My Upperclassman, Cindy

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The year I met Cindy would be the first and last year I spent with her in school. When I entered West High in 2009 as a freshman, she had started her senior year. I met her through a leadership club for girls of color, GirlsFirst.
It was the first day of afterschool sessions and my friend and I were sitting on desks, talking in Ms. Abraham’s math class to the lone peer leader of GirlsFirst, Cindy. She was telling us about how devastated she was to have to go to high school again, for the fourth year, telling us about how she was about to cry. Her face showed a look of complete gloom and misery.

“Don’t worry too much about it, school’s almost over!” I was being optimistic, looking at life in the long-term.

Cindy and my friend just stared, dumbstruck, at me. Cindy replied to me with a laugh, “What are you talking about? The school year just started. I have another year to go before I graduate!”

Her face turned sour as she thought about the incoming school year, showing her unhappiness and impatience at graduating.

During the GirlsFirst sessions, I became good friends with Cindy. In school, we greeted each other in the hallways. I would almost always see her in a black North Face jacket that matched her black, layered hair. When we saw each other, her face would light up, shout my name, and wave gleefully. I would return the greeting with an equally bouncing enthusiasm.

In October, there was a fundraising luncheon for GirlsFirst in which we were both chosen to represent and talk about GirlsFirst. It was during the morning of a school day, on the top floor of a big, spacious hotel. I was in charge of introducing Cindy, a rather small role that I played, while she had to play the more major role of actually saying a speech. As we waited for the program to start, nervous energy filled the room.

“Look, no really! Look! My hand is shaking so bad…” I looked down at the small hands Cindy had put in front of me. They were visibly shaking. “I’m so scared, you don’t understand! I have really, really bad stage fright!”

I was calm, like I usually was. I only felt the fear of public speaking two minutes before my turn was up. I encouraged her, trying to make her feel at ease before her turn came to speak.

“It’s gonna be alright! Don’t worry about it! Stop shaking! It’ll be over before you know it!”

Sooner than I had hoped for, my turn came. I stood up from my chair in my striped, long-sleeved, green button-up top and black slacks, feeling my heart pounding. I turned to the podium, a little light-headed, and introduced Cindy.

“Hello. My name is Michiko and I’m a freshman at West High School. I’m here to introduce Cindy. She’s a peer leader at our GirlsFirst afterschool session….”

My introduction to Cindy was very shaky. I made many mistakes, stuttering through my script of few lines. Right when I finished, Cindy stood up and passed by me to get on stage. She walked on stage, her face serious, and began her speech.

“My name is Cindy and I’m a senior at West. I have been with GirlsFirst for four years, since 2005…”

I was amazed at how well she was doing. What she said of her stage fright seemed to be a lie. It may have just been my poor vision, but Cindy was standing on the podium with an aura of confidence, with no trace of fear in her body or her voice. It was like she took her anxiety away from her hands and converted it into strength and the will to speak. Cindy spoke, looking at every area of the room and catching all the audience members. At the end of her speech, when she said “thank you for listening” to the audience, there was a loud applause for her as she walked back to her seat. At her seat, I praised her and she answered me with a shaky smile and a laugh. Later on, she told me how nervous she actually was on stage, putting the nervous energy of her hands into her legs. I answered back that I thought she looked super confident and cool, doing so much better than I did.

I’ve seen Cindy say and do many things that I would never have thought of doing, if the situation arose. One day, during lunchtime at school, I was stressing out. I was frustrated about my classes, about my grades, and especially my friends. I couldn’t stand being with them during lunch that day. I left the group, giving a lame excuse as I took my leave. I was walking towards the building doors, thinking to get some fresh air or something to decrease my built-up stress, when I spotted two friends of mine. One was a senior and the other, a sophomore. They were both friends with Cindy. The two greeted me, carrying their lunch trays out to their meeting spot and I decided that I would just tag along, if they didn’t mind.

They didn’t mind. I followed them to a seating area in the hallway of the technology department and the library. The girl’s bathroom was located right in front of the seating area. The area was filled with several upperclassmen, including Cindy. I smiled at her and she smiled back, adding a wave, before returning to a conversation with her friends. I sat on the floor, accepted, and listened to the group as they talked about different things, going off on tangents and laughing at each other. This comfortable atmosphere was beautiful, dispersing some of my stress.

One girl went off to the bathroom and soon after that girl left, a boy came up to the group. He was followed by a girl, which I assumed was his girlfriend. There was a girl, pushing her friend playfully for making some embarrassing comment, when she saw that boy. She was in the middle of a sentence and closed her mouth, her eyes starting to blink rapidly and her expression becoming dismal. She turned away and started to quickly gather her stuff. The boy was walking towards her and everyone glanced at them, wondering. Before the boy could reach out his hand and touch the girl, Cindy stepped in-between them, expanding out her arms so the boy could not get through. Her faced showed an angry determination, like a knight protecting a princess. The girl hurriedly got all her stuff and left, heading for the door. The boy looked painfully over to her, his mouth open as if he was about to say something. He tried to move away from Cindy, but she kept blocking his path. He couldn’t reach the girl.

