Judith (Jodi) Alaska Taylor
I don't like to write my whole name out together. Not even when I don't use Judith. Ick--I hate that name. I hate Jodi too, but it's my name and I'm stuck with it until I turn 18. I can't wait. I'll finally be free of everything and everyone. I'll be free of my depressed mother and I'll be free of my dad, who doesn't even remember me. And I'll be free of this whole place. But lonely, yes, I will always be lonely. Being lonely is my safe haven. Sort of like what my mother's bed is for her, only she still doesn't shut up...ever. But when I am lonely, no one bothers me, except myself. It's the place where I can feel the most numb. It's where I remind myself that I'm not special and that nothing I say matters, because no one ever listens. It's where I used to cry myself to sleep, but I don't anymore, except on rare occassions, because I'm too old to cry. Being lonely is the place where I know I'll never grow up to become the beautiful young woman my mother doesn't tell me I'll be. She used to. But I know it was all a lie now.
I know those kids who said they were my friends in Kindergarten through 4th grade were lying, too. Especially Kassandra, because if Kassandra had really been my friend, she never would have left me all alone. She was everything you would think a good friend would be; bubbly, positive, happy, like sunshine day in and day out, never a dull, sad moment. But of course, that's what I hate now. I can't stand bubbly, happy-go-lucky people. It's not fair that they feel so special that they can have a smile on their face all the time and I don't. They don't care about me. No one cares about me. I used to love Kassandra having that happiness all the time, but now...that she has left me...I hate it. I hate it in anyone else. I hate it in her, but of course, there is no reason to hate it in her because she is never coming back. She left me at the beginning of 5th grade--last year.
It was that bright, sunny day, a few weeks into 5th grade--the first day that I cursed the sun-- I had just called Kassandra the night before. She had a fever. But she was still coming to school the next day. She promised. Now, I know better than to believe that people will keep their promises. She hadn't shown up to class and we were already through with our 45 minutes of English, moving on to math. I kept glancing to the door, wondering, frantically, where she was. Then, our teacher stopped the class. I didn't know why, I was too busy watching for Kassandra, because people kept coming in and out of our room. The small, frail-looking, old woman who worked in the front office came and went about ten times, and every time she opened the door, I looked expectantly up, looking only for Kassandra's bright eyes. Kassie's eyes were not merely a sky blue, but a deep, deep, royal blue. And they pulled out the happiest part of you on the worst days.
But each time, it was the same frail old lady, shuffling her small feet along the carpet, and each time she had our teacher bend down so she could whisper something in his ear. And as time went on, and the lady came and went, Mr. Mort's face grew darker and darker, and grimmer and grimmer, and the kids in the front row leaned forward to listen. When they did, a few of them caught what was being said and immediately, a wave of shock spread across each face. As their neighbors poked and prodded them for answers about why we were just sitting there...they would just shake their head "no", or just stare blankly into space, oblivious to everything except their own worries. Now, what they were so worried about, I really didn't care. I was just wondering where Kassandra was, and I was starting to get mad.
We were all sent home before lunchtime that day, and I just couldn't sit still on the way home. I had to call Kassandra, and ask her why she hadn't been to school. Plus, I needed to remind her that she had promised she would be there that day, and that she was always so good at keeping her promises, so why quit now? When we got home, my mom opened the door and sat down on the couch. "Jodi, dear, come here a second." My mother looked traumatized, just like the rest of the people in my class.
I don't know why everyone had suddenly started crying. A few of Kassandra's close guyfriends, I noticed, had cried a little too. How strange, I had thought, because I wasn't even crying and I thought there was some sort of rule that guys aren't allowed to cry. I didn't really investigate the cause of this crying any further.
Once I heard the teacher start talking, I blocked it out and started wondering again, why she wasn't here yet. I had to work hard to ignore the tiny voice in the back of my head saying, "She's never going to come. She's never going to come." But once my mom sat me down on the couch, she asked, "Honey, you didn't say a word all the way home and you were fiddling the whole time. Do you want to talk? Honey, I'm sorry. I am so sorry. Kassandra and you--" she choked out the words, stroking my long hair back,. "You two were such great friends, and for something like this to happen just a few weeks into your last year before Middle School...I hate that. And I'm here for you, you hear? I'm always here for you no matter what." I had started to cry, without realizing. I just couldn't block it out anymore. And she pulled me close whispering meaningless words. Nothing mattered right then. It had finally broken through my barrier. And it shattered my world into a million pieces.
