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Call it Even
Everyone in the room was at least slightly amused by the mishap. I, usually finding these things foolish and immature, couldn’t contain myself. Mr. Wharton had never been my preferred type of teacher. Always making jokes, and amusing the students like a jester for a royal court. When those tan, perfectly creased slacks split right down the seam I couldn’t help but giggle.
I think I might have felt just as embarrassed as Mr. Wharton, the victim. Not only did I giggle, but I laughed so hysterically for so long that just when all my classmates had simmered down and started to move on, I was just getting there. In fact, I was laughing so heartily that everyone stopped laughing dead in their tracks and stared. I knew they were staring but I just couldn’t keep the hysterical image of Mr. Wharton hearing his beloved slacks snap, crackle, and pop just to reveal his pinkish-orange underpants, and his face turning the same color. So, as a result of my, “episode”, I fell off my chair. Right there. Right then.
Someone fell off their chair in laughter, which is no matter the circumstances a humiliating experience that the victim would need the rest of their lives, and their after lives to get over. Not only that, but me, I fell off my chair in laughter. It was actually quite phenomenal. I couldn’t seem to get myself to stop laughing when I was perfectly balanced on my chair. But when I was dumped on my bony backend, I stopped laughing, just like that. Only then could I contain myself.
At lunch, I usually sat alone, I was used to it. That lunch, though, I sank to an all time low and sat in the stall. The whole time I was fantasizing that one of the popular girls, like Kendra, would walk in, pity me, and befriend me. But instead, I sat there all period in the cold, wet, unsanitary tiled bathroom. I was all alone in the damp, windowless chamber. Alone, lonely, sad.
“Look,” I said to the mirror, the only one who would listen, in a stern voice. I was pretending I was scolding Kendra. Pretending that I was in power for once. “I know this is hard, but I just can’t hang out with you anymore! Your reputation is getting worse andâ€”oh, Kendra, don’t be too hard on yourself! You’re a good giâ€”“ I stopped when I heard giggling, but it was too late. Kendra had heard the commotion and pounced on another opportunity to take advantage of anyone. Especially me.
I could feel it there. I knew what it was. It had become very familiar to me over those past few years. It felt thick, sitting there in the middle of my throat. It’s what happened every time I let Kendra and her jolly band of cohorts get to me. Every time it visited me, though, it pushed its way out of me and I would end up with the waterworks. That day, instead, I was determined not to give Kendra the satisfaction. I was determined to keep it where it belonged.
My mind was frantic. I was trying to think of something witty and offensive to say. Every time I thought of something that might not make her laugh harder I struggled with the confidence to say it. I blubbered out a few sounds here and there but nothing that would have had any real impact on Kendra’s ever-building confidence. Then I would give up on that particular comment and the process started all over again.
Apparently there was one little detail I’d missed when Kendra first walked in on me in the bathroom. Beth McDoogle, the Kendra Mini-me had seen the commotion and spread the word about the foolishness I had been observing just moments before. About 150 rich, arrogant east coast girls had been alerted while I was standing in that bathroom. Before I knew it I had a crisis on my hands. All 150 girls in this small catholic middle school were crowded into that bathroom laughing. I’ll give you three guesses what they found so funny.
Fortunately for me, the rest of the girls got tired of simply laughing, so they scattered to different corners of the campus to talk about this hot summer hookup, or that upcoming trip to Paris. Of course, the humiliation and dread they had just caused me was no longer interesting enough for them. After dwelling on all this, I realized, it wasn’t over. Kendra was still standing right in front of me.
I couldn’t believe she would do this to me. I couldn’t believe she could do this to me. We used to be best friends! I’d already realized that it would never be the same after what I did…but this?! I could feel that bubble in my throat winning. I could feel the hot tears crowding my eyes, blurring my vision. I still had enough of my eyesight, though, to see Kendra smirk at me and shake her head. That’s what did it. Her confidence. The nerve she had to look at me like I wasn’t worth the effort it took for her to stand there making my life hell. That’s when I took a swing at her.
I never used to understand the phrase,” Next thing I knew…”, but you’ll know if it happens to you. Honestly, one minute I was standing in front of the devil’s reincarnation wallowing in my self pity and “next thing I knew” my trembling fist was placing her unnaturally tan-orange nose at an unnatural angle. When I realized what I had done I whirled around to face the full-length mirror. To my surprise the girl looking back at me was glowing. I mean really, truly happy. I wondered if I was happy because Kendra wasn’t. I wondered if I was happy because I’d finally let out the pure hatred I’d felt. After those long three years of hell since that fateful day in the city I’d finally taken it out. Maybe if I did it like a medication…I could sock her on Mondays, kick her in the ribs on Tuesdays, pull her hair Wednesdays…I’d be happy by the end of the week!! But could that really be all it took to make the pain go away? After the years of my life I’d wasted it was so hard to believe that acts of violence would make me happy. But there I stood, with a toothy grin on my face. It almost didn’t look like me in the mirror because I hadn’t seen myself smile in so long.
This is the part that baffles me to this day. Kendra started to giggle like the giddy school girl she was. Her nose was bleeding uncontrollably and she found the situation fit to laugh.
Then she pointed at me and said “Midheta! Look what you did!” Then she pointed at the blood gushing out of her nose. There wasn’t even a hint of anger in her voice. Just amusement. And then “next thing I knew” I was laughing too. Laughing with Kendra Larson.
