Would love some feedback on this one.. if you’ve got a moment.
It took me a moment to find Sarah May, she was wearing a gigantic, shapeless army coat and wasnâ€™t sitting in our usual spot.
After Iâ€™d dropped down beside her and said hello, I asked her about the repositioning.
â€œI determined it to be less distracting.â€
My eyebrows folded up and I looked around, trying to figure out what distractions she was avoiding. Â Then I had to laugh because I realized sheâ€™d positioned us so that I didnâ€™t have a direct line of sight on Desireeâ€™s table.
â€œOh, I see. Â It was me you didnâ€™t want distracted.â€
She gave me the â€œduhâ€ look. Â I pulled out my lunch, but then my mind flashed on Tommyâ€™s comment and my stomach gave a lurch.
â€œSarah May, I have a serious question to ask you.â€
She put down her lunch and looked up at me, hands folded in her lap to signal her seriousness.
â€œAre there…â€ how to say this without sounding like an egotist. Â â€œAre there rumors going around about me?â€
I asked her, not because she was a rumor monger, she was pretty much the opposite of that as a rule, plus the fact that she eschewed membership in any social group that would lower itself to that kind of information exchange. Â I asked her because she was the most observant person I knew, the person most likely to become a social scientist so that she could figure out what made groups tick, from the outside, since she really didnâ€™t enjoy being a part of group dynamics.
â€œHmmm…â€ Â She pursed her lips, gave me a long, measuring look. Â â€œYou want to know what people say about you, is that it? Â Did something happen today that has made you particularly interested in this information? Â Because you are usually quite adamant about your lack of concern about what other people think about you.â€
This was Sarah May through and through. Â She had the requested information, but wanted to be sure of the context and motivation behind my asking. Â That way she could craft her answer accordingly. Â I told her about what Tommy had said, giving her as much information about his facial expressions and tone of voice as possible. Â She ate that up like a connoisseur, nodding her head sagely the whole while.
â€œWell, first of all, you are a fairly unique individual in this school, Buddy. Â There are other girls who flirt with the line between masculine and feminine but they have all clung to the â€˜tomboyâ€™ model in order to stay on the right side of the gender line with respect to their biology.â€
I nodded for her to continue. Â I was impatient to hear the actual answer to my question, but there was no hurrying her, sheâ€™d just dig her heels in and make me wait.
â€œSo the answer is yes, people do say things about you. Â You signify a threat to the social order and most of our classmates are not sophisticated to appreciate your individualityâ€ Â Which of course was to say that she was sophisticated enough and did appreciate me.
â€œThank you, Sarah May.â€
She acknowledged that and continued, â€œUnfortunately, people do say rude, uncomplimentary things about you, about your gender and your sexuality. Â I wouldnâ€™t say it happens often, but there is a certain element of the social strata that seem particularly eager to say such things.â€
She lifted her eyes in the direction of the far side of the room, where the popular kids sat. Â I followed her gaze and saw Desireeâ€™s ponytail.
â€œSo.. if I may translate that into â€˜normaleseâ€™.. people call me what, a â€˜lesboâ€™?â€ Â I whispered it, because I didnâ€™t want to say it in the first place. Â My stomach, which already felt like it was gonna be sick, tightened up more when I said it outloud.
Sarah May sniffed and pushed her glasses up her nose, â€œWell, from what youâ€™ve told me of your encounters with Miss LaConner, there is definitely something lesbian going on between the two of you. Â And yes, there are some who use that term when describing you.â€
She delivered this in a whisper as well, even with her low tolerance for irrational social rules, she knew better than to call attention to the subject matter of our conversation. Â Regardless the low volume of her statement, I blushed. Â Not just a little, but full on fire engine red. Â Not just from what she said but what she implied, which of course was the truth. Â There was definitely something lesbian going on between Des and I. Â The word thrilled me at the same time it struck horror in me. Â On the other hand, the word â€˜lesboâ€™ was crass and meant to insult.
â€œOk, ok, so that is the factual truth of the matter, yes… but no one but you knows itâ€™s happening, right? Â Right?â€ Â I looked at her in desperation, oh god, please donâ€™t tell me other people have found out.
â€œAs far as I can tell, no, no one else knows, yet. Â And yes, I said â€˜yetâ€™ because these things have a way of coming out and you are not so subtle as you think you are with your admiration of Desiree.â€
I hunched over, hugging my knees to my chest. Â Somehow I had to keep this from getting out. Â I mean, sure, people would be hard on me, but it would worse for Desiree. Â I couldnâ€™t let that happen to her.
I took a deep breath and looked at Sarah May, â€œSo is that it? Â Any more good news?â€
â€œI will remind you that you asked me for this informationâ€ she replied primly. Â And then she took in a deep breath.
â€œShit, thereâ€™s more, isnâ€™t there?â€
She looked at me and nodded, â€œAs I said before, you are perceived as a threat to some. Â Most people have a hard time accepting people who donâ€™t follow the majority opinion on sexuality and gender.â€
It wasnâ€™t her fault, but I was getting angry, not at her, but at the idiots in my school and well, the world.
â€œI didnâ€™t even have a sexuality until a couple of days ago!â€ Â She raised her eyebrow at me and I realized Iâ€™d said that a little too loudly. Â Lucky for me the din in the cafeteria covered my outburst nicely. Â I lowered my voice and leaned closer to her. Â â€œSo people have just been making assumptions, right? Â Based on how I look and their own stupid narrow minded view of the world. Â And my gender? Â What, they donâ€™t remember in first grade when my mom forced me to wear dresses every fucking day? Â Almost everyone here knew me then, too. Â Did they forget or something?â€
Again, she raised her eyebrow at me, but she knew I wasnâ€™t mad at her. Â Weâ€™d had plenty of conversations about the lack of sophistication of our classmates. Â Sheâ€™d gotten plenty of shit for being different herself, both because of her skin color and her lack of social ease.
â€œItâ€™s about you and not about you, at the same timeâ€ Â Sheâ€™d begun to gather her things and I realized lunch was nearly over and I hadnâ€™t eaten anything. Â I pulled out my sandwich out and began to bolt it down.
â€œPeople of this age are still working on defining themselves and they most often do that by comparing themselves to others, finding similarities and differences. Â Most of our peers are terribly insecure and since so much is riding on social acceptance — for those who care about such things — they will do what they need to do to be accepted by the right people, which in our case means the popular onesâ€ Â Again she glanced over to where Des and her friends were sitting and I did too, and sighed deeply. Â It was clear that in Sarah Mayâ€™s eyes, Des wasnâ€™t just sitting with the enemy, she was the enemy. Â And I would have agreed with her not that long ago, but now, now I knew a different side of Desiree. Â I could no longer look at her and just see the act she put on for everyone else, I saw the girl whoâ€™d revealed herself to me, who had opened up to me even though it would ruin her socially if anyone found out.
I crammed the last bite of sandwich into my face as the bell rang and nearly choked. Â Wow, smooth, dude, my inner voice said. Â â€œSo basically, theyâ€™re just using me to raise their social stock? Â Lovely, just peachy.â€ Â I saw Tommy ahead of us in the hallway and slowed down a bit.
Sarah May grabbed my sleeve, â€œMy advice to you is respond as little as possible, donâ€™t give them anything to work with, not even your reaction. Â Thatâ€™s what they want, thatâ€™s what bullies always want.â€
I watched her walk to her next class and stood in the middle of the hallway, barely aware of classmates jostling by. Â Just when life had started to become amazing, it was starting to suck a lot more, too. Â Yay, me.
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