My mom had assured me that it would be okay; everything would be okay. But I knew nothing would be ok, ever again. Kassandra, my best friend, was gone, forever, and she wasn't coming back. The rest of that year was a blur. My mom sent me to a shrink multiple times. I yelled at that shrink when I wasn't brooding quietly or talking to myself. I ignored every word that shrink said. And I learned how to block everything out really well. I didn't look at that shrink--ever. Not even the first day,, or the last day. Geez, I don't even know if that shrink was a boy or a girl. But I don't have to deal with that anymore, my mother quit taking me because it cost too much and I wasn't "getting anything out of it". Boy, was she wrong, I learned how to be lonely all the time during those hours. And I learned how to block the world out, even when the world is really angry and yelling at you. I can still block it out. And the world always gives up, but I don't, not since that day, I never give up. Plus, blocking everything out is too easy for me now. I can't stop, not that I want to. It protects me and makes me powerful.
But here I am, the night before the first day of 6th grade.
"Thanks for deserting me Kassandy." I say to her picture from the 5th grade yearbook, calling her by that nickname she hated. It makes me feel good inside that somewhere, I’m making her mad. "You deserve it." I say, throwing the book across my room so that it hits the wall and knocks a picture down to the floor. But sadly, it doesn't shatter the glass. I get up from my bed, and the wave of grief hits me again like it did that first day. I pull my right arm back and punch the same spot in the wall that I punched that day she left. There, the silver paint is peeling just like the scabs on my knuckles-not ever getting a chance to heal-, where I've punched it every day since.
Some girls try their clothes out, and put their makeup on, and put their hair up the night before the first day of school. Heck, I know girls who do that just about every day. I don't understand it. They just take it all off again, so there is no point in getting all dressed up in the first place. Then, get this, the next morning, they spend at least two more hours making more adjustments. But I guess you probably know that. I can't be the only one with annoying blond girly girls in my school. And the wannabees! Don't get me started on the wannabees! They want everyone to look at them--and guess what?--that's what they get. They just try too hard. I'd rather not be noticed.
But don't you dare call me a wallflower. I hate that term. I am no flower. I am a shadow. I am The Shadow. I am The Shadow of the school. At first, that's what people called me, then they just quit acknowledging that I was there at all. I think I like it that way much better.
I grab my black shirt, the one with gray paint splattered on it; my jeans, the ones with the dark-as-night patches and an open knee; and my dark gray hoodie. I splash water on my face; four quick strokes brush my uneven, generally shoulder-length hair (which I chopped off this summer, with my mom’s old, blunt sewing scissors, all by myself, uneven is definitely my type of hair); and I start on my makeup. I just throw my makeup on, I don't believe in the blonde-y way:
Brush, apply, stroke, stare, compare, wash off. Brush, apply, stroke, stare, compare, wash off. Brush, apply, stroke, stare, compare, wash off. Brush, apply, stroke, stare, compare, wash off. Brush, apply, stroke, stare, compare, wash off.
And it continues on and on for hours--so annoying.
I have my own way, yes, my own certain way. I take pride in my morning routine. It's all I have left. ... After...but I push those thoughts out of my mind. My morning distracts me, and lets me start my day off real good and numb. So for my face, my mask, I put on the same black eyeliner, mascara, and the same smoky gray eye shadow, all in that order. Every day. Then, depending on my mood, I either put on dark red lipstick, dark purple lipgloss, or just go. It's sophisticated, in a way that I don't care how it looks, as long as I get it on there. If it smears, that’s even better. It hides my face.
My mom got mad at me the first time I did this and kept doing it. She said, "You're gonna hide your beautiful face!" ...well, actually, she yelled that. And was like, "Sure, that's what I want." which made her even more mad.
"And your hair!" she shrieked in horror. "Your beautiful, brilliant, blonde hair! What did you do?"
"Mom, I colored it. Black. Duh. And just fyi, I'm going to color a streak every so often."
"What color?" she. Was. Horrified.
"Oh, whatever I feel like, you know, maybe pink one day...purple...maroon...but never yellow,” I added thoughtfully.
"But I thought yellow was your favorite color!"
