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The Thing About Glitter
Alison was angry. She had worked so hard for so long. Now it
seemed to have been a total waste of time. As I watched, her breathing became heavier and louder as she tried to control her temper. Her burning eyes focused on her little brother, and I could feel her rage bubbling to the top. When she spoke however, it was in a quiet, eerily calm voice, which was almost scarier than if she had been screaming.
“Daniel? Whatcha up to here?” she whispered. The six-year old grinned, revealing his missing front teeth. I remember listening to Alison coo over how cute he was just the other day, but it seemed to me that those emotions were gone.
“I was prettifying your picture. Glitter, glitter sparkly!” He laughed, and blew a handful of red glitter into Alison’s face, causing her to wince. It fell on her new white shirt, and some settled in her light blonde hair.
“Oh. You were prettifying it, were you? How precious. How adorable, how kind of you!” she cried, as her voice grew in intensity. “Tell me, dear, did it ever occur to you that my tri-fold on the deprived childhood of African American slaves was not an appropriate place for glitter, no matter how sparkly? Has no one ever told you not to touch my things? Have you not heard over and over that glitter stays at the table, and that you are never welcome in my room?” She was shouting now, and Daniel was cowering on the floor.
I touched her arm, but she slapped my hand away. Her usually pale face was bright pink.
“Have you not heard the conversations at dinner? How could you not know that this project, which counts for forty percent of my grade in history, is due tomorrow? Even a brain like yours must have seen the pressure I’m under, the way mom and dad have been hounding me, and you just had to come in, the day I finally finish it, with your glue and your glitter and ruin it! RUIN IT!” Then sobbing, Alison ran from the room.
For the past month, I have been working tirelessly on this stupid project. My perfectionist parents and my own over-achieving personality have driven me almost to breaking point on this, and today, finally, finally I finished. It was only four o’clock, so to celebrate I called Nathan, my best friend, and we went to see a movie.
It was just the break I needed. I ate my Junior Mints, laughed, and relaxed for the first time in a month. As we rode the elevator to my apartment, I was as happy as can be. But as we stepped off, and I opened my door, in my gut I could just feel something was wrong. Maybe it was the quiet singing from down the hall. It could have been the kiddy craft supplies strewn all over the dining room table. I wasn’t sure. But my heart began to race, and something inside of me knew…
I raced to my room, with Nathan behind me, who seemed very confused. As I flung open the door, my fears were confirmed.
There, in the middle of my floor, sat Daniel, my little brother. He was humming to himself. He was surrounded by bits of construction paper, brightly colored markers and empty sticker sheets. Trembling, I allowed my gaze to rest on my project. It was as if my worst nightmare was coming true. The paragraphs, glued in precisely the right place, had been torn off and ripped, replaced by Tonka Truck stickers. The perfect white background, which I had been so careful not to spill on, was marred by doodles in all colors, obviously drawn by the hands of a child. And the glitter. The entire thing had been splashed in glue, and had what must have been pounds of glitter, all colors, thrown at it.
Daniel, oblivious to my fury, turned and grinned. “Alison!”
I remember the first time I met Alison. It was in third grade, when we were in the same table group. I was nervous, because I had just moved from Arizona, and didn’t know what New York kids were like. Alison was like a ray of sunshine. Amidst the wet, muddy boots and heavy grey winter coats, she was wearing colorful clothing, and I was drawn immediately to her smile.
We were instantly friends, and as the years went on, grew even closer. As most kids do, we each had other friends. I would play football with some other guys on Saturdays, and she would have sleepovers with her friends, but we always were first in each other’s minds.
By the time high school rolled around, our friendship was cemented. We were both so excited to finally be freshman, all grown up. Everything seemed perfect. At least, it was until Honors World Studies came around second semester.
I, being in the standard social studies class, didn’t have to do a unit project. But Alison was in a very different situation. She was constantly stressed, from the minute it was assigned, and the three months afterwards. Instead of walking around Manhattan, I would help her cut paper strips in her room. She made two prototypes before settling on her final topic: growing up as a slave in pre-civil war America. Half of me admired and would have killed for her dedication, but the other half wanted to shake her, and show her how obsessed she was.
