation of jumping down. I was planning on playing in the yard without the prying eyes of my older brother who had been left to babysit me while my Mom ran to the store. Eric thought this made him the boss of me. It didn’t but rather than have another argument about it, I decided to go play in what I considered my own personal backyard next door.

Now someone else was here and I didn’t know why. I looked at her for a moment and suddenly felt as if I had done something wrong. I knew it wasn’t really my backyard, but until someone bought the house and moved in, I figured it was free for the taking. There wasn’t anything special about it; there was minimal landscaping for show, a cement patio without any shade and a lonely palm tree in the corner. It was that no one else used it and it was a space where I could pretend I owned. I envisioned 10 dogs running around in the yard while I sat under a fabulous patio umbrella, smoked cigarettes and read. I saw myself as having 2 cars in the garage, a refrigerator full of my favorite snacks and no stupid brothers running around, breaking my toys and spying on me. To me, that backyard was as close to heaven in my mind that I could imagine and it belonged to no one but me.

“I’m Sam. What are you doing here?” I asked as I jumped down. I almost landed on her. She stepped back but continued to smile. She was about my height but thinner. Her hair was so blond it was yellow. She had enormous blue eyes with pale lashes. Her nose was large and her skin was so white it was almost translucent.

She was wearing a starched white blouse that was tucked into her pants. Her socks had lace on them and she was wearing white saddle shoes that didn’t have a mark on them. Her hair had a ribbon in it which matched her shirt.

“Sam? Really? What kind of name is that..”

“It’s short for Samantha,” I said and sighed. It always irritates me when I had to explain.

“I live here now,” she said. She began blinking rapidly and her eyes darted for a moment. She smiled nervously and looked down at the dirt.

“What do you mean you live here now?” I asked. I quickly looked into the living room window. “I don’t see any furniture.”

Her smile got wider. “Oh, that’s because we haven’t actually moved in yet. The movers come on Saturday. We’re staying at a motel until then.”

“I see,” I said as I wiped my hands on my jeans. I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my feet were dirty. I tried to smooth my hair down but it was pointless. It was curly and stuck out everywhere. My Mom gave up trying to comb it so she cut it short and hoped it would somehow stay put.

“Do you live next door?” she asked.

“We moved here a long time ago. I know everyone in the neighborhood,” I said as if that would mean something.

“Kathy? Where are you?” I heard a man’s voice call out. Kathy turned and I saw a man approaching us.

“Hi Dad. This is Sam. She lives next door,” she said. He walked over and stuck his hand out. I shook it and hoped it was clean.

“Nice to meet you…did you say Sam?” he asked. He was tall and younger than my parents. His hair was cut short and his teeth were so straight that I wasn’t sure if they were real or not and tried not to stare.

“Yes, my name is Sam, short for Samantha.Thanks, nice to meet you too,” I said and pulled my hand away. I didn’t roll my eyes at him when I explained my name. He already looked tightly wound up.

“How did you get in the yard? I didn’t see you go through the gate,” he asked and looked directly at me.

This was the second time in 2 minutes that I felt as if I had done something wrong. “I climbed over the fence like I always do,” I said.

“Oh well, please be sure not to do that anymore. This is our house and you should come to the front door from now on.” He turned and looked down at Kathy and put his arm around her shoulders. He had spoken and I had been dismissed. “It’s time to go,” he said and turned her around. “It’s nice to have met you Sam,” he said as they walked away. Kathy turned around, smiled and waved.

I waved and walked through the gate. I left it open. I figured if he had such a bug up his ass about it, he could close it himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning so I jumped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Kathy’s house. I had so many things to tell her about my new crush in Junior High that I couldn’t wait. We weren’t in the same classes anymore and had different schedules. Since she wasn’t allowed to use the phone during the week, the only time we had to talk was on the weekend. Sometimes we would catch each other in the cafeteria but she had new friends I didn’t like.

One of her new friends was a girl named Helen. They sat next to each other in English class and often did their homework together. The previous year, Kathy’s parents bought a bigger house 1/2 mile away. It was still in the same neighborhood, but in a new area of nicer and bigger homes. We used to play together every day after school until we were called in for dinner, but now I only saw her on the weekends and that was only if her parents let her out of the house.

They were strict, said grace before every meal. We didn’t pray in my house and often had food fights at the dinner table. My dad was the biggest instigator of said fights. He’d usually start them when you asked him to pass the bread. Instead of handing you the plate, he’d toss a piece of bread and off we would go. Our family time was always filled with laughter and jokes; Kathy’s family time consisted of being quiet, saying grace and not interrupting the adults when they spoke. You had to ask permission to speak, so I rarely ate with them. They made me nervous and I never knew how to behave.

