Birthday Lessons

You see Christy from across the movie theatre lounge as you enter the girls’ toilets; your family is waiting for you single file at the exit. She’s with another girl from your school. They’re laughing and carrying on, oblivious to your presence.

Christy’s the girl you wish you were. She’s not popular but not at the bottom end of the popularity scale either, somewhere in the middle of the junior high classism. She’s smart, but not too smart. And her parents have money. (You don’t want to believe you’re poor, but the frayed edges of your oversized jeans says otherwise.) Their house is in the neighborhood where you always go during Christmas light season. The rich people areas. You know this, because you went to her birthday party two weeks ago.

***

You remember the surprise you felt getting your first birthday party invitation. The cream envelope had the correct spelling of your name, written in adult hands. You think back to all the days in band hall that Christy and you sat next to each other. Maybe there was a bond you didn’t realize was there.

Birthday parties are only for friends, right?

But then, you remember what a fool you made of yourself at the party. You might have told everyone you weren’t “allowed” to play Truth or Dare, even though your parents weren’t there to see you playing. You sat by yourself watching the others have fun and even laughed a few times. Then you thought of the most epic dare. You joined them. You dared a boy you didn’t like to pull a booger out of his nose and eat it. Only thing was you forgot to ask “Truth or dare?” first. You definitely didn’t blush when you realized your mistake.

***

So you are in the bathroom now. The corner stall. You hear giggles and Christy entering the bathroom. For a second, you wonder if she might be talking about your family. Something about them being freaks, but it’s probably just your imagination.

“Did I tell you? She was at my birthday party. Wouldn’t even play Truth or Dare,” Christy says.

“Why do that to yourself?” the other girl asks.

“Mom made me. As punishment for driving my brother’s car. She sent invitations out to all the kids I complained about during the last semester of school.”

“No way! Talk about worst party ever.”

“No kidding. What’s worse is for two weeks, she assumed I was her friend.”

“Gross.”

“You’re telling me.”

You stifle back a cry and push your feet towards the porcelain bowl so they don’t realize you’re there.

You wait until they both entered their stalls before tiptoeing out of the bathroom, leaving a piece of your 13-year-old heart in the toilet. “Friends are overrated,” you try to convince yourself as you and your family climb into the car. “Who needs them anyway?”

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