The tomato splatters across my face—ow.
Spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and a rotten sandwich are now flying my way, fueled by the tomato that just hit me square in the face. My eyes widen, and I try to escape my impending doom, but the food all hits me at the same time. The spaghetti and mashed potatoes splatter all over my new jeans and my grey Go Bears sweatshirt. The red sauce and the mashed potatoes rubbing together on my jeans look like the color of puke. However, the sandwich just ricochets off my head, which doesn’t hurt as much as looking at the smiles of my classmates.
The laughter echoes in the middle school cafeteria, making it seem like the whole world is laughing and chanting, “Freak, freak, freak.”
More food is being thrown at me, and I try to escape it, but I end up tripping over the leftover sauce on the ground. I land with a thud, and all I can tell myself is stupid, stupid, stupid. The laughter triples, and all I can do is cry as they start to pick up food and bury me with it. I don’t know what was not thrown, everything from salad to a sloppy joe. I stay on the ground because it feels safer somehow, and I’ll do anything to be safe, safe from them.
Why can’t I disappear, I ask. I just want them to stop. I’ll do anything. At these prayers, another flood of tears come, and I try to wipe them from my face quickly, but they already notice. They always notice. Someone yells about it, but now voices are just blurring into each other; another wave of chuckles fills the cafeteria.
While the laughter continues, I take a peek at my torturers, making unflinching eye contact, and then I eye the others, the ones who watch. The ones who watch but don’t do anything, and I don’t know which one’s worse. That’s when I see her: Samantha. My so called best friend, just watching, frozen in her tracks. I catch her eye, daring her to do something. We stare at each other for a second, maybe two, but that’s when her whole face transforms into something unrecognizable, something truly ugly. She smirks and picks up a pizza. I close my eyes, and I count to a hundred. It has to stop eventually, right? One, two three…
Where are the teachers? Twelve, thirteen, fourteen…
I thought we were supposed to be friends. I quickly glance at my friendship bracelet that’s wrapped around my wrist. Best friends now and beyond the grave, she used to say. I guess it was all a lie. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven…
Eventually, a teacher comes in and brakes it up. I am at eighty three. One of the teachers, picks me up from the floor and takes me to the infirmary. He whispers something in my ear; it could have been hurtful or soothing, either way I am numb. Numb from the world, perhaps for forever.
I thought of this memory as I see Samantha on the street. Her luscious, black hair is now greying and falling out. Her clothes back in high school and middle school used to be pristine and pressed, but it’s ragged and full of holes now. She used to be a carefree person filled with joy and happiness, but now as I saw her standing there alone, I didn’t recognize the girl that I knew. At least I thought I knew. What happened? How did she get here?
But there is one word that kept reappearing in my head: help. I could change her life. I could go over there, write a check, and change it for the better. I look both ways as I’m about to jaywalk across the road and approach her.
What am I going to say? Oh hey, remember me, the girl you threw pizza at in the sixth grade? That was when the memory of her holding the pizza enters my mind like a tornado. It twirls around in my brain, wrecking my train of thought, and the only thing that started to fill my body was not love, was not sympathy, but anger.
I remember her picking it up, and her little smirk entering her face. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Rage filled my heart, my veins, my whole body, and I walked away from her and her cardboard sign saying, Homeless, Please Help.