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When presented with a personality quiz, Mary often let the cursor blink endlessly.

How do you react to social situations? Poor – Decent – Exceptional
How do you deal with getting work done on time? Poor – Decent – Exceptional
Are you outgoing? Poor – Decent – Exceptional
Do you enjoy life? Poor – Decent – Exceptional

She knew she had brown hair, noncommittal blue eyes, ruddy skin, thin lips, round cheeks and long legs.

She had been told she was sociable, relatively smart, logical, grounded, down-to-earth, pretty.

She didn’t understand the people who immediately labeled themselves:
“I am creative,” the girl said, gesticulating with her paintbrushes.
“I am geeky” the boy said, and his pants were so short you could see his smooth calves and the tops of his shiny trainers.

She didn’t understand people who chose favorite colors either.
Laura liked pink and blue and pastel green.
Shelly said she didn’t have one, and then Mary reminded her that it was black. And then Shelly said that wasn’t a color.
It was.

I am nothing Mary thought.
I am changeable. I can be this, I can be that. I can be special. I can be part of the crowd. I can be you, I can be me.

But she never said any of this, and just agreed with what everyone said.

How do you react to social situations? EXCEPTIONAL

Laura once told her that they were similar. And then Shelly had said the same thing three days later. And Laura was a straight-arrow headed for the bulls eye, with a plaid skirt and ironed hair. And she liked the feeling of leather against her naked skin.
Laura never even thought about naked skin or feelings or leather.
Just bobby sock legs and morals and organic cotton.


Mary thought about sex and grades and her neighbor and how to get a flat stomach.
She also thought about people spying on her in the shower, and Amr, the foreign exchange student. Sometimes she thought about her Math homework, or the statistical likelihood of meeting Chris Pine on the street.

Which was significantly less than 1 percent.

Mary had a rich vocabulary and knew what words like sojourn and urbane and extol and feasible meant, but once in class had stumbled over the word Unconditional.

What does it mean she asked the teacher?
And everyone gaped and throughout the school was heard a sharp intake of breath.
Something unconditional is something absolute, unrestricted by reservations the teacher responded.

And then Mary said: I don’t understand.

Shelly laughed and Laura hid her smile behind a delicate hand.
Amr didn’t understand either but everyone was used to that.

When D arrived at the school in November Shelly had a splitting hangover, and Laura said she had mono. People were whispering that she was pregnant. Mr. Nichols, the 12th grade social studies teacher did it.
Mary introduced herself politely.

Are you outgoing? DECENT

D’s real name was Ida Florence Du Masselles but she always thought that sounded rather like the heroine of a Victorian bodice-ripper and went by the inoffensive epitaph D.

All the teachers thought she was some countess or baroness in exile because of the three-part name until she told them that her French great-grandfather, a rich businessman, had bought the preposition “du” to add to his obviously low-class name because he wanted to break into the aristocratic circles of Lyon.

And that’s how there came to be a line of moderately wealthy bourgeois with stale nineteenth century names. D said her family had a Hector, an Achilles, a Rosette, a Clarisse, an Isabella-Louise, a Herman, an Ernest, an Elmer, and a Clarence. She said there was a Herbert too but he had changed his name to Joe when he moved to Memphis in the spring of ’68.
Of course D had been known to stretch the truth like pieces of over-chewed bubble gum.

Mary immediately liked D. She liked her dark eyes and dark hair and pink skin. And she liked the way she didn’t wear a backpack, but rather a handbag stuffed with novels and lollipops and gum and comic books. She liked the way she shuffled her feet, sandals slapping against the linoleum, and the way she laughed in class at the teacher’s jokes. She also liked the way she talked to boys. All nonchalant and stuff.

When Shelly met D, she complained that the girl was a pushover.
When Laura saw D she wrinkled her nose and said the girl was a disaster waiting to happen and she didn’t want to be there to pick up the pieces.

But Mary liked pieces and she liked D more.

Sometimes, D would say these things that meant so much it made Mary’s head hurt. And sometimes, she felt like D knew what it was like to not have an identity.

But she liked D most of all because D wasn’t a cliché and didn’t have anything to teach her. She didn’t listen to cool bands like the Velvet Underground or the Doors and she didn’t sigh a lot or make allusions Mary didn’t understand.

She did know a lot about random things that made Mary laugh like schizophrenic cat painters and Plato’s republic and country music and how to make challah and how to play hookie.

But Mary knew about random things too like eighteenth century Flemish painters and Newton’s laws, and why maps only need four colors, how to write in shorthand and how to make facial scrubs out of cane sugar.

And they decided one dark winter afternoon at D’s house that together they didn’t need personality quizzes and those insolent little blinking cursors.
They clicked the little red x at the top right hand corner of the window.

And went to the movies.





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