In high school, I kind of had stalkers. And before you think I’m bragging about how good looking or magnetic I was, let me explain. The handful of guys that followed me from class to class were all, well, tasteful wording is tricky here, let’s just call them socially awkward. The kind of kid that you absolutely cannot be mean to. I mean, you can be mean to popular kids and rich kids and kids who are really athletic but not so good at math. Being a little mean to those kids is justified, right? You don’t have to answer that, because my heart already did. But my “fans” were not that type. They are the kids who carry their lunch to all of their classes, which years later still makes no sense to me, kids who make “ooo, ooh,” noises when they’re raising their hands. Kids that Anthony Michael Hall would have played in the movie about my high school somewhere around Sixteen Candles, way before Edward Scissorhands when he was inexplicably large and in charge.
There’s one thing I finally realized about myself when I caught on to the high school trend of who I was attracting that made me think back to the first time I felt seriously angry towards someone.
We were just sitting down for lunch in elementary school, and I was seated amidst several of the aforementioned rich, popular, athletic boys. They were laughing and drinking chocolate milk and probably wearing Adidas soccer shoes. And I sat there completely quietly. Looking down at my lunch, taking small bites, hiding beneath my 90’s perm bangs. And a scream, of sorts, followed by several gasps and a large crash echoed from the left side of the cafeteria. Teachers quickly cleared the students away and I had a straight line of sight to Randy having a seizure on the cafeteria floor. He was covered in food, his now empty tray about 30 feet in front of him.
Randy was a boy who had to go to different classes than the rest of us during the day. He would come into class for the Pledge of Allegiance, music, story time, and art, but left with his very own teacher a few times throughout class. He sat next to me for the first few days that year. He always wore sweat pants. And he was so very, very nice to me. He always smiled at me when I sat down. And he handed me a tissue once when I couldn’t reach the box.
I had never seen a seizure before that moment. I hadn’t even heard of a seizure. But there it was. Randy on the cafeteria floor, turning a little blue. People staring and teachers running around. The group of boys I was sitting next to started, I’m not even kidding, laughing and calling Randy names. Names I was FOR SURE not allowed to use. I felt my face grow red and my ears turn burning hot. My hands started shaking and I wanted to cry. I was straight up angry. I just sat there continuing my lunch while these boys were being so ugly. The type of ugly that still hurts my heart.
So I thought of that time, and I thought of the kid in my art class that always got in trouble for talking to me, and the other kid who would walk with me from Study Hall to World History, and the kid who tried to ask me to prom before I “casually” mentioned my boyfriend in hopes that he would get the hint and not make me say no. I realized that I am 100% a sold out bleeding heart. Compassionate to a fault.
The other day I asked my husband if he thought I would make a good counselor. He said, “Yeah. But I think you would have a really hard time detaching from that world when you got home.” Considering the other day I watched The Cider House Rules, a teen mom/adoption story, and My Girl in the same day and I cried for hours, I think he’s right.
When you’re feeling hurt for fictional characters, you’ve gone too soft. I need some balance, pronto.