Sunday, April 26, 2009

Skin Deep



I rode the school bus with her every day. Seventh grade was painful enough without having to begin each morning stumbling past The Perfect Girl. Honestly, her older brother got all the good looks in the family; she was the Caroline to his John-John, but she still shone in the reflected glory of his football-team-captain aura.

I would lumber onto the bus, squeezing past her and her chattering friends, to my usual seat, alone, and gaze at their morning tween version of a kaffeeklatsch. In hindsight, she wasn't really that pretty, but she seemed perfect to me. Where I had unruly dirty-blonde curls, she had that 70's-sleek thick, straight chestnut mane. I wore weird aviator-style wire-framed glasses and had two layers of braces on my teeth. She was free from any sort of facial hardware, with smooth flawless skin. She had an uncluttered beauty, at least in my eyes, and I often found myself simply staring at her and her forgettable friends each morning. They gossiped and laughed on the interminable bus ride toward our middle school in a small Connecticut town.

One morning, as she turned around in her seat so she could chat with her girlfriends, The Perfect Girl caught my eye. I must have been watching them, quietly and alone from my seat a few rows back, when she noticed me. She sat up straighter. Her smile melted away and she barked at me, "Take a picture, bitch. It lasts longer." Her friends all turned to look at me, gasping and then squealing with laughter. I quickly turned away, looking out the bus window. My face warmed, I was mortified. I couldn't believe that she had even noticed me at all; I had always felt invisible on that school bus and suddenly a dozen pairs of eyes were looking and laughing at me. She didn't know that I had been looking at her with a mix of admiration and envy. That I thought she was beautiful and confident, where I was still an ugly duckling searching for my footing and losing my way in 7th-grade hell.

I felt as if she had stabbed me.

I never thought of her as The Perfect Girl again.

8 comments:

Ron Southern said...

I hate(d) those 7th grade bitches! (Passions last a long time, don't they?)

VH McKenzie said...

Clearly I've held on to that moment a wee bit too long, eh?

zan said...

junior high school memories... i have a zillion of them, some good, some bad, some really really ugly!

nuh fret pon deh pahst... youve clearly risen way above, even during said experience.

i'm loving the new painting series, energetic and exciting with your special gift for color usage - nice, very nice.

-whole lotta LOVE-
z

moreidlethoughts said...

The agonies we endure at that age!
I only know you through the blog, but hey! you've got pzazz today!

VH McKenzie said...

Heee -- thanks, my friends. It helps that I've also lost both the weird glasses and the braces. Ugly ducklings DO morph into swans.

Don Heller said...

and I'm trying to think back to who you would have been riding the bus with in 7th grade. . . .

Melanie said...

I can commiserate with you--me-glasses and braces top and bottom--then 9th grade--lace sheath dress-date for dance and hair in a flip--they flipped out-ha--those girls can be very cruel.Narcissists all.

LSaeta said...

I am so glad to have found your blog. I really like your painting style. What a painful story. Reminds me of those wonderful (hah) junior high school years .Well done!