I once tried to tell a joke and was met with stern looks. I made the mistake the first time I had dinner with her family of tossing a piece of bread at Kathy when she asked me to pass it. She laughed and them immediately turned red.

But I learned to live with it and told myself to be nice and calm as I pedaled over to Kathy’s house and patiently waited after ringing the doorbell.

Kathy’s mom opened the door. I had parked my bike exactly where they had told me. Everything in their house was always in the exact right place. It was spotless and I often felt that if I moved wrong, I would knock something over and they would banish me forever.

“Good morning Samantha,” she said and just stood there. She always did this. I always had to tell her I was there to see Kathy even though it was obvious. She refused to call me by the name I preferred. I always wanted her to and hoped she’d choke on it, but she was an adult and whatever they said or wanted was the way it was going to be.

“Hello Mrs. Monroe. How are you?” I asked and waited. This ritual was usually short.

“I’m well. Are you here to see Kathy?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I wasn’t. I wanted to say that I was there to visit with her even though I knew she didn’t like me and never had.

“Yes I am,” I said and continued to stand there and wait.

She looked me up and down. I automatically reached up and flattened down my hair.

“She’s upstairs in her bedroom,” she said and opened the door wider. I walked through it and started to go up the stairs.

“Thank you Mrs. Monroe,” I said.

I heard her close the door. “Kathy has a lot to do tonight, so please be back here by 4:00,’ she said as she walked into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes but made sure she couldn’t see it. “No problem,” I said as I sprinted up the stairs and into Kathy’s room.

She was sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged me. I closed the door and flopped down on her bed. I wanted to leave as soon as we could. I felt like I was in jail.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

She turned around and smiled. “Yep. Let me just grab my purse. You want to grab some food for our bike ride? We could ride up the trail and there’s a bunch of nice spots where we could stop. Angie lives somewhere near the lake. Maybe we could go over to her house…”

“No, I don’t like Angie. I know she’s your friend but I don’t think she likes me,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not true! She does like you,” Kathy said. Kathy only saw the goodness in people. She didn’t like it when I said something unkind or mean. She would always tell me something positive. It annoyed me at times but I had grown used to it. That was just the way she was.

Her door opened and her father was standing there. They never knocked. They just walked in. Kathy never did anything wrong and I wondered if they were like that when I wasn’t around.

He stood there and I saw he was holding a book in his hand. He had a serious look on his face. I looked down at the book. It was “Soul on Ice” and right then I knew I was in trouble.

“Where did you get this book Kathy?” he asked as he held the book in front of him. Kathy looked at it and then immediately looked at me. She blushed when she realized that she had just answered his question without saying anything. She looked back at him and then down at her lap.

“Well? I asked you a question young lady,” he said.

“I gave it to her,” I said. She couldn’t lie to her father and didn’t want to get me into trouble. It was easier for her if I just told the truth.

He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “Did you…read this book?” he asked.

I nodded my head. I felt my face getting red. I knew what parts he was talking about. I looked down at my shoes. At 13 years old, much of the book I did not understand but the sex scenes were vivid enough.

“Do your parents know you read this book?”

“I have no idea. It was given to me. I read it. I gave it to Kathy to read. It’s just a book and a popular one,” I said. I did not like anyone talking to me as if they were my parents.

“Well I may have to talk to them about. I’m sure they would not approve. I think you are both a bit too young for this type of…book. There are parts that are fine. I stapled the pages that you are not to read Kathy, but you can read the rest of it,” he said and handed her the book. She took it and nodded and placed it on her desk.

He turned and looked at me. “But the next time you want Kathy to read something you find so…interesting, please give it to me first,” he said and walked out. He left the door open. I got up and closed it.

I looked down at Kathy. She was still red and was wringing her hands slightly. “Sorry I got you in trouble,” I said and took the book. I started to take the staples out of it. Kathy reached over and took the book from me.

“You can’t do that! He said I couldn’t read those parts!”

“So what? It’s my book and he had no right to ruin it. If I want the staples out of my book, I’m taking them out!” I said. I snatched the book back and began to pull out the staples and sneered every time they tore a page.

“You can see the pages that had them and if you don’t want to read them, then don’t,” I said and handed her back the book.

She shook her head. “No, that’s OK. I’ll read something else,” she said and got up and picked up her purse.

