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Why We Don't Talk About Ramona
Once a person is gone it’s usually inevitable for another to say “They’re still with us” to provide comfort. At the moment I can't say if I believe that or not, but it doesn't make anyone feel better. Ever since you left I’m not entirely sure if anything I think I know is actually “true” anymore, but you're definitely still here. I have to hand it to you, Ramona, it takes a certain kind of skill to bring so much fear to others that they've gone on to attempt to convince themselves that Ramona was not a real existance, only sister legend to Bloody Mary. But we know you’re here when the unforgiving wind rocks the trees. When the foreboding thunder warns of when lightning will strike. You are the fear we attempt to dismiss. You are the presence we can’t see but know is there, and instills a paralyzing fear. I’m talking to you, Ramona. We’ve denied you for this long. The least I could do is acknowledge your presence and say something.
I can’t stop looking back. You haunt me. That worst moments from that day constantly repeat themselves in a locked theater in my mind. It reminds me how no one ever really begins to harbor regrets until hindsight reveals the one simple change which could have prevented it all. I’m always finding myself trying to discover a flaw or loophole, some right path to return the day that started this to something normal, even forgettable. I can’t. There’s nothing I could have done better. I might as well have tried to stop a hurricane.
You already know what happened, I just want to tell you what I saw.
The closest I'd ever gotten to you wasn't until the first and last time the others really hurt you, less than a day before the worst happened. Things had yet to change. I was still capable of leaving school without the fear of never being alone. The first unusual thing I noticed when walking out the back door wasn't Ryan and his unofficial gang snickering as they passed me, since I was used their chatting of interests holding importance to no one besides themselves, but it was their words that managed to reach my ear. "Did you see her? The girl's psycho! She hid in a corner like a damn bug!" The girls had a skill for cruelty. I remember one of them, Terri, was twisting her facial features to mimic a cry. Joshua, seeing this, pretended to throw up in her direction. Ryan laughed in approval at each of them. I sighed. It happened again.
Honestly, I don’t blame them entirely. Don’t misunderstand me, what they did was awful, but none of us could understand. We just weren't sure how to… categorize you. There was hardly anything strange how you looked or dressed. You appeared normal, maybe even appealing, but walking past you chilled to a creepy atmosphere. We just gathered you were strange and reclusive, but I always noticed your eyes had this captivating glow in them that no one could want to ignore. There was this rumor going around that you practiced witchcraft, but they lacked evidence. You never voiced your opinion on the matter, but when you did talk your words weren’t worth anything to anyone. There was always something unsettling about you. We could never quite knew what it was back then. You were simply an unclassified specimen We didn't know what to do with you, so some chose to hate and torment.
I was no saint to you, I'll admit that, but back then I never held any animosity towards anyone. I don't know what makes me different from the others. It could have been how I was raised. Or I've just never wanted to hurt anyone. But I think I might have just plain felt sorry for you because every time I saw your damaged expression of yours I'd think back to the day I heard you screaming outside the school.
My seat was next to the window so I had a close view of you stumbling as your father dragged you by the hair in front of the school. Those sitting in the back had to crane their necks to witness this spectacle. Of course this drew the rest of the class’s attention, but Ms. Acker’s glare from the front of the room with those stern yet harsh eyes prevented the other kids from running to the window. "It's a private matter." she probably said, but I don't remember things like that too clearly. I must have been too distracted. I heard clearly as you screamed
“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!...”
These weren't the whines of a dissatisfied child but rather cries of torment. I hardly ever saw you. You never tried to get my attention, so likewise I never opted for yours.
So on that day I tried moved forward to my usual path towards my house and forget about what I might have seen, but for an unexplained reason I found myself looking from where they came from. For a moment I imagined you (because it couldn’t have been anyone else but you) hurt.
I had a few classes with most of those jerks, but I didn't know many of them too well. That is, except for Ryan, but everyone knew him. I remember before now when he used to be, like, this king of our social food chain. When he had something to say, mostly bragging on about all the fights he'd get into, everyone listened and responded. Admittedly I listened too, mostly because at first I thought he was making it all up. But then when I found out he was able to prove it I couldn't help but be fascinated by how much he'd get this sadistic satisfaction from the details he'd get into, as if each punch he swung brought him dominance. Back then no one was suicidal enough to threaten him. That's how I knew you were his latest thrill. Looking at him now, a demotion from what he used to be, no one would believe any of that.
I tried to ignore the guilt and started walking halfway around the school, but instead I turned and went the other way.
