PART 2 OF A SERIES
PT. 1 :
It's dim inside the cavernous church vestibule outside of morning mass, where Judy and I are chatting a bit before joining our 7th grade classmates inside. She keeps bugging me that an old casual friend of mine has somehow become my boyfriend -- wrong.
"I hate his guts!" I finally explode, not wanting to be embarrassed by this false rumor getting back to him. I don't dislike him at all, but I am hoping that this extreme statement will end Judy's speculation for good. Right on top of my words, the chill, reddened face of Nick, the very friend that we are talking about, appears before us coming in to go to mass. He probably heard it. Oh my God!!! A blindside, and the first hint of anger seem to possibly register on his face before he turns and we watch the back of his tan jacket going into the church.
I am overwhelmed with horror as Judy and I walk in to take our places, now a little late, in the section for the 7th grade. Every morning, the entire elementary school, accompanied by our nuns and teachers, heads for the front of the church at 8 a.m. We assemble before three huge plaster altars with many statued saints and beautiful curlicues, under ornate decorated ceiling domes. I love to study the church's towering, long, stained glass windows, each stunningly different as the season's shifting light reveals it. Every class sits together in a neat group. The girls all have navy blue beanies pinned to their heads with bobby pins, matching their navy blue uniforms.
All the life passages of my huge family clan have taken place in here. There are 100 years of prayers, desperate pleadings with God to avoid illness and death, thousands of rosaries recited, the exploding joys of weddings and baptisms, and colorful May flower processions. There is a heavy build up of it all, the atmosphere has accumulated, thick and rich. You can feel the peace of it all, if you really listen.
The historic rituals, coming in a direct line from Christ, begin to unfold on the towering altar before us today, all in Latin. Sometimes it is easy for our childish minds to wander. Today, my mind is paralyzed in my situation. Nick probably heard it but I'm not totally sure. I have not the slightest, slightest clue what to do. Nick had a grandmother that lived by me. We were never that great of friends, but for him to hear this crazy unprovoked attack.... It is too horrible to get near. Did he hear enough to understand what I was saying? What am I going to do? Say, "By the way, if you overheard me telling Judy in church that I hate your guts, I didn't mean it?" That would be way too bizarre if he didn't hear it. I go over and over the dilemma in my mind, and I just can't see how to deal with it. Eventually, by default, I decide to just ignore the incident, and pretend like it never happened. Hopefully, if he did hear anything, both Nick and I can eventually forget it.
My life keeps getting increasingly weird and complicated. I have been such a happy elementary school kid, among other things, thriving on plays, speeches and any kind of creative performance. But now we 7th graders are all changing so much. I am skinny and can't gain an ounce, and am starting to get bad acne. Even my eyes start developing severe nearsightedness. I try to just squint and sit close to the blackboard and fake it, until my inability to see distances becomes so bad that I can no longer hide it, and I am finally forced to accept dark brown, cat's eye glasses, with sparkles.
Unfortunately for me, appearances are becoming a very, very big deal in the class. Alliances are fast shifting in the mad, nervous herd. Our most attractive girl, a striking, shapely dark brunette named Sandy, has definitely become the alpha female, and even her friends have taken on the highest status in the class.
A short, girl- next- door- type, who lives out in the country, and who has never been a friend of the Queen, has suddenly latched on to her . But she is being repeatedly rebuffed by Sandy . The girl drags her aqua coat over to where Sandy is holding court this morning. "Why are you hanging around me?" the Queen glowers. The other girl lowers her head, but says nothing, apparently still hoping that Sandy's status will rub off on her, and that this will all be worth it some day. Last week, even a friend of mine declared to me worriedly, " Kathy, I want to start hanging around with the popular kids!" I thought to myself, does this mean that you don't think that I'm popular?
One morning, Sandy comes in with a bad haircut that is obviously too short. It looks terrible. The next day, a couple of other girls get their hair cut too short too. By the end of the week, every girl but me in the class has adopted a ridiculously too short haircut. This is just too stupid for me. I sadly decide that, although I may pay a price, I am not going to be that slavish and irrational a sheep for anyone.
"Slam books" are also becoming the new thing at our school. Everyone has an empty book with blank pages that they pass around in class to see what people really think of them..I have been passing my slam book around for a couple of days, and have mostly gotten positive, friendly comments , so I am enjoying the experiment.
Today, when I get my book back, I freeze ....
My old friend Nick has written in my slam book describing me: "Yuck!" The other kids have been reading this, this morning! Another boy has also added "Yuck!" to my page....
I can see why my friend obviously hates me now, but the other boy has nothing against me....
Do the other guys think that?... this is starting to really destroy me where I live, and I am starting to get really scared ....
A couple of weeks later we are supposed to perform assigned humorous skits before the class. I am cheered up by this, because I love and excel at anything of a creative, performance nature. And I am one of the first ones up to perform today. ...But when I reach the front of the class, I feel kind of strange, stiff and nervous, uncomfortable. I can't seem to relax at all .... What is going on??
I realize, that for the first time in my life as a creative person, I feel