"Not anymore," I looked at her with my dark eyes, and I guess she saw right through me. She knew, obviously, what all that had been about. I expected her to open her arms and let me cry on her shoulder, like any good mother would do. I expected her to treat me like Kassandra's mother had when I fell on my knee and scraped all the skin off at their house. But I was sorely disappointed. She picked up the phone and called in for my first appointment with that shrink.
When I got downstairs on the morning of the first day of 6th grade, I was the only one up.
Geez, What does it take to get people up around here? I thought to myself. I glanced at the clock from under my dark bangs, starting when I saw what time it was. I grabbed a random cereal box out of the pantry, poured some in my mouth--without knowing what it was--, threw it back in, slammed the door shut, and chugged a bottle of milk as I shouldered my backpack and raced out the door. Once outside, I threw the bottle down next to the garage. If someone wanted to pick it up while I was at school, then good for them. I wasn't going to stay around and wait for them. I'm not going to run to school though, who cares if I'm late? I can say that my mom is sick. Which is actually true in a way. She’s mentally ill. She won't pick up the phone. She's probably in her bedroom, crying. Not my problem. My problem is getting to school.
I wasn't really worried about getting to school, after all, I live just three blocks away. So even though I walked, I arrived on time. Now for my zone. I bet there were groups all lined up outside the school: popular, geeky, shy, jocks, punk/goth. I stop in my tracks, and this guy--who looks a little lost and out if it--runs into me. He pauses, "Sorry." I must have just glared at him, because his face fell, and he got all awkward, and finally decided to walk away. Looked like a kid who couldn't fit in real well...I know how that feels, but still, it's not my problem.
One of the girls from the goth groupie sees me and makes her way over. A guy, maybe her boyfriend, follows her; slouching, hands in his pockets, green eyes glowing underneath bright blue hair. He sees me eyeing him, gives me a once over, and shrugs. Then he walks away. I almost let myself go. But I stayed numb.
"Don't mind him," the girl glances over her shoulder, black lips pursed, eyeliner caking her squinting eyes. "He's not really into your type. Try to work on those googly eyes, or you'll never get a chance of a dream." I just glare at her. I. Was. Not. Making. Googly. Eyes. I. Do. Not. Make. Googly. Eyes. I step towards her, "I don't understand what the freaking heck you mean by googly eyes. I don't give a crap for that blue-haired bastard." At first I think she'll get defensive, but instead, she steps back, looks at me again, and smiles, "I'm liking you already. Wanna come over and hang?"
"No," I scoff, twirling my streak of purple. "I don't need a groupie," I glance over her shoulder at the blob of black and bright, and roll my eyes, "I work alone."
"Well, okay," she seemed slightly insulted, but she covered it well. "Your prob, but that "blue-eyed bastard" would be pretty impressed by you. I'll havta tell him what you said. Or do you want to take it back?" she raised one triple-pierced eyebrow in a challenge.
Sure, challenge, whatever. One word. Lame. Brilliant, make fun of the 6th grader. Like I can't take care of myself and kick her whole groupie's butt at the same time. "I don't think so. I said what I said, would you like me to repeat it? I could elaborate on it. You know, tell you what I think about that other girl over there. You know, the one making out with your boyfriend." Her eyes grew wide and she jerked her head, looking frantically over towards the shadows. At this point, I walked away. Smiling to myself. Brilliant, overprotective, gullible to an extent, up for a challenge, this could be fun.
Bring it on.
Right before my free period, which is directly before my lunch period, I opened my locker and a folded, red note fell out. I picked it up, unfolded it, and read the scribbled handwriting, “By the way, my name is Britch.” How funny. I wonder if some people call her the b-word behind her back. Suddenly, my finger slips, and I get a paper cut.
Stupid paper. I think to myself. Stupid Britch. I crumple the paper into a ball; it bites into my newfound cut. I throw it over my shoulder, into the hallway; grab my gray iPod and black earbuds; plug them in; and turn it up as loud as I possibly can as I walk out of the building, notebook in hand, attitude in mind.
As I walk out the door, that kid runs into me again.
“Geez, what the heck is your problem?” I say to him. “Get a life! Run into someone who you actually have a chance with,” I probably screamed that, because my music is up so loud. And if somebody is staring, then good for them, I don’t care. All the better, they’ll know to watch their back around me.
I get outside, and I start walking to the library, when Britch and her groupie catches up with me. The girl I tricked Britch into thinking was making out with her “boyfriend” fell into stride beside me. She raised her eyebrows at me. This is my cue to talk, and ask the question that I’ve been curious about.
