Monday, April 26, 2004

8th Grade- The Great Surrender. What else can I say? It’s my greatest failure to date, and it still hangs over my head like a stalking vulture. As an 8th grade upper-classman, I was a somewhat big man on campus. I had reached some sense of détente (cease-fire) with the rest of the class. The gay rumors had stopped (a major source of tortuous pain), and I was getting more consistent grades. My status as the poster boy for scorn and contempt seemed to have dissipated. Back when I first started the semester that year, I was a week late (as usual). To my surprise, there was a new person in the class that year. Zzzzz was the new person. She had grown up in Chicago, and now lived with her aunt. Incidentally, she was bi-racial (her mother was Philipino). At first, she was generally shy, and reserved. I never gave her an ‘official’ welcome, which I wanted to. So I kind of just relented, as she mingled among the rest of the class. Despite the temporary truce that had gone on between me and the ‘cool guys’, I still wanted someone that I felt was ‘on my side’. She was the first girl that made me say ‘Hmm..’ Could this have been a potential kind ear and soul-mate? Oh, well… As time went on for the first couple of weeks, things didn’t seem to be going well for Zzzzz. She was becoming as popular as me, which of course, is an oxymoron. I remember one particular day, when she was absent, there was an impromptu ‘round table’ discussion about her that afternoon. Mrs. Orberg served as the defacto moderator. Most of the people who spoke were saying negative things about her. I didn’t feel it was fair, but I initially said nothing. I let my own insecurities keep me from speaking up for her. What I wanted to say was that, being as Zzzzz is new here, not just in the class but a whole new town, it’s going to take some time for her to get to know people here, and at the moment, she’s just trying to fit in. The most vociferous voices against her were Chuck and Tim. For whatever reason, I guess Mrs. Orberg could tell that I was the silent minority. She asked me how I felt about her. I hesitated and gave some kind of neutral answer. But even before I could do that, Gerry Jimson blurts out, “He likes her!” making me doubly embarrassed. Shortly after that, ironically, things began to turn around for her. I guess the class just needed to vent that day before they came to their senses. One afternoon, I admitted to Zuriel that I was interested in Zzzzz. Naturally, he made that information public domain. But, in what was soon to be my surprise, the next time I encountered Zzzzz, she was uncharacteristically rude. What poured salt on the wound is that, she was really becoming popular now, at my expense! The element of the class that had been riding her was now warm and inviting. As for me? Hell, I became public outcast #1, all over again. The refined, staid object of my affection became a venomous viper. Not a day went by without her hurling some type of verbal jab my way. What was once neutral Switzerland now sided with the Cuban fascists in the rest of the class. I suppose in a bizarre way, you could say things went back to ‘normal’. Despite all of this, there was still some small spark of hope within me, that said ‘she’ll come to her senses’. But that was never to be- About a day or so before the end of the second semester, word got out about her and Tim having some type of secret rendezvous (how typical!). Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but feel for her at graduation. It was held in the school Church. Everybody sat in their own separate pew, with their family & guests. She was to sing solo Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love of All’, as Gerry played piano. She went up to the front of the Church to sing; at the time, none of her relatives had shown up yet to sit; she was crying as she sang. Her folks did eventually show up. After the commencement ceremony was finally over, she said something to me in passing, that I didn’t really hear. She was laughing & holding a bottle of what seemed to be mints. I just kind of smiled and waved as she walked away. I had been attending that damned school essentially since the beginning, chop-chop-chopping away at the Great Tree of Inequity. Hoping in vain faith that I would come to know some sense of acceptance & fellowship. And just when I think I’ve met someone who could understand, I get shot down in flames… Looking back on it, it’s even more frustrating to know that she became an adversary by default! By default! Not because I had done anything to her; not because I had said anything bad about her… But simply because I was who I was! It’s as if I have some type of invisible aura that brings out the worst in people, and subsequently directs that negative energy towards myself. This, then, is my fate? To be a perpetual pariah? Shunned, scandalized, and scorned, seemingly without logic nor provocation?

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