A simple story about how people's actions affect the "invisible" ones
Maybe she wasn’t such a bad person. If she had lived, maybe she would have been something that would have amazed us all. Everyone tries to believe this, or so I assume. I try to anyway. It’s just that no one wants to be such a horrible person that they think mean thoughts about someone who’s dead. So I say that maybe she could have been really great, just no one had given her a chance. I say again that, would she have lived, she would have amazed us all—scratch the maybe. This is what I said at her eulogy and this is what I said to her mother and father. This is what I told myself firmly, so that I could believe it.
Of course I don’t really believe it. Who could? It was Julia. She was going to stay exactly what she was her entire life. There was no escape for her, no way out of it. She would remain
a nothing forever, and now she had only cemented that fact by killing herself. So we say to ourselves, “well isn’t that just the saddest thing ever?” and we move on. She now has created a memory in people’s minds and hey, isn’t that better than being a nothing? A day’s worth or so of memories would brighten anyone’s days. Julia at least has that. Had she died naturally, would anyone even have shown up at her funeral? My guess is no. At least not the whole school. She should feel proud. And I did that for her. The day I kissed her.
There had been no drum rolls to signify that day. There had been no fireworks or blasting horns. There had been only one bored kid—one bored me. It had been one of those days. One of those days where your body just shrieks for something to do, anything. One of those days when that bored echo had rang through everyone until there was not a person untouched and unlistless. God I hated those days, when there is only school and work and nothing to brighten one’s spirits. So, I began looking for a spirit-brightener. About halfway through lunch I found one. Julia Gordon.
Julia was a
senior. She was just a nerd. That’s all she was—a geek with absolutely no form of deliverance from that status. She wore glasses the size and thickness of a polar ice cap and she had this way of breathing through her mouth that would have driven Mother Theresa to homicide. Her hair was never brushed and it sprung out of her head in clumps and nests that could harbor at least ten rats if they could stand the fact that she—purportedly—never washed it. I can’t adequately describe her in a way that would make anyone truly see that the moment they met her they would hate her; I just don’t know how. Just to say that she had the same effect on people as fingernails on a chalkboard. In short she has the effect that people like her have on the rest of us.
So when my eyes fell on Julia I knew all of a sudden what I was going to do, how I was going to spike up the day. I cleared my throat and stood up. The eyes of my table companions fell on me and I felt their eyes on my back as I walked to where Julia was sitting. When I got to her table (she was sitting alone reading) I looked back at my table, winked, and then turned back to Julia. By this time she had registered my presence and had put her book down. I took a breath and held it, so as not to smell her, then guided her up by the shoulders and kissed her. It wasn’t a very long kiss, but certainly more than a peck, and then I set her back down and walked back to my table—wading through the silent cafeteria and grinning and swaggering, every bit of my cool showing.
I sometimes wonder whether or not that cool saunter would have faltered had I known then that three weeks later she would be dead. Sometimes I don’t think so, and those are the only times I have ever felt guilty.
Then the entire cafeteria exploded into applause, starting with my table and then spreading throughout the room. Sort of funny isn’t it? That reaction? I mean, no one would touch Julia with a ten-foot pole and I was getting this kind of reaction for kissing her. I guessed it was just because it was me.
And that was how it happened. That was how it became a game. Suddenly guys would just walk up and kiss Julia as she was walking along in the hall, or eating lunch, or sitting in class. I hear some girls even did it. And Julia would smile and laugh her horrible little squealing laugh and she never even knew it was an insult until about 3 weeks later when she killed herself because of
it. I know it was definitely girls that brought the stinging point that she was nothing but a giant joke home for her. It was because she knew that fact that she committed suicide. Girls can be pretty brutal. Also, I have the sneaking suspicion that some of them were getting jealous. Of course it was more of an insult to Julia than anything else, but they weren’t getting kissed all the time, were they?
Anyway, this was a hell of a good time for Julia, being that she had no idea about the game behind the smooches she was receiving on an hourly, sometimes minutely basis all of a sudden. Actually, we had a pretty nice system of scoring going. 10 points for an anytime kiss, bonus points for doing it during class, using tongue, or copping a feel. There always needed to be a witness and the more the merrier; over 50 witnesses warranted extra points. I never kissed her after the first time, because by then it was a fad and I wanted to be the leader—the starter, not the follower. I believe that Jordan King had the most points, at about 570. Maybe closer to 625, I’m not really sure. I won anyway. For the First-Time bonus my place was secure as the world champion.
And then a very funny thing happened. She came up to me in the hall. Should I say that again? She came up to me. She smiled at me in some grotesque way that she must have deemed flirtatious. Then, while I was too stunned to move she stood up on her tiptoes and kissed me! Right on the lips. Okay, I feel another reiteration is needed so here: SHE kissed ME! ON THE LIPS!
Her eyes said she was serious. Very serious.
“Do you love me?” She asked, quite seriously. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to help it. I laughed in her face. Then I laughed some more. The people who had been in hearing distance laughed. It spread. It rang, it echoed, it reflected off of everything and was everywhere. Julia, still standing before me, looked very confused. She looked around, smiling uncertainly as if she would get the joke any second, she just knew she would. Two girls came out of the laughing hallway and took Julia by the arm. I recognized them as Fiona Harting and Elizabeth Young, two of my friends who I had flirted with both equally. They led Julia by the arm and, still laughing, I gave a small parting wave to Julia, who was looking back at me, more confused than ever.
So Fiona and Liz told dear Julia what was what. They made it crystal clear that she was nothing but a joke, an idiot, did she actually believe anyone liked her at all? Could she even be liked? They, being girls, did the act venomously sweet, as if they were simply helping her to realize facts, and that was all. And Julia was helped. She was helped so much she decided to take a long walk off a short stool with a rope around her neck. Who cares? School was less boring for a month, the three weeks we were playing with Julia, and the one-week spent mourning—well, thinking about—her death. I still say she should be proud of that four weeks. It was the most attention she was ever likely to get even if she had lived till she was ninety. And now she’s gone. Good riddance to the whole deal.
I’m kinda bored.