I took the book with us. We found a place to eat. I read the parts he told her not to read. Technically, she didn’t read them. I just happened to be reading out loud while Kathy was sitting there.

I never saw her blush so much for so long. It was worth it. From then on, anything I wanted her to read, I kept in my locker at school.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Liana De Laurent De Laurent on Unsplash

I could hear her guitar as I came out of my last class for the day. Her last class for the day ended an hour before mine. She had taken up the guitar and would use that hour while she waited for me to practice. We took the same bus home and that gave us time to catch-up on the day. It was my most favorite time of day except my English class because Ted was in it. I had had a crush on him since 6th grade and 6 years later, he still didn’t know I existed.

I found her sitting on the stairs near the girl’s gym. She was in her own world as she sat and strummed her guitar. Her hair was almost to her waist. She was wearing a long dress and boots with a headband and flowers pinned into it. The sun was hitting her back and her hair looked like corn silk. I tried to flatten my hair down and forgot for a moment that it was also long. I wore it pulled back most of the time and I could feel the long ponytail hit my waist as I jogged towards her.

She was practicing “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It had been the number one song on the charts for a few weeks. I wasn’t sure if I liked them or not. No one would ever replace The Beatles for me. I walked up and stood in front of her and waited for her to stop.

She looked up and continued to strum her guitar. She was getting better and better. She taught herself much of what she played. She had taken lessons but she had a talent for it. I tried to learn but had no patience. I wanted to pick it up, play it perfectly and refused to practice.

“You ready? I want to have a smoke before the bus comes,” I said. She stood up and walked with me to the parking lot. That was where some of us went to in order to sneak a cigarette.

As we were walking, I heard someone crying. I looked around. “Did you hear that?” I asked Kathy and stopped. She listened and then we heard it again. We looked around and followed the sound. It was subtle but someone was sobbing.

We saw a girl standing behind the partition in front of the girl’s gym. I had never seen her before. She had her face pressed against it with her hands covering her face. Her body was shaking as she sobbed and tried to be quiet. We looked at each other and walked over to her. Kathy didn’t know who she was either.

“You OK?” I asked. She jumped back and a slight scream left her mouth. She quickly put her hands over her mouth and nodded her head. She was a mess. Her face was soaked from her tears and they had dripped onto her blouse. Her nose was running.

She was a large girl with hair worse than mine. Hers stood straight up as if she had stuck her finger in a light socket. Everything about her was wrong. She was wearing a pleated skirt that was plaid with a large sweater and knee high socks. She looked as if she had just been transported from the 50’s. I looked to see if there was a poodle on her skirt. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen and when she looked back and forth at us, only one of her eyes moved. Her left eye stared straight ahead.

Kathy stepped forward and put her hand on her arm. “What’s your name?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to breathe. “Dawn,” she said and attempted to smile. All you could see was a mouthful of braces and she was wearing a headgear.

“I’m Kathy and this is Sam. Why are you crying?”

Dawn looked around and then stared at her shoes. She shrugged her shoulders.

I already had a good idea of what happened. She was near the girl’s gym when the cheerleaders came out. I hated those girls even though we had all been friends since 3rd grade. Something happened to some of them during the summer between Junior High School and starting our sophomore year. They had grown-up suddenly and were pretty and thin and popular. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to have lunch with them or talk to them. My greetings went unanswered or even laughed at as they flipped their hair and wiggled their butts as they walked away.

I didn’t want to hear what they had done. Those girls had turned into demon spawn. Dawn was a perfect target. I grabbed her hand and started walking. “Come with us and don’t worry about it,” I said as I headed towards the parking lot and began to pull my cigarettes out of my purse.

I found a spot to sit where I wouldn’t be seen and could hear if anyone was approaching. I had Dawn sit down between us and lit up. Her face was beginning to dry. She looked back and forth between us. Kathy picked-up her guitar and started strumming. I leaned back, inhaled deeply and watched the smoke rise in the air.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked Dawn.

She looked at me and I saw a horrible look as it passed over her face. I wasn’t trying to be mean or rude but it was like a huge elephant sitting in the middle of a living room and no one was saying anything.

“Some girls picked on me and bullied me for a long time where I used to live,” she said. Her hand went to her eye and she rubbed it. “We just moved here. My dad lost his job, so they haven’t had any money to get me a better eye.”

“A better eye? What does that mean?” I asked.

“This is a glass eye,” she said and pointed to it. “One day, those girls held me down and one of them stuck a needle into it. They laughed. They thought it was funny.”