Unfortunately I was right and found a sad mess around the other corner. You were holding yourself up along the brick wall. Your backpack was now an empty sack tossed on the sidewalk. Covers and the backs of books were strewn all over the concrete. Ripped pages were now being played with by the wind. I leaned down to gather some of them, but then once you knew I was there you're head snapped up at me. I can still see those turquoise eyes flooding with tears and hatred, screaming at me to leave. A cold and forceful wind rushed over me, trying to convince me to turn around while I still could.
Instead I said “You shouldn’t let them get to you.”
The collar of your shirt was outstretched past the boundaries of your shoulder, revealing the strap of your bra. I tried not to stare at your bruised cheek and bloody lip but that just led to the scrape bellow your knee.
“Don’t you dare pity me.” You hissed.
You may murder me for saying this, but this was somewhat true. Looking at where you're possition, imagining what they could do with someone I assumed was so helpless, it was hard not to. “I’m only trying to help you.”
You straightened your back, pushing portion of the tangled nest that was your light brown hair out of your face. It may have once been a braid that became undone. I don't know whether it was from the wind or if the girls were having fun with you. Even then your eyes glowed, and they were telling me to go away again. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, it felt like it was yelling at me to get out of there. I wanted to say something but my mind had trouble forming the words. Another harsh gust of wind tumbled every shred of paper away, unable to be retrieved again. That's when you turned your back to me.
“I’m better than this.” You said.
I had become apparent neither of us had anything to add. I tried to shuffle through my options of what to say, to somehow make up for everything, but no matter what I thought of there was no point. I mean, what could I have said? I couldn't have known what could be behind those eyes, in that mind. I still don't. There's no possibility of convincing someone like you of anything. But you wouldn't want to hear it anyway. So after a few elongated moments you just left in the other direction. My conscience didn't even nag me this time.T he further away you became the more I could think. There was nothing more either of us could say, so I left you behind.
My friend Leo was waiting for me when I got back around the school again. It was still hot enough out for him to use a magnifying glass to try to burn ants on the sidewalk.
“Playing God?” I asked him.
“Badly. None of them burned. Bill Nye lied to me.” He got up, sticking the glass into his pocket. “So what happened?”
“I saw you go back to where Ryan and his gang came from.”
“Oh." I shrugged. "What about it?"
"Nothing, but, well, what happened?"
"Well, it was that girl Ramona." He hardly reacted to that, like either he already knew or that wasn't the interesting part. "They were pretty harsh to her. Ripped up most of the pages out of her books. Roughed her up a bit too.” I sighed. “I tried to help her out but then she just got mad at me and walked off.”
“Okay, well, that was clearly a mistake.”
“I was only trying to help her. Is there something wrong with that?”
“Well, no it’s just… listen, you're a good person and I don’t want to steer you away from the charitable choice here, but people like her just can’t be helped. She’s on this other plane of thinking too far from reality to come down. I mean, it’s really sad to admit but unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about it."
I didn't feel like getting into an argument with Leo, so I didn't respond. The whole thing frustrated me. I couldn't think of a good way to prove him wrong, but I wouldn't let myself believe him. That was before all that I knew changed. I was still able to talk to Leo without forcing a random topic to fill the awkward silence. The world we knew then won’t ever come back. Thanks again.
I bet that insults you doesn't it? Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you didn't want me to feel sorry for you. So what, are you going to do something to me? You'd think it'd be easy for me to say all this when you're not here, but it's not that at all. You weren't the type to allow the easy way out.
So school started the next day and you weren’t there, which I somewhat expected. Your books were so torn up that Ms.Acker probably would have put up a fit, even though you weren’t the one who did it. Actually, I think was mad about something that day too. I can’t be sure. My memory of this day doesn’t become clear until around second period, when the insanity began. My best guess is that the others were talking, because they always were, so Ms. Acker made us write a long essay, like she always had, and that’s why it was silent when you opened the door and came into class.
A few heads instinctively shot up to sneer, but a second glance at you gathered stares from the whole room. We were used to seeing you, at best, decent and, at worst, sad, but for the first time you looked better than okay. Nice, even. Your outfit was something a normal girl would wear, this casual white dress. That messy hair you had was loosely tied over one shoulder with a green ribbon. Though this wasn't at all what held everyone's attention. That image was difficult to take in before we could look past the cage clenched in your hands with two brown rats scurrying around inside.
“Oh my God!” were the first words Ms. Acker let out. The rest were only frantic questions as she stood from her seat and stormed directly to you. “What on Earth allowed you to believe you were allowed to bring pets to school? Rodents no less? Is what you consider an excuse for being late? Where is your pass from the office? For that matter, how did they allow you in here with creatures?!”
