The People Who Matter by Tamara Mataya
Apr28

The People Who Matter by Tamara Mataya

I could tell you about the time they poured pencil shavings—and staples—into my hair and rubbed it into my scalp. I could list for you the names they called me. The ones no one but me remembers, and the ones that stuck. I could tell you about the time I got stabbed with a pencil. But I’d rather tell you about my best friend. We didn’t start out that way. I was never someone you’d be proud to walk down the hallways with in case the brashness of my presence tainted the way others saw you. Others more popular. Outside of school was a different story. You’d be more than happy to be my friend until the “cool kids” let you into their ranks, then you stopped being my private friend as well. I was the girl who said what she wanted, wore clothes she thought were awesome even if no one else did, listened to “the wrong” music instead of what everyone else worshipped. She had funny hair and awful teeth and didn’t suck up to anyone. In a landscape where those politics are everything, she was never going to win. Time went by. Friends left me. I remembered the silly shit that you’d loved before you became too cool to laugh at it anymore. I remembered the panic on your face when your little sister had to be rushed to the hospital with a high fever during one of our sleepovers and you cried and thanked me for being there. I remembered those things years later when our friendship was only a memory—maybe an embarrassing one to you, as your stares went right through me like I was invisible. But you didn’t forget me completely because without an audition, you argued for me to sing the solo in the drama production because you remembered I could sing—I could really sing. You, and a small chorus of other girls like you who’d once been my friends all swayed the vote and I got the solo. But back to my best friend. We never started out as friends. I wasn’t the one she wanted, but I was the one who was there. She’d lied about not having a birthday party once and I called to wish her a happy birthday—and heard the party in the background. Maybe if I wasn’t already familiar with secret friendships and the way I could embarrass people, it would have made me act differently. Cutting me up behind my back and then being my best friend when we were alone was a pattern I knew and wore. It hurt, but I didn’t stop being...

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Dear Bully by Laura Shovan
Apr28

Dear Bully by Laura Shovan

  Dear Bully Sometimes when we pass in the hall I hear you say, “She’s no one at all.” I’m invisible, though we both wear a hoodie, jeans, the same long hair. Showing off for your latest boy, you scan the crowd for some new toy to play with, pick apart and tease. I melt into shadows. I hide. I freeze. I’m quasi human, not quite here. When you look at me, I disappear. Note: The title refers to Dear Bully: 70Authors Tell Their Stories, Edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones.                       Writing “Dear Bully” brought up memories of my own bully, an ex-boyfriend. (Admission: I own but have not yet read the Dear Bully anthology, probably because of the memories it’s likely to trigger.) We broke up at the end of sophomore year in high school, but stayed friends, sometimes more than that, for a few months. Then I left the tight social circle we shared. It was hard to walk away from some of those friendships, but I wasn’t ready for the drinking–and other things–that were happening when we hung out together. After a year-long relationship with my ex, I had left many other friendships untended. Only a handful of old friends were willing to welcome me back, so I felt isolated at school. Midway through junior year, we all started driving. That’s when the real bullying started. My ex would sit in his car and wait for me in the school parking lot. Every day. It didn’t matter what time I left. Whether I stayed at school until 6 PM, or left immediately after the bell, he was there. As soon as I started to pull out of the lot, my ex would slam his foot on the accelerator and cut  me off, swerving to miss my car and beat me through the lot’s single exit. I don’t know how many times he nearly hit me. It went on for months. I began to panic every time I had to stay after school, but I never told my parents. I never told a teacher. I didn’t want to admit this was happening. Finally, a dear friend told her parents, who told mine. The car-bullying stopped, but things did not get easier at school. Every day, I felt the way the speaker in my poem does. I wished I were invisible, below the radar. But I also felt invisible, as former friends disappeared from my life. Almost 30 years later, this incident is still painful. That’s probably why I haven’t talked about it much, even as an adult.  ...

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