There was a trend when I was in seventh grade to wear these black ballet-looking slippers with large flowers on them. The name-brand was Sam & Libby; I got mine from Payless. It was as good as it was going to get.
They made my feet stink – rancid stinkiness that emanated from the bottom of my soles to my nose. I was offended by the smell and would “hide” my feet – and the offending shoes – under my desk. But I wore them anyway because they were what everyone else was wearing. I don’t so much stick to that rule anymore, but in 7th grade…I totally did.
There was a girl – a scary girl – in my history class with one of my favorite teachers ever, Mrs. Berridge. The girl’s name was Delphina. This is the kind of girl that you wonder about during those times when you let your mind wander. “Whatever happened to Delphina?” In fact, I only feel confident writing this story now because I believe she does not read. I could be wrong. In which case, the names of those in this story have been changed.
Anyhow, she was not my fan. Not that a lot of people were. But she hated me. I’m not sure why. I never spoke to her. Or about her. Or around her. She scared me. She was angry. Always. She made sure I knew she hated me.
She commented on my shoes one day. Loud enough so that I could hear, she called me out, proclaiming my “generic fucking shoes” stunk up the locker room when we had to change for gym. I pretended I didn’t hear her, then wrote “I hate Delphina” 100 times on a piece of paper. But really small, so that she couldn’t see what I was writing.
Let me be clear, my awkward phase started at about 7-years-old, ramped up when I was 11-years-old, and barely closed out by the time I was 25. I was a gangly, frizzy-haired mess. But I loved the theatre and could be funny when prompted. These things would save me on more than one occasion.
One day, she accosted me outside history. Standing in front of me, in the middle of the hallway, with her three friends, she said, “Meet me out back of the school. I’m going to kick your ass.”
You only went to the back school parking lot to fight, so I never went back there. Not even to watch. A wayward blow could make it’s way to my face. Thanks, but no thanks.
“What?” I asked. I had early onset deafness, apparently.
“I’m going to kick your ass.”
“Why?” I was genuinely confused.
“’Cause you’re a fucking bitch, that’s why.”
I had never been called anything that horrific ever. A “fucking bitch”? Really? For wearing generic shoes? “Shit. Had she seen my ‘I hate Delphina’ notepad?”
“Listen, bitch, are you going to meet me out back or not?” Clearly, she had a one-track mind.
A crowd was gathering. My only option out of this was to get enough people on my side that it would be foolish of her to try and kill me lest there be an uproar, and she would have to take on my gang of hundreds.
“Ummm…that would be a negative,” I replied.
That got a chuckle from the crowd. I’ll take it.
“You’re not going to go out back after school?” she asked incredulously.
“Are you going out back after school?” I asked.
“Yes, bitch, I’m going out there to kick your ass.” See? She was scary!
“OK. Then I’m not going out back. I’ll be in the front waiting for my ride.” I could only hope that my best friend’s mom, who was scheduled to do the pick-up that day, would arrive on time.
There was silence. She was confused. I thought I was pretty clear.
“Are you a fucking chicken?” she asked, slapping hands with the girl standing next to her. Good one! Only I’m not Marty McFly, so that doesn’t work on me.
“Are. You. A. Chicken.” She slowly repeated in case my deafness came back.
“Clearly.” I replied. “Look, I’m not going to go out back so that you can kick my ass. Whether that makes me a chicken or incredibly smart, I’ll leave for you to decide.”
So, my mouth is popping off brave retorts that also happen to be slightly sarcastic, but inside my stomach there are butterflies (or rhinoceri) trying to force themselves free.
She’s dumbfounded. She looks at me, then to her friends. She does not understand what is happening. This went on for minutes – could have been two or twenty. Silence as she stared at me, then to her friends, then back to me, then back to her friends. Somebody giggled. It wasn’t me. But it was a nervous giggle.
Then, she just turned and walked away. That was it.
While I was never asked to meet her out back ever again, there were always those moments when we would pass each other in the hallway, and I would think, “Any minute now, she’s gonna realize I’m full of shit and hit me.” I often wonder, in present day, how noticeable that really is.