Even after twenty years, her mom ignored my friend request.
It could have been for any number of reasons, hell she might not even remember me, and I expected it, but I know the most likely reason. After having a daughter of my own, one thing I know with absolute certainty is that moms never forget their daughter’s pain.
I still can’t really explain why I did it. My face burns with leftover shame even as I type this.
Our brothers were friends. She was one of the only girls on that cheerleading squad who was nice to me. Not because she wanted to date my brother, not because she wanted me to talk so she could make fun of my awkwardness behind my back, or tell the boy I had a crush on that I liked him so they could laugh at what a loser I was, she was just a nice person.
She knew, better than I did, what it felt like to be a target of the insecurity of her peers.
We were at a summer cheerleading camp. I did not possess the pep for a weeklong UCA camp. I did not feel chipper, and I did not feel like dancing in public. If I could have, I would have shoved that spirit stick up everyone’s ass and twisted it. That was my favorite daydream. There was nothing genuine about my spirit fingers. I still don’t know why I ever thought cheerleading would be fun. I hated almost everything about it except for the front row view of my brother’s games in a town ruled by football and the illusion of being one of them.
The hot UCA counselor was flirting with her all day instead of them. They wanted his attention, but popularity in our high school didn’t translate on this campus–a glimpse into life after SHS, ladies. It set off my own insecurities. I was completely invisible except for a puff of impossibly curly hair. No one flirted with me anywhere. I was used to it, but I still had the same envy.
We got back to the hotel that night, and I heard them whispering, giggling, and plotting.
“Let’s write her a note from him, it’ll be so funny.”
“I bet she goes to meet him.”
“She loves the attention. What a slut.”
They tried to change their bubbly handwriting and omit the hearts from their dotted i’s but it still looked like a note written by a jealous girl.
I’m not even sure how it happened. They asked me if I could write like a boy, and I could. I honestly had to spend time practicing to make my handwriting look loopy and cute.
I turned over a writing sample, and they were delighted.
“Oh my god, you write just like your brother.”
Gross. I wish my brother could see you right now. Maybe he’d understand why I told him you weren’t good enough for him and called you a dirty pirate hooker.
It was the first time any of them had really talked to me all week. I guess I wanted their attention more than I realized. If I’m honest, it felt nice to be part of the joke instead of being the butt of the joke.
They dictated and I wrote down the hateful words. My stomach was in knots the entire time.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. DON’T DO THIS.
I finished it, and signed the name with a final, fake guy scribble.
One of them handed her the note after she got out of the shower.
“Oh my god, Nick just dropped this off, he’s totally into you.”
Her face fell as she read it. She knew immediately it was a joke, but I saw the crack in her composure right before she played it off and acted like it didn’t bother her.
I’m sure they saw it too.
I had no idea how quickly they would turn on me, but really I should have.
“Oh come on, it’s just a joke. Rachelle wrote it. You know you love the attention. We’re just joking around.”
I couldn’t look her in the eye.
I did write it.
I was the mean girl that day.
We were punished for our prank, but I don’t remember what the punishment was. Probably painting extra run through signs in the heat of the Texas summer.
My punishment was her face. The hurt in her eyes. That moment when I knew that I was no better than any of them because the first time I had the opportunity to be shitty to someone else to fit in, I took it. Even though I knew it was wrong. Even though I knew exactly how it felt to be singled out and made fun of for no reason.
I thought I was better than a movie cliché. That I would never be a mean girl because I knew all too well how it felt.
I was wrong.
It didn’t matter that I felt terrible, or that I apologized, or even that I never did anything like that again.
I joined them that day, and I can’t ever take it back.
Twenty years later, and the girl I wrote the note to accepted my friend request, but her mom ignored me.