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Ah middle school… It all seems so nostalgic and funny now, really. Playing hopscotch, collecting stickers, and drawing dicks. On every surface in our range. See, people often like to forget that particular detail about childhood, because it doesn’t seem very sweet or innocent. But I could not imagine middle school without the image of my class trying to hold in laughter for dear life. Almost suffocating and hiding behind books as the teacher stares in exasperated shock at the penis drawing on the blackboard. And that’s what I loved about middle school — the lessons. Go on, call me a nerd, I dare you. I was never a teacher’s pet or was THAT kid that reminded about homework, but I was that kid that thrived off of the closeness and unity of class shenanigans. It did not matter if you were a ginger, fat, weirdo, nerd, a cool kid, or a prep. The shenanigans was a thing the whole class was in on.
The periods after lessons were a different world. There were cliques of the cool kids, the popular kids, the nerdy girls, and the preppy girls. They sat on windowsills, they crowded in the cafeteria discussing the latest bit of gossip, frequented the toilet trying to push in other boys into the girls bathroom. Not letting them out. Locking them in. Making them feel trapped. And that’s how I felt — trapped.
Don’t get me wrong I still had my share of hopscotch and trading stickers. We were all kids wanting to play, but I was the last choice. The person you pick to have an equal number of players. Picking up the wallflower, putting it in a vase of beautiful tulips, and then throwing it out as soon as it feels a part of the bouquet.
The thing about cliques is that you need to fit an archetype. Had to look a certain way, think a certain way and be a certain way. Even nerds only allowed the smartest of the class to be with them. I was mediocre. That was my archetype — mediocre at everything. Not stupid, but not smart enough to be one of the nerds. Not ugly, but also not particularly pretty. In fact, if this wasn’t an autobiography, I would be the supporting character in everyone’s story. A background.
I was the literal definition of a wallflower, which is a bit ironic now. In middle school I used to stand by the walls listening to music trying to become invisible. Now whenever I lean against a wall, I become the center of affection. An object of desire. In a sense, you could say, I was an object of desire back then as well. A person that desires to be kicked, mocked, fooled. Someone you could make a game out of to see who can kick me in the ass the most times. Now I’m not saying I just stood there and took it. I told them fuckers off. Each one of them I picked up on their flaws and tore them down. The easiest thing is to center on one thing you can feel the person is insecure about and keep talking about it until they leave you. Hey, you! Ugly nose! Must be mistaken for a Jew or were you just born with a mountain for a nose? Obviously, I was no better than them, picking on them, and making fun of other minorities. That leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to this day, but a girl has got to protect herself. It was less effective when a crowd circled me, but telling the teacher was even less effective.
“Oh, you know, boys will be boys,” and “They just want your attention, sweetie.” As well as my favorite: “It just means they like you!”
“They like you” my ass. It’s not “boys will be boys.” It’s not “Oh, that’s part of growing up.” It’s bullying. Bullying that leaves long lasting scars and fucked up memories. Excuse my language, but I did warn that I will be frank and honest. If I survived up until where I am now and live to tell this story, then you will survive reading it.
Just like I survived maths. I never was bad at it, to be honest, I quite liked it, but I just missed one too many days of school to understand the topic. School was off-putting to put it lightly. Home was no better. The bullying? I’ll survive after some time alone. I had developed a thick skin in childhood after all. But I never could have the rest I so desired. Shouts, followed by crashes, followed by slamming doors, and sounds of crying — these are the sounds I associate with at home. Constant blame and abuse. Alcohol fuelling the fire and turning a fight into an all-out war. My mum drinking too much, my dad not drinking enough, both of them totally wasted. That was the home I came back to. And I turned to Jesus for help. I’m not even kidding. Go on, I’ll still pause for a laugh. A religious hooker, welcome to the 21st-Century world, mate!
We went on a holiday with my parents once. Well, we went on a few holidays, but this was one with almost no fighting. For a week that we road-tripped I felt like I was a part of a normal happy family. I don’t recall the details of where in Britain we drove to or what we saw, but I recall the last stop real vivid.
It was noon, but a summer one where the air felt on the warmer side, so the windows in the car are down. The sky is a deep blue with almost no clouds and white cliffs that look like clouds in the horizon. Almost like the sea and the sky switched places. I had my head out the window, hair blowing everywhere and all I could see was the line where worlds collide. The deep blue, with a hue of green, fading into a lighter shade of blue. When I think of summer, I think of this image.
As we were nearing the cliffs and leaving all the green fields behind us, there stood a monastery. The road led all the way to the front gates and I imagined my dad lifting the car up and flying upwards the hill as if I was in some Disney movie. Something I have always dreamed of.
To be frank, the monastery sucked. Everything’s quiet, a lot of walking, old people everywhere, and tour guides that go on and on with their dates, names, and all that other stuff a nine-year-old girl has no interest in. But as we were finishing the tour an old man stopped us, leaned in and gave me a small picture of Jesus. I wasn’t religious at that time and still ain’t, but that was the only souvenir I got from that summer trip. I cherished it and kept it with my most protected possessions (a hair tie I had since I was six, a Barbie doll that was such an asshole everyone kicked her out of the Barbie house, and a plush rabbit named Dog).
I did not think that Jesus could mend all of my family problems, but I placed belief in that fond memory and associated Jesus as the middle man that was capable of delivering those good times back. By the age of 13, the picture was tossed in the trash. There’s only so long you can pray and wait for a miracle.