Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Personal Essay

The following is a piece that I wrote for the Inner Monologues show. It's a monthly show in which a group of writers create a personal essay based on one theme. This month's theme:

Forgive Me My Wrong Doings and Deliver Me My Karma

As I lay on a local Long Island beach, my dear friend Debbie lays beside me in the sand and comments on how our mutual friend, Sam, has run into an old friend on the beach, “I can’t believe she ran into someone she knows here,” she remarks.

I bask in the sun as I retort, “It’s not at all really. I always run into someone I know when I come back to Long Island. It’s long, but narrow, you run into people you know, it’s inevitable.”

Debbie is leaning on her palms, squinting to observe the routine reunion she knows no part of in front of her. “You Long Islanders are weird,” she concludes, and lays back.

The sun grew hotter and my body sunk into the sand in a beautifully warm, comforting relaxation. As I started to drift with the ocean’s sounds I heard a familiar voice: the nasal voice of Veronica Chambers.

I have to say hello, I thought. She’s right in front of me. There’s no where to hide on a beach. Damn this skinny island.

“Hey Veronica!” I call out enthusiastically, getting not just her attention, but people within a thirty foot radius. There really is something about Long Islanders that make it impossible for us to not make a big show of uniting with each other.

“Oh my god. Sue! I wouldn’t imagine seeing you here in a million years. You’re all the way in the city. What are you doing here?”

“I’m here with my college pals,” I gesture and introduce the group.

She then launches into it. It being the one thing you fear when you run into a very old friend. The embarrassing old stories you have long forgotten, for good reason.

“I’ve known Sue for twenty years. Hey Sue, you know what story I’ll never forget? The day you, and Gina, taught me how to rollerblade.”

I shrink back. She pushes on, like the unstoppable Veronica I’ve always known. My friends listen on eagerly.

“You and Gina got so annoyed with me, because I was scared. I kept saying I didn’t want to do it and was going to get hurt. You yelled at me to shut up and finally had to bet me that I couldn’t stop talking for an hour. Then, after the hour was up I still didn’t talk and you guys begged me to talk, but I still wouldn’t and I went home crying.”

She comes up for air, and I jump in, “Now, I remember that.”

I stammer on trying to save myself, but I’m too late.

“That’s really mean!” Debbie exclaims.

“Well, to be fair, Veronica really did never shut up,” I say in my own pathetic defense.

“I was a pretty bad motor mouth,” Veronica she says as she looks over the rims of her glasses at Debbie, but the damage was done.

The sun moved and we all shifted into comfy sun spots. I lay in the sand suddenly feeling too hot to take it anymore. “Wanna go to the water Deb?”

“Yeah, I’m ready,” she says looking down at her burnt breasts.

We saunter down to the water, sucking guts and trying not to step on small children. We get to the water’s edge and stand there letting the frigid ocean lap against our ankles. Starring out at our friends jumping into and over crashing waves Debbie says, “So, you were a bully as a kid.”

My brow immediately furrows, “I-I don’t think so…Not really.” This idea of me being a bully was more jarring than the cold rushing tide that was creeping up to my legs. I think back to my early years. “Well…my imaginary friend’s name was Wussy.”

“There you have it,” Debbie said, closing her case. Smug with her own conclusion.

I never thought of myself as a bully before. It could be because from 6th grade on, I was a giant dork. Dorks aren’t bullies, we’re the bullied. But, to be fair – I wasn’t fully dorkified until the middle of 6th grade.

In sixth grade I was a chubby kid with purple glasses that were bigger than my brace face. My clothing, like always, was a little out of style. I wore leggings one year past their prime with sweaters that didn’t always cover the junk that I was carrying in my trunk. I developed early though, so I had breasts that were comparable to my belly. Basically, I was your typical awkward 11 year old girl.

The group I was running with in the beginning of the year were people commonly thought to be cool. They smoked, they talked back to teachers. I was a smart ass and smoked too, so I felt as if I belonged. I walked with them in the hallways and followed them into town for shop lifting excursions, never realizing I was always ten steps behind and the only one laughing at my dorky jokes

“What a maroon!” I’d say in response to a story about a peer’s folly.

My hilarious faulty moron insult fell upon clogged ears. That must be it. Either that, or plain ol’ deaf, or they’re crazy. I mean that is classic Bugs Bunny bonafide hilarity.

I delivered it again. This time the response was deafeningly silent. I continued to walk behind.
It wasn’t until I found a note that was meant for the trash that I realized how unwanted I really was within in my group of pals. The note had been passed through the hands of all my pals during the teacher’s reading of a Wrinkle in Time. As she read with her nose buried, her students ran amok. I would watch them from time to time, but often didn’t take part, because I really loved reading and learning. I know what you’re thinking, who wouldn’t find that kind of girl cool?

Well, apparently all of my friends. For the note that I saw passing out of the blurry corners of my four eyes landed near my feet instead of in the garbage as expected. A gasp was let out by a few of my so-called friends. I picked up the crinkled piece of paper, unfolded it and saw a picture with two round circles like a snow man and arms sticking out of it. There were glasses and straggly hairs on her head. A word bubble protruded from her mouth which encased the words

“Hi! I’m Sue”. Under this each of my pals had taken the time to agree with the drawing.

“That’s totally fatty Funke”

“She’s such a loser.”

The floor beneath my sixth grade high horse fell out. I found myself friendless. To be a cool kid, you had to put down all the other kids. Not even the losers wanted me, but I wanted them, for it was now apparent that I was one of them.

Like an olive branch stretching for forgiveness I looked over at the empty seat. At the table sat a group of girls with pants hiked way too high, over bites in the process of being fixed, hunched over, eating smelly sandwiches. I was at their mercy.

“Can I sit here?” I asked. They rapidly responded in turn:

“Is this a joke?”

“No way, you’ll just make fun of us.”

“They sent you over here didn’t they?” one said as she pointed to my fraudulent friends.

“No. They don’t even like me anymore. I realize now they’re assholes…and I’m pretty sure Colleen either doesn’t shower, it either that or she rubs shortening in her hair.”

They all giggle.

“What a maroon!” I said topping it off.

One of the girls nearly blows her milk out her nose.

Clearly I was sitting with my type of pals.

“You were pretty mean to us though.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, the first time of many. “Not only will I not make fun of you again, but because you guys were so nice to let me sit here, I’ll stick up for you next time they make fun of you.”

They took the deal. And from then on I made it my point to befriend any fellow dork I meet, and only bully the bullies away from my fellow dorks.

I’ve hopefully paid off my old bullying times by now with my Robin Hood kindness. Maybe that’s why it shocked me when Veronica brought up the story from my bully days, because in my mind, that bad karma has been erased.

From time to time though, I still may bully the wrong people, and for that I am truly sorry. To all the people I’ve bullied in vain, I swear to you, here and now, and forever - I’ll be nice to a really nice to, and stick up for, a dorky person in your name. I promise.


Lindsay said...

Sorry I missed the show this time, but this was another fun essay. I like hearing about the escapades of Little Sue!

Anonymous said...

Great essay!! I wish I could have seen it on stage!!