Kathy had stopped playing her guitar when Dawn started talking. I looked at her. Tears were in her eyes and her hand went to her mouth. I looked at Dawn as she looked out into the parking lot.

There wasn’t anything left to say.

I watched the side of Dawn’s face as she gazed at the cars coming and going. Her jaw was tight and her bottom lip quivered. I put my hand over hers and squeezed it.

We were graduating in a couple of months. Kathy was going off the college. She wanted to be a teacher. I had no plans. I didn’t want to go to school for a while. I wanted to write and be someone. Even then I knew that High School would have a memory that would never die. I sat there and felt the story Dawn had told go into my bones. I knew that it would stay there forever. I would never forget it. I saw what they did to her in my mind and I knew that memory would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was an adult and I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to sit in parking lots and smoke cigarettes and not have to think about what some people did to other people.

I saw our bus pull up. “What bus do you take?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t. My mom will pick me up in a few. I’m OK now. Thanks,” she said.

I held out my hand and helped her up.

“Kathy and I meet for lunch under the tree in the courtyard everyday at noon. Be there or be square,” I said.

Dawn smiled and blushed. I chuckled that I now had two friends that randomly looked like beets.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image by https://pixabay.com

“Would you like some more punch?” Mrs. Monroe asked me. She was smiling and her eyes were still judgmental. I concluded that she was born that way, had lived that way and would die that way. No matter how old I got, the lack of respect in her eyes when she looked at me would always make me feel inferior.

“No thanks. I’m good,” I said. She nodded her head and walked away. I took a deep breath and turned and watched Kathy continue to open her presents and chat with the other women. She was getting married in a few weeks. She had not forgotten to invite me to her shower even though we had not seen each other for 4 years. She graduated with her degree. I was proud of her for doing what she wanted. Being a teacher was met by approval from her parents and her entire family.

She was doing what she wanted and would soon be married.

“Are you seeing anyone?” I heard someone ask. I looked around and saw it was Debbie who had asked me the question. She was Kathy’s younger sister.

I felt my hackles go up. Once again I was about to be subjected to the third degree by women who I didn’t know but yet wanted to know all about my love life. I didn’t like Debbie and she didn’t like me. I remembered her as sneaky and quite often running to her parents to tell them something I had said.

“Yes, but no one you know,” I said. I decided it was easier to lie than explain why I wasn’t dating someone.

“Oh, please, tell us all about him!” she said and moved her chair closer. “Kathy said you weren’t seeing anyone. Is this someone new?”

I wanted to scratch her eyes out. She knew damn well I wasn’t seeing anyone but now was talking loud enough for everyone to hear. A few of Kathy’s relatives stopped talking and began to listen.

Debbie had a smug look on her face. I wondered for the millionth time if Kathy wasn’t adopted.

“What makes you think it’s a man?” I asked and batted my eyelashes.

Debbie looked confused for a moment and then she blushed. I could see the top of her head turn red where she had pulled back her hair. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. A few of the women looked at each other.

Mrs. Monroe stood up quickly. “Would anyone like some cake?” she said and told everyone to go into the kitchen. She glared at me and told Debbie to come help her.

I chuckled as I watched everyone leave the living room. Once they were gone, I leaned back against my chair and looked at Kathy. She was blushing and shaking her head.

“What?” I asked and started to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said that! You would think that after all these years, I would get used to you, but I haven’t,” she said and laughed.

I knew our friendship was ending. She vowed that it wouldn’t, but she was getting married and moving away. I had met her fiancé Michael and I didn’t like him. He was rude and abrasive. Kathy never stood up to anyone in her life. I had not been around for the last 4 years to stick up for her and speak for her when she couldn’t. I never told her I didn’t like Michael. She wasn’t going to teach. After all she had worked for, Michael wanted her to stay home. He wanted a family right away.

“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” I said and held her hand in mine. She still looked 8 years old to me even with the shorter hair and breasts. I looked down at her hand and back at her.

“What are you talking about? You’re not going anywhere,” she said.

I wasn’t going anywhere but Kathy was. She didn’t understand how everything had changed over the last couple of years. We had grown up and gone our own way. She was on her way to start a new life and I was stuck in mine. I didn’t have much of a future but she did.

I no longer fit into her life.

“No, of course not. I’ll always be around,” I said. I stood up. “I have to go but I’ll see you at the wedding, OK?”

She hugged me and then stood back, held my hands and smiled. “Yep. I’ll see you at the wedding! I can hardly wait!”

She had a smile that lit up the room and I was the only one in her life that knew that.