October 3, 2007
By Mary Tsao of Mom Writes (http://marytsao.blogspot.com)
Fourth grade was not a good year for me. I was in a new school in a new town. The school I went to was in a wealthy neighborhood while I lived in a poorer neighborhood, which is another way of saying my family was poor while my classmates' families were not. Plus, I rode the bus to school, which at this school separated the kids who fit in from the kids who didn't. If your mom or dad drove you to school you fit in; if you rode the bus to school you didn't.
Oh, and did I mention that I had a buzz cut because the previous year I had head lice and my mom cut all my hair off? Yes, I was the new girl who had a bad haircut, wore the wrong clothes, lived in the wrong part of town, and rode the bus. All of those reasons combined with the fact that I was a shy, introverted kid who preferred reading books over playing sports or
gossiping, meant that I did not have many friends. And when I write that I did not have many friends, I mean that I had no friends at all.
But one day all of that changed. On that day, a cute little girl with short brown hair, a smattering of freckles across her nose, and a squeaky voice, decided that she wanted to be my friend, my best friend. I had a friend! I started to like going to school.
My friend and I met up in the schoolyard after the bus dropped me off. We talked about life, and she confided in me that she was trying to stop biting her nails. She showed me how she coated her chewed-up nails in a mixture of hot sauce and vinegar so that she wouldn't be inclined to bite them. She said it hurt her fingers and that she was growing to like the taste of hot sauce, but I was impressed. She was the first person I knew who was actively trying to improve herself. She seemed so mature.
She also had the kind of family life that I dreamed of having, the kind with a mother and a father, a brother, and a dog. I lived with my single mom and my twin sister; I idolized anybody who had the things I didn't have. she introduced me to the concept of talking on the phone, and one night we talked for hours. I ended up getting in trouble because my mom's boyfriend kept getting a busy signal when he called our house, but it was worth it. I had a friend.
Until the day I went to school and she had a new friend. That was the day she told me that she and the other girl had discussed it, and they had decided that best friends don't come in threes. I was the odd girl out. Literally. And with those harsh words spoken in a matter-of-fact tone and before the first bell rang, I no longer had a friend.
I don't remember how long our friendship lasted. I don't think it was very long. I don't remember the girl's name or much about her except for what I've told you. The thing that I remember most vividly is how she put hot sauce on her fingers. Looking back, it seems appropriate that a girl who liked hurting herself--even if it was in the name of self improvement--would think nothing of hurting me.
It was difficult, but I managed to survive fourth grade. I kept to myself, read a lot of books, and buried myself in imaginary worlds where best friends are reliable and if they're not, justice is swiftly served.
I went to a different school for fifth grade and for various reasons, my life improved. I had several close friends and I didn't feel as alone, different, or isolated as I did in fourth grade. I never did get another best girlfriend, though. Having one best friend in a lifetime is enough for me.