I just found this short piece I wrote for the writing class I was in last fall for about two seconds. I stopped going, but I worked on a few things while I was there. Here is one of them. It needs a better title.
Bentley, James (Jimmy). A tree branch crashed on his beautiful blond head as he stood goalie for the championship soccer match. Those of us who knew him even a little bit wept in the hallways at school, holding on to one another, looking sideways at the passing students, to see who was noticing how sensitive we were. Jimmy Bencusky with his strong, broad swimmers’ shoulders, bright blue eyes, and orthodontically straightened teeth. None of us had ever dated him, but we daydreamed about it. Lucky Jimmy, in a way. He went out in the prime of his life. He would never age. He got a full page in the senior yearbook next to his picture with the words, “In Loving Memory of One of Dunedin’s Finest Boys.” We gawked at his sisters during the funeral. They looked different from us. They had real tragedy, whereas all we had were parents who didn’t let us pierce our ears or a failing grade in geometry or bad skin. The sisters would no longer be known as Hannah, Jennifer, and Mary—they would forever be remembered only as the Sisters of the Dead Goalie.
Caley, Todd. He earned all the leads in the high school musicals—Danny Zucko, Sky Masterson, Curley from Oklahoma. He could sing, tap dance, and imitate an impeccable British accent as Henry Higgins. His deep tenor echoed through us whenever he sang the national anthem at football games. He was never just Todd; he was always referred to in revered tones by his full name “Todd Caley.” We loved him from afar and wrote his initials on the inside covers of our social studies textbook, The World and You. We all knew he would make it on Broadway and we kept our fingers crossed that he might remember us, even those of us who were only extras in the background. Then, in his senior year, he dropped out of drama club, buzzed off his dark black hair, got his nose pierced, and declared himself gay. We were devastated, confused. What was wrong with us that we could have a long-term, passionate crush on someone who claimed to love men? Did it mean something was awry with us too? Were we gay and didn’t even know it?
Folkman, Sarah. Molested by the music teacher. He was much older than our parents, and had a shock of white hair like Beethoven. Sarah whispered to us later that she thought they were in love. She didn’t see anything wrong with it (then again, her parents were atheists). When the affair was revealed, she cried real tears in the locker room while we were dressing out for gym. She said, “He was the sweetest man I ever met! He taught me the meaning of true love!” We consoled her, and then talked about her behind her back, some of us making gagging noises when another one said, “I picture his penis as this tiny pink thing wearing a marching band hat.” Secretly, we were glad we had stopped taking piano lessons in the seventh grade. Sometimes, it seemed, quitting could be a good thing.
Mowe, Keri. The phrase “date rape” didn’t exist then. We were never bruised or beaten, just coerced; the labored “please, please, please” of a boy we liked or the bullying words of the ones who said, “I thought you were more mature.” It seemed that to say no after a certain point would be impolite. We lost our virginities to avoid appearing rude. But Keri Mowe told. She told and, after word got around, someone wrote, “Keri Mowe is a Ho” in red spray paint on her locker. The accused boy got high-fives from his teammates and two weeks after-school detention. Keri didn’t vanish off the face of the Earth or slit her wrists. She did shave off her eyebrows with her mother’s Bic razor and when they grew back in, they seemed arched in a look of perpetual surprise.
Sokol, Jenny. Stepped outside to get the mail in a rain storm. When her glittery nail-polished fingers touched the mailbox, lightning struck. What were the odds? Now, poor Jenny, who used to be the smartest kid in the junior class (and lots of us sort of hated her for that) was basically a vegetable. Her mother had to feed her by hand, just like she did when Jenny was a baby. Jenny would never again have a normal life. She would never shop with her mom at Macy’s in Tampa for senior prom dresses or give the valedictorian speech about the road less travelled, or apply to the state university. Jenny would have to learn to walk, talk, and eat on her own. We were sorry for Jenny, but a little relieved too; one less person to make us look bad by comparison.
Walters, Andrew. He and Patricia Clemens had been sweethearts since the sixth grade. Both were beautiful and perfect. But then, after her junior abroad in Spain, rumors spread that Patricia had slept with the Spanish teachers’ son, Danny. One Friday night, Andrew confronted Danny at the Exxon gas station. He got in his face, a big linebacker next to a much smaller boy who wore glasses, and threatened to kill him with his bare hands. Patricia rushed to Danny’s aid, and Andrew threatened to kill her too. He jumped into his Ford Bronco, and pealed out, his blue tail-lights disappearing in the night. He drove the car into the family garage, shut the garage door, but kept the engine running and the radio turned to 92.2-YRock. When his little brother discovered him, Andrew’s lips had turned an icy blue. Scott Roach said that all his hair had fallen out too, but we didn’t believe that. We did believe the part about his blue mouth. We would wake in the middle of the night years later, shaken from a dream of Andrew floating in the air above us like a ghost, exhaling a cold breath of air from his dead mouth.
We learned about his suicide at an emergency assembly called by the school principal, Mr. Peterson, at 8 AM the following Monday. “I am very sorry to announce an unfortunate tragedy…” Mr. Peterson told us that if we had any feelings of anger or insecurity or thoughts of harming others or ourselves, we should talk to someone; a priest, our parents, the school counselor, God.
We kept quiet.
Didn’t they understand that we all felt those emotions to some extent every single day?
The Others: There were the cutters, and the girls who starved themselves into something inhuman and insect-like, flat chested beings, luminous and ethereal, with their skin stretched tight across their protruding bones. Or the pale boys with the skinny legs and concave chests who could never go out for the swim team. The person with the birthmark like a map of North America stamped on his face; a mark that flushed a deep crimson red when he was embarrassed, which was often. And also the fat kids, the ugly kids, the weird girls who wore handmade dresses with calico cats cart wheeling across the fabric, the two straight-backed black girls we never spoke to, the foreign students, endlessly teased for not speaking exact English and for having unfamiliar, non-Christian names. Eddie Zappato forever transformed into “Eddy Go Potty” after he wet his pants in third grade. The redheads, and Patrick, the one deaf boy in our school who read lips, but spoke in a slow, atonal voice. He sometimes misunderstood what was being said and there were those of us who purposefully talked too fast or covered our mouths with our hands when we asked him a question, hoping to get a laugh from one of the others, hoping to deflect negative attention from ourselves and on to someone (anyone) else.