Then the bell rang. And it was all over. Kendra slowly composed herself, stopped the bleeding, and walked out of the bathroom. I was left there alone, the smile fading from my face and the hope of fixing my old, dusty, stale friendship with Kendra fading from my heart. I slowly shuffled from the bathroom and saw Kendra making up a story about the dried blood on her upper lip. She was giggling at Jason Mays, probably trying to make him believe her out-of-left-field explanation for the screwed up nose.
That day wasn’t a great day. Usually, a normal day would consist of quite a few minor humiliations during the day. That Tuesday, April 16th, was the worst day of my eighth grade experience. It easily is one of the two worst experiences of my teenage life. Of course, for the rest of the week I was feeling pretty chagrin about what had happened. One thing, though, that really baffled me all that week was that Kendra went back to normal. She made my life suck, threw snide glances my way during classes, tripped me and ran into me during passing time, and it was as if that Tuesday hadn’t even affected her! Let me tell you, though, that it had affected me. Although, at the time, when Kendra walked out of that bathroom, it seemed as though nothing could possibly change. In the next few days I realized that I had found a weakness. I had found a crack in Miss Perfect’s armor. Nothing had changed yet, but the end was in sight, in my opinion.
And then it happened. I got the note. That piece of paper that had been folded to the point of wrinkles. Held in someone’s hand to the point that the letters written on the paper were blurred from the sweat. Although to the common bystander this tiny crinkled post-it note would have little to no significance to someone like me, it would change my life in ways I wouldn’t think of in my wildest dreams. I figured right when the little stinker entered my life, that it was just Kendra trying to bother me more. Trying to show me that nothing had changed.
It was brought over to me by none other than Beth, the previously mentioned Kendra mini-me. She gave me the once over and dropped the note on my desk. I glanced over at Kendra. Of course she wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to me. She was playfully slapping Jason’s bicep. I began to wonder what this could be. Then I opened the note. Then I read it. Then everything changed.
I was running over my speech when Kendra entered the bathroom. I was repeating over and over the speech that thanked Kendra for reconsidering That thanked her for what she said in the note, and apologizing for what I’d done to her three years ago. I knew then that what was about to happen was a good thing, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just another practical joke. That the note was just another one of Kendra’s schemes to humiliate me.
Then she walked in. But this wasn’t the Kendra I had been seeing so much of the last few years. This wasn’t the cruel, conniving, devilish creature I had been dealing with since the incident in New York. This was the Kendra I’d known before. This was the Kendra that I had been able to laugh with. This was the Kendra that had been my best friend. This was the Kendra that I loved.
“Hey. Umm, you got the note I sent, I guess?” she asked hesitantly.
“Uh, yeah. I got it. So- I don’t really know wha-“
“MD? I get that I’ve hurt you these past years. But you really hurt me that day. When I found out that you could do that to me I wondered what else you would have no problem doing. I wondered what else you would do to our friendship. I guess maybe I might have overreacted a little but…”
“I mean-well, yeah. I guess you overreacted a little. What you said in that note…what I did…what you’ve done to me…I don’t really know what to think. Over these years all I’ve been doing is wondering how you could do this to me. How could you do this to me? We used to be as close as sisters, Kendra. Maybe I’ve been feeling the same thing you felt when…I did what I did. Maybe we both stepped over the line.”
“You started it, Midheta,” she snapped. I couldn’t believe how well this was going, even though she had just snapped at me. Kendra and I were actually speaking like civilized people for once. We were communicating and without glares and snide comments. We were getting better.
“I know, I know. But still. Umm…maybe we could just call it even?” I said. That was my turn to be hesitant. What would she say? Would she laugh at me and admit that this whole thing was just a joke? That Beth McDoogle was hiding behind one of the stall doors? Would she punish me more for what I did? Could this actually be happening?
After staring at me with a playful grin on her face for quite a while she responded, “Yeah. That sounds nice. Call it even.” Whoa. Did she really just say that? Did she honestly just tell me that the hell she had so willingly put me through over these years was over? I was pretty sure she did.
The great part was, she didn’t say anything else. She just slung her arm over my shoulder and steered me out of the bathroom. Kendra and I became best friends again. We never fought and she never went back on the promise she gave me that day to call it even.
I’d love to say that Kendra and I actually lived happily ever after like that. Unfortunately, after she made the pact with me to call it even, Beth McDoogle walked by and caught a glimpse of Kendra and I talking in the bathroom. She walked in and threw a questioning glance at Kendra, then she directed it at me. Her piercing blue eyes were only watching for a second before Kendra said harshly, “Look, I know we used to be best friends. Oh-kay?? Now I know who you really are. Leave me alone!!” It took me a moment or two to realize that her comment was directed at me, not Beth.
Beth’s eyes suddenly changed from being filled with suspicion to being filled with concern. She rushed to Kendra’s side and steered her out the door. As Kendra left she shot me an apologetic glance that said, “I will be your friend. Just in private though okay?”
I was waiting for the sadness to come to me. The feeling I’d become accustomed to over these years. The hole in me that always started to ache when Kendra did something that reinforced the fact that our friendship was over. But this time, surprisingly, it didn’t come. Instead, a feeling of renewal washed over me. A sense that this was the new beginning I’d been waiting for. I was over Kendra Larson. I realized then that I was never going to be good enough for her. I realized that I didn’t need Kendra to be happy, like I’d so naively thought over the years. It’s kind of funny, looking back, that Mr. Wharton breaking his pants in the middle of class and my reaction to it was one of the greatest things that happened to me in that eighth grade year. I guess you could say that I had a pretty pathetic eighth grade year.