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The Black Hole
It was the last day of eighth grade, and as the last bell rang my life ended next to my locker. My best friend Lauren, who had been with me ever since we were assigned seats next to each other in kindergarten, was telling me we couldn’t be friends anymore.
“Why not?” I asked again, gripping my open locker. Lauren looked around, and then leaned into me, lowering her voice.
“We just cant ok? Were going different ways, we just can’t be friends anymore.” She said, and then with a last pitiful smile walked away. I sank to the floor, my whole life crashing around my ears. Lauren was always my best friend, always. We were going into high school and now she decided to ditch me? And why? I knew the answer to this of course, I always knew. Lauren was thin blonde and perfect, someone who was involved in all the school activities and even head cheerleader. And I was just starting to develop my Mexican curves, my hair was unruly curly black and I had as much grace as an elephant. I always knew Lauren would leave me, but I never thought it would be now, before high school. Who was I going to talk with? All my friends were Laurens friends, and they would ditch me in a second. There was no one else for me.
I walked home, crying my heart out. How could Lauren do this? But I knew why. I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t pretty enough. Lauren was starting to experiment with make up while my mom decided the natural way was best. But no, it wasn’t. I wiped the tears off my face, determined to change in the summer, so when I got to freshman year Lauren would want to talk to me again. This would be my summer of change.
I began to lose weight drastically, skipping meals and exercising till I would fall from exhaustion. My mom would ask me what’s wrong, what was happening to me, but I couldn’t tell her. My mom believed in the fat ugly way, but that wasn’t for me. I needed to win Lauren back, I needed to be perfect. I relaxed my hair and cut it in a way I hated but I had seen in all the magazines. I bought all this make up wasting the money I was saving to buy a new camera and all these new clothes. When summer ended, I was 110 pounds and I was never happier. My mom gave up on me, and whenever I passed her way she would frown. But I knew she would never understand my need to fit in, never understand how I felt when Lauren rejected me because of how I looked. She would never understand.
The first year of high school was one of pain and fake happiness. I would do anything to please the popular girls, anything for them to notice me. Lauren still wouldn’t look at me, even when I passed answers to all the tests to most of her thin blonde popular friends. I would do anything they asked, give them anything they needed. And sometimes I would ask myself why I did this, why I was losing myself so I could please others. I never really found any sort of answer to this question. I was still losing weight and I was unhappy. The only time I was happy was when the popular girls would talk to me, usually asking some sort of favor.
That summer my mom intervened, yelling at me and telling me I wasn’t the same that something was wrong. I wanted to grab her outstretched arm, get myself out of this self conscious black hole but I refused her help. I knew that if I lost ten more pounds I would be popular, maybe Laurens eyes wouldn’t glaze over whenever she saw me. But my mom never let me lose those ten pounds, and instead she sent me to a clinic, where I was treated for anorexia.
And now. Senior year, three years after my disastrous first year. My status? Non existent even though I was as big as a whale. I ate everything in front of me, trying to fill that black hole Laurens leaving caused me. I felt that if I was stuffed enough, maybe I was a real person. The teacher’s eyes began to flit over me, the popular girls forgot my name, I began to fail all classes, and I lost my passion for clothes and instead opted for big black baggy clothes. I never applied myself, and I lost all happiness for anything. The only thing I wished was for my mom to forget about me, to let me sink into the black hole I made. The comfortable hole of nothingness. I needed that, I craved it. But my mom always tried to pull me out. My mom and my gym teacher.
Mrs. Mennly( otherwise known as Mrs. Manly) was my senior gym teacher. Every day I would show up, claiming to have forgotten my gym clothes and would sit and rest. But one day in May, when we were outside playing soccer she approached me.
“Genie, get up. Enough’s enough; you have to start applying yourself.” She said in her gruff manly voice, I wondered if the job requirement was to act as least feminine as possible. I looked at her through the hoods of my lids and knew that all she could see was thick black eyeliner. I had perfected this look in the mirror,” Don’t look at me like that, im not joking. Get up; I don’t care if you’re not dressed. Get up and be the goalie for the team right now!” She yelled, and I got up without another word. I stood in the goalies post and as the ball came at me I stopped it.
With Mrs. Mennly’s words of encouragement I put my all into that one game. Pretty soon all the rest of my teammates learned my name and complimented me. I found myself smiling as sweat dripped down my forehead. At the end of the game as the girls walked off the field they smiled at me and congratulated me. It felt good even though I knew this meant nothing, it brightened my black hole. Mrs. Mennly came to me and put her hand on my shoulder.
“Good game Tavares, you got some serious potential. Keep it up.” She gripped my shoulder and I smiled at her.
At the bathroom I looked at my pink sweating face and couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t know why this little encounter (it really was nothing, it meant nothing) made me so happy. And then I heard it. Sounds of dry retching in the stall behind me. I turned; someone was throwing up in the stall. And in my days where each meal ended like this I knew what it meant. Someone was throwing up their meal. The toilet flushed and I stood immobile as Lauren stepped out, wiping her lip glossed mouth. I couldn’t move, even when she didn’t even acknowledge my presence, even when she walked to the mirror staring at her beautiful self. I wanted to ask her if she remembered when we used to tell each other everything. I wondered if she remembered the time she cried because my turtle died, or if she still wanted to be a veterinarian. I wondered if she remembered how we said we would live in a two story house so we could always visit each other whenever we needed to, if she remembered how she would always separate her food so none of it was ever touching each other, if she remembered the day my father died how she just let me cry and scream and yell. Did she remember? She looked at me then and for the first time in a long time she knew I was there. Her perfect face was all made up, her hair styled her clothes perfect and I knew this wasn’t the Lauren who would play in the dirt the minute before school pictures, the Lauren who held me when I cried. I turned away from her face, and walked out of the bathroom. I felt the door of my past closing, and a new one opening.