The summer before 7th grade, my parents and I moved to Southern California. I was slightly nervous to attend a school where I wouldn’t know anyone, but I was comforted by the not so distant memories of “the new girl” I once knew. I remember how her hair rivered down her back. We swarmed her like excited puppies, eager to share who was friends with who, where the best seat in the cafeteria was, and our latest crushes.
All I needed to do was start the 7th grade a few days late. I knew if I postponed my entry, the teacher would present me to the class, give my short bio, and the kids would flock to me like they flocked to every new girl. On the day I started school, it all seemed to go according to my plan, except that last part. Although my classmates looked at me as I stood before the white board, no one was interested in who I was or where I had been. However, all was not lost.
Mrs. Harris introduced me to Annie. I would later find out she was one of the most popular girls in my class. I still remember her low-rise jeans and her clear lip gloss. Shortly after meeting, Annie asked me to pull out my class schedule, and somehow the stars had aligned. We were a perfect match. After each bell rang, we’d strap on our backpacks and head for our next class together. Eventually, we made it to lunch, and she introduced me to a number of her friends.
I knew it was important that I make a good impression. The girls naturally began to converse, and although I can’t remember a single topic mentioned, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had nothing in common with any of them. I began to panic. I knew I needed to say something. I knew I needed to be memorable, river memorability like the new girl’s long flowing hair, but not a single word came. The bell rang, and time was up. Like a herd of startled antelope, Annie and her friends scattered before I could even think to pick up my tray. I rushed to throw my garbage away, only to turn around to find Annie and the girls were gone.
Instantly, I knew I had been ditched. Surely, I felt hurt, but there was also relief. I didn’t fit. They knew it. I knew it. I would just have to make new friends, but before that I’d have to find my next class. I pulled out the map I hadn’t used once that day and began my search. As I wandered the grounds, the school slowly emptied till I alone was left. Eventually, a lady with a lanyard found me and directed me to class. She opened the door for me, and I made my way to an empty seat. All eyes were on me, except Annie’s. She never looked up.
The next day Annie approached me. She told me that she was sorry, but that we couldn’t have lunch together anymore. I told her that was something I had already figured out.
One thing you all should know about me is that I don’t fear being alone. I never have. However, being seen alone was a different story. The thought of sitting at a lunch table by myself was beyond something I could handle at that age. So, I developed a strategy. I’d walk around the school yard pretending to meet up with the friends I didn’t have. Except, one can wander for only so long. Hiding in the bathroom was the next best option. When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flight type of girl. I remember standing in that stall and quickly recognizing what an idiot I was. Was I really going to hide in a bathroom during lunch all year long?
No. I was going to find a friend. I left the bathroom and scanned the lunch tables. I wondered how everyone had grouped so seamlessly. That’s when I saw her, a girl standing alone, staring blankly out into no where land. She was the one I’d approach.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to this stranger, but I know it was something along the lines of, “I noticed you don’t seem to have any friends, and I don’t have any friends. So, maybe we can help each other out.” And that’s how I met Dez.
Even though Annie and I couldn’t formally socialize, she continued to be my friend in the way her popularity allowed. For those two years in middle school, she always smiled and said hello. Toward the end of eighth grade, Annie approached me during P.E, and this is what she said.
“I have a lot of friends, but none of them really care about me. You only have a few friends, but I know that they love you.”
After our conversation, she’d go back to those friends. Even now, fifteen years later, I’m not sure why. But that day, her words were a gift. It was right to be ditched.