I am 12 and sitting in a front row desk in my advanced English class. A fellow student sits down at the desk next to mine. I ignore her because experience has taught me that my fellow students do not want the social scourge of the 7th grade to speak to them. She appears upset by something and focused on her books anyway.
A few moments pass and I hear something unusual—a friendly voice saying “Hello?”
I look up and find my classmate smiling at me. A big friendly smile I return. For a brief shining moment, I see our similarities. Long brown hair, hazel eyes, we are both overweight and boyfriendless. We’re in the Seitz Jr. High uniform in 1989: French-rolled jeans, turtleneck under a sweatshirt, gold necklace dangling. I am beaming at someone, maybe a new friend?
She opens her mouth to speak and I lean forward with a bit of excitement. She speaks clearly and with great precision.
“You have the stupidest smile I’ve ever seen.”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. All my life people have complimented my smile, how friendly it is, how kind. It is one of the few things on my body that I can unequivocally say is AWESOME. “Excuse me,” I sputter.
“You have the stupidest smile I’ve ever seen.” Remarkably, this is said with even greater precision. Not bad for a tween with a mouth full of marbles.
I can’t help it. As I stare at her now victorious eyes, I laugh and laugh and laugh. I can barely choke out, “No, no, I don’t. What is your damage?” I laugh so hard I have tears streaming down my face. I snort.
I watch as this girl who was so puffed up a moment before, deflates and slides deeper and deeper into her chair. I kinda feel bad for her in that moment. I mean, how lame are you when the social outcast of your entire grade thinks you’re a ridiculous loser?