This made all curious glances of awe dissolve quickly. At least they had enough courtesy to at least try to hold in their laughs. I heard Terri whisper to Carly that you and those rats must be from the same family, since the color of their fur matched your hair. Ms.Acker was still talking but the words hardly processed over the noises the two rats were making. One was clinging to the of the top of the cage, chomping at the bars. The other was squealing in such pain that made even those who laughed uncomfortable. What held my attention was your expression. You were never happy, but this was different. This wasn’t any form unhappiness or anger or disappointment or embarrassment, your face took no emotion at all. With that dress on you looked like a doll, but it was more peering at something dead, only blinking.
“You better march down to the office and be rid of your rodents if you wish to be allowed back in here.” Ms. Acker paused for you to act on the order. Still you just stood there. "Well? Did you hear what I just said or are you simply incapable of listening?" This breeze began to move through the room. “Ryan, shut those windows!”
Ryan jumped, caught carving on his desk with a bent paperclip. He got up and moved to the back of the room, but each window was already closed.
Ms.Acker stormed to the door and opened it for you. You still didn’t budge. The class started to laugh, but the door slamming shut silenced them. She slowly circled around you and you cage of shrieking rats.
"Shall I count to three, Ramona? Would you prefer me to treat you like a child?”
“If it makes you feel special.” You finally spoke.
This was the class’s cue to stop hiding their laughs and Ms.Acker's to be appalled and outraged. “How dare you-!”
“Don’t interrupt me.”
“You have some nerve-!”
“You assume you hold something over me. It’s such an easy task for one to play the role of dominance, but it’s simply a lie." We expected Ms.Acker to combust. The wind was still there, and it became stronger, swirling around our composition papers, but we hardly noticed. All eyes were on you, anticipating what would happen next. There were number of things we expected to happen. You took those expectations and warped them into what seemed impossible.
Ms. Acker didn't yell. She didn't say anything. Her breathing started getting heavy, and she leaned onto the board to hold herself up. At first we thought it was a heart attack, that you made her that angry. But this was weird. She started getting lower without crouching down. Even her clothes started to fall over.
"You were once like them. You were even lesser than they are.” Your voice wasn't the same as the day before. Like your expression, it was devoid of anything. This was beggining to creep me out.
The laughing stopped. I can't speak for how the others processed this, but I couldn’t comprehend what was in front of me in the slightest. She crumbled into something smaller than you. I remember Leo and I exchanging confused glances, attempting to piece together just what was going on. Your head snapped up to the rest of us. I could feel the cold force of your stare once again. The cries of the rats were at their loudest, as if they knew of the upcoming events you'd cause.
Terri screamed. All of us turned to see her holding onto her head as she toppled out of her chair and on the floor. “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! LEAVE ME ALONE! STOP IT! THAT HURTS! OH GOD STOP!...”
Joshua started throwing up. Someone else got disgusted by this and ran for the door, but it somehow got locked. There was no lock on either side of the knob.
The wind blasted. More people began screaming in pain. Others started to panic. I saw somebody scratching at their arms like something was crawling over them. The more people getting effected by this the less I needed an explanation for the impossible or rediculous.
Those who hadn’t been affected yet ran to the back. They began pounding on the windows to escape. Looking back, this was a terrible idea. We were on the second floor so even if they managed to smash them the drop would be a risk. But at that moment we assumed a fate much worse would happen. We thought we had no other choice. Some others tried tackling the door, but with no luck. It was futile to think we had control over anything.
In the chaos I saw Leo fall to the floor. I ran over and knelt to his side to ask what was wrong but it was almost impossible to say anything over the wild wind and screams. That didn't matter. He wouldn't have been able to hear me anyway. He didn’t say anything, just let out this low moan of pain. His eyes darted in every direction until they rolled back. For as long as I've known him I’d never seen him like that. I realized how useless I was when he started screaming with the rest of them. I could only back away as he rolled on the floor, unable to help him.
I didn't look away until out of the corner of my eye I watched Ryan march straight up to you to grab onto your wrist and forced you to face him. Throughout all of this the only part of you that had moved at until then was the wind billowing your pretty white dress. He tore the cage from your hands and tossed it across the room, slamming against one of the walls. Then he turned back and yelled something I couldn’t understand. He looked furious by the way he shouted in your face. Through it all you continued to be still and unresponsive. All you had to do was stare at him. Then he stopped. His facial expression calmed and his grip loosened on your arms. Slowly, without conflict, he backed away from you. In a few moments the violent person who hated this girl the most was now sparing her without hesitation.
Then your gaze turned to me.
