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Humble Beginnings

By: Elizabeth Taylor

         As an adolescent, I was afflicted with mad passionate love syndrome. This paralleled disastrously with my late bloomer syndrome seeing as how I was more often than not in the throws of another obsessive crush. Pain and rejection were the shadows in my very own  “Valley of Death.” I would be charitable to myself to even be so boastful as to call it my awkward phase.  I looked up to awkward people, thinking how easy life would be to have it as good as them. I started off as a cute child, relatively unscathed; I floated through life under a vague assumption that everything would be all right, but once I hit about eight years old, I lived the life of an ugly girl until puberty was safely behind me. 

            Wild horses couldn’t drag me back to those years: the changes, the frustration, the unrequited love, the heartache, and that was only the fourth grade. I was never happy as a child. I couldn’t wait to grow up. Adults were always telling me not to wish the best years of my life away. An adult could drive a car, join the peace corpse, fall in love, climb Mt. Everest - as a child I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without asking permission. These were supposed to be the best years of my life?  Helpless, awkward, no control, no say? I couldn’t believe that this was as good as it was going to get. I still get anxious when I think about those days. Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself that no one can make me go back.

            When I speak of my ugly years, my mother insists that I wasn’t all that bad, but I think we can both agree that I came from humble beginnings.  For starters, I have red hair, one of those traits people come to appreciate as they get older. Children, on the other hand, see red hair as weird and therefore label you as some kind of dork. I have grown to love my hair over the years, but during the black plague I knew as my pubescent existence, it was very brassy and orange and texturally problematic. My hair is wild and curly, but I never knew that as a child because from the moment I got out of the bathtub, my mom would be waiting with a hard bristled brush to scour through all twenty inches of my nappy tresses. My sister and I had extremely long hair. It was borderline weird religion long.  My mom said it was our crowning glory. We hated it passionately.  To top off this awesome look, my mom thought it would be a good idea to cut some bangs for me. I’m sure she meant well, she was probably just trying to hide my puffy, greasy face.  I never wore my bangs all big and teased like they did in the eighties and early nineties either. I wasn’t that cool. My bangs were too thick on a short forehead off set by a cowlick and probably trimmed crooked.

            Sorely dissatisfied with my orange brillow pad textured mop, I coveted any girl who could get through the day without a single flyaway. I would sit at my desk at school and daydream about having a blonde or brunette bob. In my dreams, my hair would hang perfectly straight and smooth all day long and would never tangle.  My reality was a frizzy, matted, puffy, glob. I must have seemed so weird when I was little. I would openly stare at people all the time in envy.

My hair wasn’t my only problem. I was pale too  - not fair, but pale.  My Mother has Middle Eastern blood on her side, so I ended up with this confused Irish-Arabic complexion, which without a tan looks sallow.  Until I was old enough to start tanning, I was stuck with pale, jaundice-y, oily skin. I was never skinny like the other little girls. I maintained a shapeless layer of high fructose corn cushioning. I wouldn’t say that I was fat. I just looked swollen. I wish I could at least say that I had personality going for myself like the real fat girls did, but I didn’t even have that.  I was painfully shy, and with all of my worries at home and lack of any friends because of a girl I’ll call Crystal, I was depressed and insecure all of the time.

So there I was, in fourth grade, in all my glory and I was in love again. It was looking pretty bleak on my end. I hadn’t been in a mutual relationship since kindergarten. All my love was unrequited. One would think after all of this fruitless longing that I would’ve given up on relationships, but my desperation would never let me.

            This time it was Brandon Wagnor. He was the cutest guy in our class. He may have been the cutest guy in fourth grade, period. It goes without saying that he was miles out of my league. I took for granted that he was completely unaware of my existence. So I was less than subtle about starring at him all day long like a hungry lion drooling over a freshly baked Christmas ham. Brandon was a babe. He had a bowl cut that he parted on the side. It swooped up and over like a brunette wave crashing down on his left temple, very “Saved By The Bell.” He was ever so slightly tanned with a few freckles that seemed to dance across his cheekbones.  His eyes sparkled like pools of water and I thought maybe, just maybe, one day they would look at me, and I would swim around inside of them.

