It’s a cold, gray morning and there is a fine mist in the air. We’re all waiting for the bus. For once the girls across the street are quiet. I silently pray that the bus will arrive before they realize that I am here.
I stand alone, conscious of the clothes I’d carefully selected so as not to stand out as either too nerdy or too trendy. I have an umbrella but don’t dare open it lest I get teased for my inability to resist a little bit of rain. Instead I stare straight ahead, trying not to look at them, trying to remain invisible.
The moment doesn’t last.
It’s something about how lame I am for not using my umbrella in the rain, that I am getting all wet and droopy and just as stupid as they’d always figured I could be. I try not to focus on the words and instead watch the young leaves on the big maple across the street as they flicker in the wind and under the weight of tiny raindrops. I sink a little farther inside myself and look desperately for the bus. It is late. Again.
I walk down the hill to the bus stop with hope: none of the other girls are there. I think, maybe they will stay home today. Maybe they’ll miss the bus and I’ll be free. I consider for a fleeting second standing in the driveway where they usually wait but decide against it lest they show up at the last second and start pushing me around again.
Instead I take my place across the street, alone. I stare at that old maple, its leaves aging but still so young. I look at my watch and will the bus to arrive before my tormentors.
It does not work. There they are, coming up over the hill, loud and large as usual. They are laughing. Though I can’t hear what they are saying, I am sure they are laughing at me. I bite the inside of my lip and try not to cry.
It’s the first warm day in a while and I’m wearing shorts. Today I walked to the bus stop with confidence. I had on my denim jacket and my backpack slung over one shoulder, the way all the cool kids did it. I knew there would be nothing for them to say to me while we waited today. I am so confident that I look their way so I can see their approving looks.
“Oh look, she’s looking at us!”
“Oh my god, she’s wearing shorts!”
”I know, and look how hairy her legs are! She’s never shaved those hairy monsters before!”
I blush violently. Shave? Legs? What? I look down at my legs. They are indeed furry. I’d never thought about it. Why would someone shave their legs? I burn with embarrassment.
That night I cry in my mom’s arms and beg her to show me how to shave.
I wake up feeling ill. The thought of waiting for the bus today makes me feel cold and shivery. I tell my dad I can’t go to school today. Please drive me, I plead. Please. I can’t wait alone with them for another day.
No, he says. You have to stand up to them.
He becomes twice his size and suddenly sounds angrier and harsher than I have ever known him to be. He pushes me to the wall and looks me straight in the eye as he says in a deep and forceful voice, “YOU. STOP. IT.”
My bottom lip starts to quiver. I am afraid. He has never spoken to me this way. I don’t know what to do. I stammer. He softens, sensing my fear.
THAT is what I want you to do to them when they treat you that way, he says. I nod. I don’t dare disagree with him now. Not ever again.
I never stood up to them that way. Instead I pulled my coat closer to my chest and stared at the maple, lonely and blowing in the wind, and waited for them to stop.
In response to this week’s Anamnesis.