by Haven B.
Short vignette about a hard middle school experience.
Long black hair cascades down her straight back, a sharp contrast to her frosty white cardigan. Together we stroll through the twisting hallways, listening to our muffled footsteps. "Selfish," she states. I feel my eyebrows pull together, imitating confusion and concern. But a knot of worry has already formed in my gut. Selfish, a dreaded word. It is okay to be flawed in so many ways, okay not to be perfect. But to be selfish is an irreversible crime. No matter how much you change, you will always be selfish. I find myself unable to look at her eyes, eyes like chocolate moons, so I train my vision on the beige wall in front of us.
"Selfish," she repeats. "That's what you are." Instantly the worry blooms and I feel nauseous, like I have been punched in my stomach after a giant meal. Selfish, a vicious word. It lashes out with angry claws to latch on to me, and wraps its spindly fingers around my neck. No air. Impossible to breathe. But to combat the pain my mind begins to spit out retorts and excuses. I'm not selfish--I did this, I did that. But the only thought that surfaces is one of complete denial. She's lying.
We must have continued walking because we turn to the left and begin to traverse a new corridor. Suddenly the girl pauses and her movements are fluid as she pivots to face me. Her thin lips are curled up into a sly smile and her piercing gaze forces me to look up. "Don't deny it. You know it's true." In a flash the excuses dissipate and it feels although a piece of the puzzle has clicked into place. Selfish, a familiar word. It lets go of my neck and squeezes me into a cold embrace. She's right, I am selfish.
I am so caught up in this revelation I don't even notice that we have started to walk again. My thoughts buzz around, but I can't seem to focus on any one in particular. And then, with no apparent cue, she starts to talk about something else. Just as abruptly as she began, she stops. Without batting an eye she dismissed the entire scene. I bet she never thinks about that moment, I bet she has forgotten. But for me, it is still on my mind.