“So,” I start, looking at the two girls. “Which one of you is going out with Mr. Blue Sky?” I ask, looking pointedly at the blue-haired guy. Britch pratically chokes on her gum and the other girl--a strawberry blonde with bright green streaks--rolls her eyes.
"I'm single, thanks. And I plan to stay that way," he walks away on his long, lanky legs. Strawberry gapes at him as he goes by, and Britch snorts.
"Hear that Fal? Single. He's planning to stay single," she starts to crack up.
"Shut up," the girl--I guess her name is Fal--snaps. "You just shut up. You don't have a chance with him either," she shoves past us as well. "Come on Prayjer," she beckons to the scrawny guy that I just now noticed. "Unless you want your big behind kicked by the jockies," she nodded over to the football players coming towards us. And Fal glares at me, "You better watch your back blondie."
It took all my willpower not to run, screaming to the girl's bathroom. Is my hair showing? I could have sworn that this very morning, it was black with one solitary purple streak. "That was lame," Britch says from beside me. "Anybody can see that your hair is darker than night."
At the end of the day, as I'm leaving to walk home from school, Britch runs to catch up with me, "Hey do you not have a ride home? I could take you home." I just stare at her. "What?" she asks. This girl is starting to get on my nerves. Too happy. Apparently, she's not as goth-chick as I thought.
"No." I say hotly. She puts a hand on my shoulder, but I shrug it off and keep on walking. Suddenly, Britch is in front of me. "Look twerp, I don't want anymore of your b.s., I just want to know what the crap your problem is. All we've done is be nice to you today! And you're a freakin 6th grader! "
"Nice. You have only been nice to me?" it's a question. I can't believe this girl. Before she can say anything, I add, "No freaking duh, you've been nice to me. Yeah, sure, if being nice to me all day means calling me blondie and totally ignoring me."
Britch looks hurt and mad and exasperated. "Look, it's your problem that you just sit there at lunch. You don't give anything to anything we do! NO effort! Period."
"But the question is, do I really want to give the effort?"
"Ugh! You. Are. Absolutely. Unbelievable. What do you do all day? Sit in a corner and gripe and moan? If you've done anything today, it's be miserable! Why?" I ignore her question, "So it's alright for you to call me blondie, but it's not alright for me to sit and brood?"
"What the heck?!? I don't call you blondie! That's only Fal! Now, if you want me to, maybe I will, just to get you to say something. I'm so freaking mad at you right now, that I want to call you any old d*** name I can!"
"I have one more question," I add, flatly, as if we weren't in the middle of a heated argument, but instead, that our conversation was coming to an end. "Are you punk or goth?"
"Goth? You mean like, emo? H***, no. But--"
"Well, I am. But not emo. Get it right. Just 'cause I'm goth doesn't mean I cut myself." Her face suddenly changes to an emotion I cannot read. I guess she gets it now.
"OH. Are you that girl...I mean, there's only been really vague rumors...but I remember it being in the news..." of course it was in the news. Of course there's rumors about the blondie gone gothie. And I pull myself together to do what I've been planning to do if someone brings it up. "Was it you...I mean, you don't have to talk if you don't want--and don't think I'll always be like this, but going through something like that...it must be really tough--but...were you the girl who's best friend died last year?" she looks at me, with that fake sencerity in her eyes. Everyone had it after the accident, whatever that stupid accident was, I still don't know. No one will tell me. I raise my shaking hand and her eyes grow wide. It's the first time I've ever flicked someone off other than myself in my own mirror. Lucky her, maybe she'll spread the word and people will get off my back, and even better, some will never get on. We've stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, my house is just around the corner, and there's not a soul around. I don't live in a neighborhood, luckily.
"So," I say, looking her in the eyes, with a fiery red expression, "Why don't you just f*** off and get lost?"
I for sure thought she'd be speechless.
"Alright," she said, giving me her own fiery look without a single twitch, "If that's how it is, don't expect me or anyone else hanging around. But you need us, or at least me, I'm here. I know how it is."
I flick her off again, "NO, You. Don't." No one knows how this feels. No one can help me. I don't need help. I don't want help. "Get lost." And I don't stay around to watch her walk away. Her fiery, orange hair swishing across her back in the wind. Her back held high and her strides long. I didn't watch her until I couldn't see her from around the corner. I didn't.