When I was young, it wasn’t what was said that hurt me most – it was what wasn’t said. Being pudgy all my life, I was used to idiots teasing me. I didn’t like it all that much, but I had accustomed myself to the fact that some morons would poke fun about my weight. What I hated more were the incidents when a friend wouldn’t talk to me because she was mad at me – and that scenario happened a lot in seventh grade.
I was friends with A and H. A’s parents were divorced, and she lived with her mom, with whom she fought a lot. A was prone to moodiness and got pissed off without warning at virtually anything. It was pretty stupid of me to be friends with her, but I was shy and hard enough time trying to make friends. So when someone was nice enough to talk to me, I usually hung out with her. I ended up clinging to A and H. H was a little more well-adjusted and a little like me in that she was shy, so I guess you could call A the ringleader.
If A got pissed off, her silent treatment wrath usually lasted a day, but there was one instance where her punishment went on for more than a month. H and I sat at the back of the room in first period math with A as she told us about that morning’s argument with her mother, who had scheduled A some sort of procedure that was apparently embarrassing. A referred to it using a slang term that I can’t remember now, and to this day, I have no idea what she was talking about. I do remember finding what she was talking about odd, and I chuckled and asked what the word meant. Within a mere second, her gaze hardened and she called me a stupid bitch for laughing at her and for not knowing what she was talking about. Then she warned me that if I told another soul, she’d kick my ass. And that was it…
…until science class, when another girl came up to me and asked why A and I weren’t talking. I tried to blow it off, but the girl wouldn’t leave me alone. So I told her and ended the story by asking – perhaps even begging – her not to tell A I said anything. Dumb, moronic, stupid, idiotic – none of these words accurately describe what I did, because the girl walked straight from me to A and asked her what the term meant. All I could do was watch the whole scene play out in front of me while the knot in my stomach grew larger and larger as I feared for my safety.
A glared at me from two tables away and called out that I was in for it at lunch. Somehow, I didn’t think that meant she’d be buying me an ice cream. Fortunately, nothing happened, other than her silent treatment, which she conned H into following along with for about a week. I remember those weeks of drifting from clique to clique, trying to find someone else to hang out with, but I always felt like the spare tire that’s stuffed in the trunk, hoping that at some point I’d be useful, maybe even wanted. Boy, does being a teenager suck sometimes or what? The silence wasn’t broken until May, when several classes went to the park for the day. She and several other girls were smoking a joint in the bathroom when I walked in to pee. Then I became the lookout for any adults.
Apparently, I redeemed myself in her eyes, and she began talking to me a couple of days later after writing a note and apologizing, because back then, you know, we didn’t have text messaging and e-mail. Incidentally, I still have the note. Only a couple of weeks of school remained, and I had learned that the school district assignments had changed, sending me to a different middle school for eighth grade. A decided to move up north to live with her father and stepmother. She wrote a couple of times after she moved, including a five-page letter about her first three days at her new school complete with a diagram of the school cafeteria and where the various cliques sat. Apparently, I didn’t write back often enough for her because I found a final letter in which she asks whether I still wanted to be her friend. I don’t remember whether or not I wrote her back.
But I did hear from her again the summer after I graduated from high school. She was spending the summer with her mom and actually called me. I was apprehensive, as was my poor mom, who was afraid that she was trying to set me up for something. A’s motives were purely innocent however, and we ended up going to see Steel Magnolias. I spent the evening determined to make her see that I wasn’t the same gullible 13-year-old that she could manipulate. There wasn’t any need for me to be defensive, though, because I could tell she had changed as well. She seemed genuinely interested in what my plans were and talked about her thoughts about staying in Greenville and taking classes at the local technical college. I didn’t hear from her after that evening, but at least that silence wasn’t the cause of either one of us being pissed off.