“No! Can’t you tell she doesn’t want to see you right now?” Cindy demanded.

“But, let me talk to her-” He pleaded.

“No! She doesn’t want to see you right now!” She interjected.

Cindy and the boy kept going at this conversation with raised voices. Now everyone in the group was watching them. The boy kept begging to see the girl and Cindy kept refusing his demands. The boy became angrier and angrier, maybe feeling embarrassed at being refused as his face started turning red. Finally, Cindy blew up in his face. She furiously explained that he couldn’t see her and he had to give her more time because the girl wasn’t ready to talk. After a whole minute of yelling at his face, she left, following the path of the girl who the boy had wanted to talk to so badly. The boy breathed heavily and cursed under his breath, he turned around and punched the wall with his fist.

“I only wanted to f***ing talk to her!” All was quiet around him and I sat still, partly scared and totally confused. He kept cursing; cursing his life, cursing the girl, and especially cursing Cindy. I feared for her, the boy looked like he was going to beat somebody up. Soon thereafter, with no business left here, he turned around and sulked away. His girlfriend trailed after him, the pair never looking back. The air felt still and awkward, the other members of the group trying to make light conversation.
The lunch bell rang. Cindy came back to the group and she started ranting on about the girl and her poor health condition, defending her view of how she though she was protecting the girl. I left right after the bell rang, having no business in their private matters. Still, walking back to class, I was stunned at Cindy. She had stood up to the boy, who was so much taller than her and more buff, not for the sake of herself, but for the sake of another. She reminded me of a parental figure or a big sister model and I idolized her. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and fight, to take control and be assertive.

The most vivid memory of Cindy that I have was on June 15, 2010. It was the day that the seniors were leaving. I remember I had been wearing my purple sweater. It was second breakfast, between 1st and 2nd period, when Cindy came up and talked to me. She was excited to leave school, as she had been since the beginning of the school year. That was when the tears came. I guess I realized that things were changing. Tomorrow, I wouldn’t see her anymore. Tomorrow, there won’t be any seniors. Tomorrow, I won’t have Cindy. It was the reality of the seniors leaving that struck me, how lonely I would be. At first, it was just tears pooling in my eyes. Next, they fell, slowly, and I wiped them away with the sleeve of my sweater. Soon though, I was bawling my eyes out, hiccupping, as she spoke. She still looked the same, maybe a glimmer in her eyes, yet I was there, crying because I would miss her. She spoke to me, hastily as her voice cracked, holding back some tears.

“Don’t cry! You’re going to make me cry too! I have an interview after this! I CAN’T cry! It isn’t the end. We both have Facebook right? And you have my phone number! You can call me if you ever need me or if you want to talk or hang out or something. You can even text me if you have to! Stop crying! I’m not going out of Seattle! You can always reach me!”

That had been the first time I cried in a long time. It was the first time crying in school. It was the first time crying in front of my friends, who were watching from a distance. The fact that everything was changing knocked me down, left me unstable. The fact that an important friend would leave my life today was overwhelming. She was a very moving figure for me and inspired me very much. Later that day, when I saw her for the last time that day, I held back my tears. I didn’t want to show my sadness to her again. The spotlight was all on her, it was her day, her time to shine.

In the end, the day the seniors left was not the last time I saw her. The next time I met Cindy was when we signed up for summer internships from GirlsFirst. We both got accepted, her to Starbucks and me to Skanska USA. There was a group meeting held to acknowledge all of those who got an internship, I saw her then. At the end of the internships, there was a congratulatory party to celebrate the end of internships, I saw her then too. She hadn’t changed from the Cindy I knew. She isn’t all out of my life. Although I see her less and less as the months pass, she left such a deep impact on my life that I just can’t forget her.

To be honest, I was probably always jealous of Cindy. She was so very confident in what she did, so mature, assertive, and strong. She was a scholar, taking AP classes and getting good grades, always smiling and cheerful, even though she was a bit pessimistic. She could show what she was feeling and was able to talk very easily with those around her, yet she never let her weaknesses overcome her, being able to depend on herself. Over time, I realized she was my ideal person. She was the person I wanted to become, I wanted to be able to turn my fear into strength, fight off obstacles, to leave a lasting impression on people. I’m so thankful that she was there in my freshman year of high school. She taught me to fight through my fears and to overcome my obstacles. She taught me it was ok to show my thoughts and weaknesses. Cindy influenced my life, fortifying my ambition to achieve to greatness.





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