But because it was Alison, I put up with it. I’m not going to lie; I was thrilled and amazed when she called me that on Thursday, asking if I wanted to see a movie. We went out, and had a great time. Watching her catch her candy in her mouth and giggle when she missed (which was often), it seemed to me the third grade, fun-loving Alison was finally coming back.
I don’t even know how to describe Nathan. He is one of the cutest, sweetest people you could ever meet. There are some people you can tell what they will be like when they’re older. Daniel is the kind who will be in the Peace Corps, living in poverty to help others. Or a lawyer, working pro bono. He charms everyone he meets. Everyone at school loves him, because he is always there with a genuine compliment and a smile. What I ever did to get this guy as a best friend, I’ll never know, but I won’t question it.
When my parents divorced last year, he was there for me the whole time. Whether it was distracting, talking to or just sitting with me in silence, he always knew exactly what I needed. This year too, he was so easygoing and kind when I would ask him to help me with my essays for history, or get him to help me design a poster. How many teenage guys would stay with you on a Saturday night proofreading and highlighting on their own accord?
I know that school is important, but I decided that after I turned in my assignment I would make a real effort to do what he wanted. I felt like I hadn’t been keeping up my end of the friendship, and it was time for him to decide what he would like.
Daniel looked at me, his blue eyes wide. “What did I do?” he sniffed.
I knelt down beside him. “Your sister worked for months on this.” I explained. “She had it finished, just the way she wanted it, and you made…. Let’s just say some changes, without asking her first. The reason she is upset is because she needs to give it to her teacher tomorrow.”
Daniel began to cry. “Why don’t we start by putting this stuff away, all right?” I suggested, indicated his art supplies all over the floor. “I think Alison would like to be alone right now.”
We worked quietly, recycling the paper scraps and putting his pens in the den, where they belonged. Sniffling, Daniel went to his room to make Alison an ‘I’m sorry’ card. I walked into the living room, where Alison lay on the couch, staring out the window. Her nose was still pink, but her tears had stopped. I was glad; I hate it when she cries. I sat down and put my arm around her. Racking my brain, I tried to think of something insightful and deep to say, but before I could come up with anything, she spoke.
“I shouldn’t have yelled. He’s only six, it isn’t his fault.”
“We all lose our temper sometimes. Just be thankful your mother wasn’t here to listen, you’d have a lot more trouble with her, yelling at her baby boy like that.” There. I’ve finally gotten her to smile.
“Thanks. I figured you’d understand.” She sighed. “Nathan, what am I going to do? There’s no way I can make anything even close to that level, not in the eleven hours I have before school starts.”
“Well, you still have the essay, right? That’s a pretty big part of the grade, and you did an amazing job on that. And the poster is still untouched on your top bunk, I checked.”
“Yeah, that’s something… If I get an A on those I may be able to pull off a C+ or B.” She seemed to shudder at the thought.
This was it. My moment. If I could come up with a genius idea now, I would forever be engraved as a hero in her mind. “Hey, didn’t you once tell me your teacher was kind of a nutcase? How about you try to pass it off as this?”
I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of hippies, and other things related to that. In fourth grade we had to do tai chi in P.E., and that was one thing I could never understand. If you want to find inner peace and relaxation, work hard, finish what you have on your to-do list, get a bowl of chocolate ice cream and a chick flick. That’s always been my philosophy.
Today however, I have never been more thankful for them. Nathan’s idea to tell Mr. Bognetti that the infantile things covering my tri-fold were a physical representation of the slaves’ lost childhood was bizarre, but it worked. Mr. B gave me an A+ for finally thinking ‘outside the box’. I earned some bonus points with Mom for letting Daniel continue his masterpiece on my assignment, who no longer thinks I’m a fire breathing monster.
Nathan and I are going to his favorite restaurant tonight, and as a thank you I’m going to watch some stupid movie he’s wanted me to see for years. But what the heck, I guess I owe him one.