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The Eddie Incident
I guess it started when I was about eight. I can’t remember the first time, not distinctly. The stream of other people’s thoughts that constantly clamored for attention in my brain always seemed so natural that I figured it was just a little step in the passage to adulthood that somebody had forgotten to tell me about. I didn’t ever really stop and analyze it. Until, of course, the Eddie incident. That, I will never forget.
In third grade, I was what you’d call over-confident. My parents always said that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, and I believed them wholeheartedly. So when I “put my mind” to Eddie Bartlette, the third grade class clown, I was sure that all I had to do was tell him how I felt and we would officially be a couple. I decided to do it on Valentine’s Day, because that would make a really romantic story to tell our kids. I was certain we’d have kids eventually.
Never thought I’d be spending my 35th Valentine’s Day with a bunch of snotty third grade brats. Our teacher Ms. Lundy was in a particularly bad mood that day. She said “snotty brat” a whole lot when she was angry. I wondered what it meant.
“Just fold the paper in half and draw half of a heart—” for C*****’s sake, was I this stupid at your age? “—No, first fold, then draw, David. Here, look at how Emma did it.” Ms. Lundy always thought nice things about Emma, but she hated David and Eddie. They were always stealing her erasers and sharpening their pencils even when they didn’t need to. She thought they were very bad boys and that their parents were very bad just like them.
I didn’t like listening to Ms. Lundy’s thoughts because they were so different from her words. It was confusing, like I had two teachers, one of whom was quiet and calm, and the other mean and bitter. I liked Mrs. Mindy better. Mrs. Mindy was the yard lady. Her thoughts were always the same as her words. They were always friendly and funny. She liked being a yard lady because it was better than her old job. She used to be a “postitute”. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded fancy. Mrs. Mindy must have been a fancy lady.
During lunch, I stopped to talk to Mrs. Mindy.
“Mrs. Mindy, what’s a snotty brat?”
Mrs. Mindy looked shocked. “Where did you hear something like that?”
“She calls you that?” I never liked Christie Lundy, but I didn’t think she would sink that low.
“She doesn’t say it, but she thinks it.”
Mrs. Mindy looked at me funny. “It’s not a nice thing to say…or think.” I worry about that child sometimes.
I wondered briefly what child she was referring to, because I didn’t see any children anywhere. Then I said goodbye and went to go find Eddie.
Eddie, David, and all of their buddies were playing handball in the big kids’ court. Eddie was beating everybody else. My heart beat a little faster as I got closer. I looked fondly at my future boyfriend, then took a big breath and yelled his name.
“What?” Why is Glasses-Face talking to me? I want to play handball.
I was a little hurt. “Just for one minute.” I walked toward him. He grabbed the handball and looked at me suspiciously.
“I like you. Do you want to be my boyfriend?” I held my breath, waiting for all my fairy-tale dreams to come true. Instead, I was greeted with hoots of laughter.
“Eww—no!” Eddie jumped away and let go of the ball, sending it bouncing over my head. Why did she embarrass me in front of my friends? She’s so ugly! Why does she think I want to be her boyfriend!
I couldn’t help it. I started crying. I didn’t care so much that he said “no”. But did Eddie really think I was ugly?
“Why did you think I was ugly?”
“How did you know that’s what I thought?” He looked genuinely frightened.
“I’m not stupid! I can hear.”
“You can’t hear thoughts, dummy. They’re inside your brain. Only magic people from books can hear other people’s thoughts. You’re not magic. You’re just weird.” With that, he jogged away to retrieve his ball.
Sobbing, I ran past the handball court, past Eddie and his giggling friends, past Mrs. Mindy, past my classroom, and out the door, ignoring the crazy whirl of foreign thoughts that trailed me like a cape, a veil separating me from the rest of the world.