(Originally posted Thursday, February 14, 2013)
Unlike the Gilmer Girl, I received no forewarning about Lisa and Maria. On top of that, I thought I was immune from persecution. I wasn’t technically The New Kid, after all since I had attended kindergarten in Onamia six years earlier, and I knew or remembered almost everyone in both sixth grade classrooms. We all had taken the same bus to kindergarten, and I would see or hear about many of them whenever I visited my cousins who lived and attended school in Onamia all their lives. Plus, as sixth graders, we were the top of the heap at Onamia Elementary. I should have been safe.
But none of that made any difference to Lisa and Maria. They hadn’t attended kindergarten with us, and they weren’t acquainted with any of my cousins. That didn’t strike me as a problem at the time, so I went on about my business, which in addition to learning, included chatting with my friends and obsessing over Abel, Chris, Kent…
Anyway, Lisa and Maria weren’t that bad at first. Especially compared to the Gilmer Girl, whose reputation had preceded her and whose appearance, sadly, reinforced it, these two seemed fairly benign. Apart from the way they would stand together in the hall or cafeteria and stare at me menacingly, they didn’t actually DO anything that scary. And even that didn’t seem all that frightening since they looked more like a pair of ghoulish ghost girls from a bad horror movie than a couple of Midwestern bad asses.
What I failed to realize was that, while they were staring at me, they were also biding their time and waiting to catch me alone. Which they did one day after a spirited game of kickball that ended with me lying in a puddle of mud after racing to catch a pop fly that had whizzed past second base into a low area in center field. After getting up and turning around to give the rest of my class a chance to admire my mud covered back and dedication to the game, I had jogged back to the building and up to the girls’ lavatory to get as clean as I could since there were still forty minutes or so left in the school day, and going home to change was not an option for kids who lived in the country.
It was there that they cornered me. “That’s what you get for thinking you’re so cool,” Lisa informed me as she and Maria moved toward the sink where I was wiping off my clothes with wet paper towels.
As if, I thought. Maybe Lisa and Maria would have been embarrassed to wind up covered in mud after running like mad to catch a ball and stop the other team from scoring, but I sure as hell wasn’t. In fact, in my mind landing in the mud only highlighted how far I was willing to go for my teammates, which in turn had rendered my actions—and, therefore, me—that much cooler.
Apparently they did not agree, as evidenced by the diatribe that followed about knowing my place and not showing off, which they delivered as they continued to edge closer. Although I’m sure I looked scared, it wasn’t a beat down I was worried about. I was tall for my age and a tomboy, and I was fully prepared to defend myself. What I wasn’t prepared to do was get caught fighting in the bathroom and be sent home. Or, more to the point, to have to call home and tell my Auntie I’d been suspended.
So I did the only thing I could do, which was to storm past Lisa and Maria and pray they wouldn’t trip me or knock my teeth in. They didn’t, and I survived, and they never bothered me again. Of course, they didn’t really have a chance since I moved away a week later—first to Fridley, where we stayed for three months, and then to Eden Prairie where I met Gretchen and Lori…