My move to Texas when I was younger has become a blurred sequence of events with no memorable point of start and finish. I remember sitting on our letterbox watching my house being auctioned. I remember calling my friends on the landline to say goodbye for the fifth time on the day I was leaving. I remember packing all the memorabilia that my friends gifted me like painted rocks and a few pairs of socks… the things that 11 year olds give each other. I remember shopping for new clothes in preparation of my first day of elementary school in Texas, the concept of not having a uniform bewildering me.
I don’t recall whether my first day of fifth grade was at the beginning or middle of the school year, but I do remember that everyone already had their cliquey groups of friends when I arrived and that I hated the beginning of every class where the teacher would make me stand at the front of the class to introduce myself. For the first few days, the only time other kids would speak to me was just to hear my Australian accent and ask me to say certain words to humour them. As a kid, this didn’t really trouble me though, as I was a lot more outgoing than than I am now (lol, kind of kidding but true in that I’ve come to understand that I don’t need to be friends with everyone and in the same sense, not everyone wants to be friends with me – and that’s perfectly fine), and soon I found a bunch of friends who liked to sit on the top of the playground monkey bars during lunch time. School in Texas was different; not only did they not have a school uniform, it was my first time going to a co-ed school and friendship groups were largely determined by the type of extracurricular activity you joined. If you were a cheerleader (they start ’em young), you would mainly hang out with your cheer squad and male counterparts from the football team. Similar if you were in band, or orchestra. I was in a group that pretty much did nothing. Hence the monkey bar sessions.
At this particular school, there was only 1 other asian girl in my classes. I wanted to be friends with her, but she seemed quite aloof by my approaches. We had English together, and the focus at the time was creative writing. Tasked with creating an imaginative story, I went home to write excitedly, furrowing my brows in thought. When it was time to hand in our assignment, I was happy with my story, being about a magical blue coloured ball (like a bowling ball), that could be a blessing or a curse when handled by a human, depending if you were a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. I’m sure the ideas behind it were naive as can be, but hey, fifth grade alright? A few days later, the teacher gave us back our stories with our marks, and I left it on my desk to do a class activity. When I got back to my desk, my paper was gone. I looked around for a few seconds thinking it may have dropped with people walking around, but then I heard a loud burst of laughter and the asian girl was looking at me whilst laughing and holding up a piece of paper.
“How’s your blue ball, Jenny?” She jeered. The group of people around her laughed in unison. Blood drained from my face and embarrassment crept up my throat. She made a few more undermining remarks about my story before waving it in front of me. I grabbed it and threw it into the bin as soon as I got home, despite the red marker ‘A’ written in the top right hand corner.
I ignored her existence from that day. When I started sitting with the cheerleaders some days at lunch (monkey bars on all other days – never forget where you started) and playing outside with the band nerds after school waiting to get picked up, she came up to me one day and asked if she could sit with me too. ‘No’, I said, ‘you’re mean’.
Why girls are mean? I have no idea, but these things stick to your memory for a lifetime.