Snickering Girls and Other Atrocities
There are things about school that I could live without, such as the violin section in orchestra class, cigarette ash on the toilet seats, cold tater tots, and Mrs. Wentz’s legs. Her feet are deformed from twenty years of wearing high-heeled shoes, so her calf muscles are not much longer than a pencil. I feel bad for her since it must be hard to live your life chained to a pair of three-inch pumps.
There are also these girls in English class who snicker and whisper to themselves whenever I raise my hand to speak in class. Or, they lower their heads while I talk as if they are embarrassed to be in the same room with me. They want others to see them behave this way. I know this because I sit in the back of the room and I watch them. They think I’m stupid, and they want others to think I’m stupid. The problem is, the others don’t think I am stupid, so the snickering girls are alone and stuck with themselves.
“They are jealous of you,” mom says. “If there are people who are jealous of you, then you must be doing something right in the world,” she added. “Those who are jealous and mean have to figure out their own way. You can’t change them.”
Once in a while, when these girls are separate and alone and they think no one is watching, I’ve seen them look down at their bodies as they are walking down the hallway as if to calculate how they measure up. When the hallway at school is full of people, they hold their heads up high and talk and laugh the loudest. When they think the hallway is empty, they look down at themselves in shame.
That’s not all. They don’t want anyone to know they smoke cigarettes, but after lunch, their clothes smell like a fireplace, and they think the teachers don’t know, even though everybody knows, but they don’t seem to know that everybody knows, and that makes them feel powerful.
I didn’t believe mom when she said I couldn’t change them, so I tried to talk to them one day to show them I’m not this terrible person they made me out to be, but they laughed at me and asked me stupid questions about my hair. They made each other feel powerful, so I tried to talk to each one separately, but they couldn’t look me in the face. “They’re not worth it,” my boyfriend said, and he kissed my face until I couldn’t remember their names.
I didn’t tell mom this, but there are times when school makes me want to run away forever, but I have no place to go, so I order my tater tots with a slice of greasy pizza and pray for a quiet table in the lunchroom. They say you can’t run away from your problems, but sometimes I think you truly can. If Mrs. Wentz, with her high-strung calf muscles, could kick off her pumps and wear a pair of Nikes, I bet she’d run.
Donelle Dreese teaches literature, creative writing, and composition at Northern Kentucky University. Her fiction has appeared in the Journal of Microliterature, Sunsets and Silencers, Postcard Shorts, and Gadfly Online. Other publications include two chapbooks of poetry and a book of travel writing, America’s Natural Places: East and Northeast, published by Greenwood Press in 2010.