Syrup doesn’t kill hair. It just makes it stick together. It doesn’t take much to get it out, just a good shampoo and rinse.
The perpetrator was the daughter of a local doctor with an entourage of other “mean girl” stereotypes before Mean Girls had even been conceived. I was hopelessly gentle of heart, and on more than one occasion, I wanted nothing more to be friends with all of them. In my desperation, I spent every moment outside the classroom contemplating ways to make them like me.
Who cares? You’re poor. You’re a know-it-all. You make yourself a really easy target.
The PE teacher wasn’t looking. I was being obedient with my feet stretched out before me and stretching my arms to the centre.
That long hair. It was like a beacon to those rich kids that I was poor, more so than my dirty jeans and worn shoes. Every day it hung from a scrunchie in a huge bunch from neck to waist. It called to them urging them to maim.
But they were smart. Don’t touch her directly. Less trouble that way.
An entire bottle poured down. Hair and syrup combined to make something that reminded of a cat’s hairball. I felt the spillage, but I had no idea. I consciously put my hand on the back of my head. Smooth, silky hair had been replaced with taffy.
Everyone laughed and teased me.
Really, who cares? It’s just hair!
But to me, it was. I was excused from class, spilled the beans about who had done it, and felt the ridicule of my classmates for another week when they were forced into detention for the behavior.
Seventh grade was the worst year at school. I never went home and said a thing about it. Instead, I internalized it all.
Who cared? I did…
It peaked. I opened my backpack one day and found a note written in red ink saying, “I’m going to kill you.”
I pushed it back into my bag and quivered with fright. Instantly I started to wonder the who, what, hows of it.
So who cares now? Well, I really do.
How did it get in my bag? Why me? This was more than just petty bullying, and it completely wrecked my world.
I showed my friends outside of class (all three of them), during lunch, and we spent days trying to figure out what happened and where the threat would come from. I barely slept at home. Every waking moment was spent imagining ways I could die at school.
By Friday, I knew what happened and why it did. I was called into the principal’s office that afternoon. A girl from my grade was in the office and shooting casual looks of despair at me. She knew something. I just felt it.
Indeed, she did. She had seen the note the moment I did, but being unassociated with me, she had spent her week trying to find out more and succeeding. She took the threat as true and took it straight to the principal when she had all the facts.
Who cared now? Well, the principal did. He was furious.
Inside the principal’s office sat two girls – the perpetrators. I had called both friend for a time and wondered at the moment that it had changed.
He called me in to sit in front of the two girls. He hoped to provide them a lesson on the face of their threat. He wanted me to tell them why my eyes were sunken and my mind was distracted.
I didn’t, though.
I looked him straight in the eye and said the four words he didn’t want to hear. “It was a misunderstanding.”
His voice dropped, and he explained the gravity of the threat.
“I know, sir,” I responded. “But I understand now that it was a mistake, and I’m fine. We’re fine. It was just a joke.”
My laugh sounded forced, I’m sure.
I didn’t tell him that I knew the threat was meant for another girl. That it was actually mistaken identity that caused the note to end up in my bag. That I knew for a fact that they had no inclination to actually harm anyone.
Did that condone what they did? Absolutely not!
Who cared? Not me anymore.
I resumed my ridiculous habit of seeking approval from those I shouldn’t. The principal still carried out justice. They spent a week in on-campus suspension, but they respected me. At least, that’s what they said. They cheered me the next day saying I was amazing, and I beamed at the praise.
The syrup in the hair stopped, but that was it. I guess it was the price I paid to spend a week looking over my shoulder.