NaNowriMo 2013, excerpt from Day 11

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 wasn’t sitting in our usual spot.

After I’d dropped down beside her and said hello, I asked her about the repositioning.

“I determined it to be less distracting.”

My eyebrows folded up and I looked around, trying to figure out what distractions she was avoiding.  Then I had to laugh because I realized she’d positioned us so that I didn’t have a direct line of sight on Desiree’s table.

“Oh, I see.  It was me you didn’t want distracted.”

She gave me the “duh” look.  I pulled out my lunch, but then my mind flashed on Tommy’s comment and my stomach gave a lurch.

“Sarah May, I have a serious question to ask you.”

She put down her lunch and looked up at me, hands folded in her lap to signal her seriousness.

“Are there…” how to say this without sounding like an egotist.  “Are there rumors going around about me?”

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.  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 didn’t enjoy being a part of group dynamics.

“Hmmm…”  She pursed her lips, gave me a long, measuring look.  “You want to know what people say about you, is that it?  Did something happen today that has made you particularly interested in this information?  Because you are usually quite adamant about your lack of concern about what other people think about you.”

This was Sarah May through and through.  She had the requested information, but wanted to be sure of the context and motivation behind my asking.  That way she could craft her answer accordingly.  I told her about what Tommy had said, giving her as much information about his facial expressions and tone of voice as possible.  She ate that up like a connoisseur, nodding her head sagely the whole while.

“Well, first of all, you are a fairly unique individual in this school, Buddy.  There are other girls who flirt with the line between masculine and feminine but they have all clung to the ‘tomboy’ model in order to stay on the right side of the gender line with respect to their biology.”

I nodded for her to continue.  I was impatient to hear the actual answer to my question, but there was no hurrying her, she’d just dig her heels in and make me wait.

“So the answer is yes, people do say things about you.  You signify a threat to the social order and most of our classmates are not sophisticated to appreciate your individuality”  Which of course was to say that she was sophisticated enough and did appreciate me.

“Thank you, Sarah May.”

She acknowledged that and continued, “Unfortunately, people do say rude, uncomplimentary things about you, about your gender and your sexuality.  I wouldn’t say it happens often, but there is a certain element of the social strata that seem particularly eager to say such things.”

She lifted her eyes in the direction of the far side of the room, where the popular kids sat.  I followed her gaze and saw Desiree’s ponytail.

“So.. if I may translate that into ‘normalese’.. people call me what, a ‘lesbo’?”  I whispered it, because I didn’t want to say it in the first place.  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, “Well, from what you’ve told me of your encounters with Miss LaConner, there is definitely something lesbian going on between the two of you.  And yes, there are some who use that term when describing you.”

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.  Regardless the low volume of her statement, I blushed.  Not just a little, but full on fire engine red.  Not just from what she said but what she implied, which of course was the truth.  There was definitely something lesbian going on between Des and I.  The word thrilled me at the same time it struck horror in me.  On the other hand, the word ‘lesbo’ was crass and meant to insult.

“Ok, ok, so that is the factual truth of the matter, yes… but no one but you knows it’s happening, right?  Right?”  I looked at her in desperation, oh god, please don’t tell me other people have found out.

“As far as I can tell, no, no one else knows, yet.  And yes, I said ‘yet’ 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.”

I hunched over, hugging my knees to my chest.  Somehow I had to keep this from getting out.  I mean, sure, people would be hard on me, but it would worse for Desiree.  I couldn’t let that happen to her.

I took a deep breath and looked at Sarah May, “So is that it?  Any more good news?”

“I will remind you that you asked me for this information” she replied primly.  And then she took in a deep breath.

“Shit, there’s more, isn’t there?”

She looked at me and nodded, “As I said before, you are perceived as a threat to some.  Most people have a hard time accepting people who don’t follow the majority opinion on sexuality and gender.”

It wasn’t her fault, but I was getting angry, not at her, but at the idiots in my school and well, the world.

“I didn’t even have a sexuality until a couple of days ago!”  She raised her eyebrow at me and I realized I’d said that a little too loudly.  Lucky for me the din in the cafeteria covered my outburst nicely.  I lowered my voice and leaned closer to her.  “So people have just been making assumptions, right?  Based on how I look and their own stupid narrow minded view of the world.  And my gender?  What, they don’t remember in first grade when my mom forced me to wear dresses every fucking day?  Almost everyone here knew me then, too.  Did they forget or something?”

Again, she raised her eyebrow at me, but she knew I wasn’t mad at her.  We’d had plenty of conversations about the lack of sophistication of our classmates.  She’d gotten plenty of shit for being different herself, both because of her skin color and her lack of social ease.

“It’s about you and not about you, at the same time”  She’d begun to gather her things and I realized lunch was nearly over and I hadn’t eaten anything.  I pulled out my sandwich out and began to bolt it down.

“People of this age are still working on defining themselves and they most often do that by comparing themselves to others, finding similarities and differences.  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 ones”  Again she glanced over to where Des and her friends were sitting and I did too, and sighed deeply.  It was clear that in Sarah May’s eyes, Des wasn’t just sitting with the enemy, she was the enemy.  And I would have agreed with her not that long ago, but now, now I knew a different side of Desiree.  I could no longer look at her and just see the act she put on for everyone else, I saw the girl who’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.  Wow, smooth, dude, my inner voice said.  “So basically, they’re just using me to raise their social stock?  Lovely, just peachy.”  I saw Tommy ahead of us in the hallway and slowed down a bit.

Sarah May grabbed my sleeve, “My advice to you is respond as little as possible, don’t give them anything to work with, not even your reaction.  That’s what they want, that’s what bullies always want.”

I watched her walk to her next class and stood in the middle of the hallway, barely aware of classmates jostling by.  Just when life had started to become amazing, it was starting to suck a lot more, too.  Yay, me.

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