Desperately I tried to convince myself of too many things at once. Try to fool myself that this wasn't happening, that it couldn't happen, into not being afraid, to gamble the miniscule chance you would spare me, to somehow slow down my breathing and heartbeat, trying to not sort through all of the ways you could have tormented me, but the chaos surrounding me and Leo’s screaming defeated such appealing ideas. I could somehow I feel your cold glare on my skin. No words or pretense could stop you. No law of reality applied in that room. I had no time to get up from the floor so every step you moved toward me I crawled equally as many back. I backed away until I felt the wall behind me. I had become trapped there, like one of those rats in your cage.
I wanted to scream. Don’t scream. Don’t scream. Don’t you dare scream. Don’t let her know what you’re thinking, if she doesn’t already.
In your eyes, looking down at me, no longer downtrodden but hard, there was still that dim glow, and placed at the center of each of them was an endlessly empty black hole ready to suck me in. That was the last thing I saw before I shut my eyes. It couldn't stop the many of the downright irrational ways you could attack me passed through my mind. I’ll admit it, you made me helpless.
And then, the chaos stopped. You weren't there when I looked up again.
Slowly, the wind calmed. The paper fluttered from the air to the floor. When people realized they could turn the knob on the door they tumbled out and dashed out of the room. No one bothered to stop them. Everyone else was still desperately pounding on the windows. Ms. Acker stood up from the floor, back to her normal state, adjusted her clothes and calmly made them stop. Leo was still lying on the ground, but he stopped screaming. He was stuck in this daze, just staring up at the ceiling. I got startled when I bumped into something next to me, but it was just a desk. I forced myself to get up and let out a shaky sigh. It occurred to me that I was losing it. For the rest of class we cleaned up the papers and turned over all of the desks and chairs that were knocked down by the storm, because someone would ask if they saw the mess.
After that the bell rang for third period.
The rest of that day glided by for me. I probably would have tried to somehow convince myself that this unexplainable encounter never happened if I hadn't heard the stifled whimpers or catch a glimpse of the frightened faces of the others around me. Most of them got to their next class early just to ask to get sent home. So many people asked that my Science teacher almost didn’t let one girl go. He asked her for a reason, but when she opened her mouth she couldn’t put the right words together to convince him of what happened. It would sound ridiculous. She started to cry and he gave her a pass once he felt sorry for her. I stayed. I don’t know why. I had a chance when one teacher pointed out I was shaking, but I still said no. I suppose I’d have nothing believable to say. I don’t even know how I would start. What even happened? In ten minutes you destroyed the reality I spent my entire life knowing.
Leo didn’t leave either. I caught him at his desk staring at his arms, his fingers running lightly along the inside. I caught his attention and asked him if he was okay.
“It stopped burning.” He whispered.
“Nothing. Forget I said anything.”
Our routine we were all used to kicked back into gear at the end of the day. Like usual I left out the back door when the bell rang. Ryan and his gang were already outside before I was. So was Leo. The others joined back with the groups they knew, not saying a word. Leo and I happened to be walking behind them, also silent. We passed by the corner where the concrete and brick walls met, where we all unknowingly triggered something within a creature less than a day ago. Right then was when I started to wonder if anything I could have done would have stopped it, but it was much too late. Most of us glanced away as we passed by. Terri froze.
“Guys?” she said. Everyone stopped turned to her, anticipating words we could never say. I was hoping she woul, just to be convinced everyone else saw what I did. Her lips began to form her words, but only confused moans came out. She started whimpering and dissolved into tears. One of the other girls immediately rushed to her side to reassure her it was okay.
“I think I’m going to miss her.” Wide eyes and gaped mouths immediately faced Ryan. “I’m serious. I don’t know why, but I’ll really miss her being he-”
“Shut your mouth.” One of the guys from his group said. “If you’re going to talk like that, shut it and never open it again.” He walked off, being sure to bump against Ryan’s shoulder. The rest of us slowly left him standing there.
That was the first time anyone ever talked down to Ryan. It was the last time we ever tried to bring up you, Ramona.
Even after time has passed everyone is just now starting to calm down. Funny, knowing their obvious yearn for your departure before. Sometimes around Halloween the other grades bring up the story of the girl of the girl with eyes made of glowing jade and black holes who came to class one day and then vanished without a trace. That if you if you ever talk about her, she'll come back in the middle of the night to find you. Other than that no one wants to bring it up. If they don't then maybe, just maybe, it never really happened. I still think about you from time to time, but not in the way that Ryan does now. I wonder to myself what could have happened to you but I still feel your prescience here, like you haven't gone away entirely. No, that would be too easy. No one ever asked what you did to me, not even Leo. They'd probably consider me lucky. But oh, I wasn't spared. In the end, you looked down on me. You pitied me.