Sadly, our love could never happen because Brandon was going with Tori Golson. Tori was the skinniest girl ever. Her legs came straight up to the mosquito bites she kept tucked under her training bra. My legs only came up to my butt. On some days they seemed even shorter than that.  The real kicker was her perfectly smooth, platinum blonde, bob haircut. There was no competition. It was pathetic. She had even been to concerts - given they were Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus, but still. I had hardly been taken out of the house.

Their happiness absolutely killed me. They’d sit together at lunch. She would sit and watch him play basketball at recess. They’d giggle and pass notes with tiny, precious gifts inside, for example, a Garth Brooks safety pin. I knew the ins and outs of the whole sauga because I was the pathetic, obsessive stalker who starred from just over there.

One day, things changed, seemingly for no reason. He just quit paying attention to her. I speculated on this new development. One of her protégés dropped a note off at Brandon’s desk. It was from Tori. He was sitting in front of me and I could see the note. I sat up on my knees so I could read it.

“Don’t you want me anymore?” she tearfully wrote. Inside the note was the Garth Brooks pin he’d given her as a love gift.   

“Want me?” What was that supposed to mean? It seemed so adult, so definitive. The word “want” seemed to suggest something mature and sexual in tone – too advanced for me. I know that children go through different phases of pseudo erotic psychological sexual development, but I thought it was exhibited by playing “house” or “doctor,” not by having some one want you. I had a sinking feeling the whole mess of it was out of my league, the guy, the notes, the pressure. Little did I know that soon I’d be getting a glimpse into this drama filled world of lust and betrayal and it would be much more than I’d bargained for.  

The whole Tori and Brandon thing blew over. I loved Brandon more than ever and would admire him from a far. I would spend countless hours daydreaming about how my love and I would finally come to be.  I’d get lost in my chapter summaries, playing out ridiculous scenarios that no fourth grader would ever be involved in. In one of my daydreams, Brandon and I were the only two survivors in a plane crash. We’d be stranded on a beautiful tropical island for months, maybe even years before we were rescued. Of course we’d be expert hunters and gatherers. We would have built an immaculate hut and run around in skimpy, tattered clothing and become very tanned and thin. We’d be ever so happy spending our lives together in solitude. It was all very “Blue Lagoon”. I don’t know what we were doing on that plane or where we thought we were headed, but it didn’t matter. It was a dream.

Things seemed almost eerily calm one sleepy afternoon at school. My teacher was suffering from another one of her migraines. She let us watch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” after lunch. I hated that kid who played Charlie. I had my chair pushed back and I sat on the edge of it with my head on my desk. I had almost drifted off to sleep when, all of a sudden, I felt something behind me. Brandon, the stud had snuck up behind me and slid down into my chair so that he was straddling me from behind. I was in total shock. This was my greatest dream turned worst nightmare. Time stood still. I had no idea how to react to this developing situation.

All I could hear was my mother’s voice saying, “some girls grow up so fast, I’m so glad you’re not like that.” I quickly jumped up and acted appalled and disgusted, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d show up throwing rocks at my bedroom window later or bring me flowers to school and confess his undying for me.

“I thought you wanted Tori,” I’d say.

“No,” he’s gently respond, “ it’s always been you.”

I sat back down in my seat and assumed the same position I’d been in before. Evidently, it had been a pretty provocative one because in an instant Brandon’s long legs were once again cradled around me from behind. I felt like such a sinner. I prayed god wouldn’t judge me. I prayed even harder that he wouldn’t tell my mom. I acted appalled again at his brutish come-ons, yet again he persisted a third time. My refusal only seemed to fuel his fire. Unsatisfied with our current blooming physical relationship, he began humping me like a small animal as the entire class looked on in wonder and judgment. I felt so cheap – like some tawdry porn star. What had come over him? He never acted this way with Tori? This time when I jumped out of my seat and kicked him out he didn’t come back. He never came back.  

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