By Kate, age 15, PennsylvaniaEditor's Note: This is a true story. The names have been changed.
I am sitting on the roof of my school with the two most socially inept girls in my grade. My teacher forced me to leave my table and associate with them. Jessie Reynolds is ugly and a little chubby. Her face is covered in blackheads, and her hair is frizzy and huge. It is almost as if an animal has built a nest on her head. Jessie is in love with every boy in our class. In high school, she will send nude pictures of herself to about half of them. But this is eighth grade, and her insecurities manifest themselves in the shape of pathetic crushes on every male in our class. Jessie eats a cheesesteak as she gazes lovingly at Isaac Schmidt, who is laughably out of her league.
Nancy Moore is new this year. We don't know where she went to school before, but she seems to know every root word in the English language. In her spare time, she reads the dictionary. Nancy is witty, and is only "socially awkward" because of her huge glasses, which make her resemble Urkel from Family Matters, and because she insists on correcting her peers in casual conversation. I think she will fit in eventually. I decide to introduce her to my friend Linda, who has a very high tolerance for annoying personalities. I grab Nancy, and we go downstairs to find her. We leave Jessie on the roof. She's a lost cause.
Nancy has something to tell me. Grinning, she grabs me by the hand and pulls me to our lunch table, where a few of our mutual friends are already sitting. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She tells us she hooked up with James over the weekend. Our smiles fade. James is a stupid druggie. He is incapable of following conversations due to his frequent use of any and all illegal substances. We are unimpressed with her lack of taste.
"She's a crazy b****," Richard whispers, smirking. I nod solemnly. Nancy doesn't hear him. She often complains that she feels left out of our conversations. My sadistic friends refuse to explain what they're talking about. Sometimes we fight about this. Today I don't press the issue.
James is seeing someone else. Nancy has been crying all day. She painted her nails black in Geometry. Our teacher was shocked. He made her sit in the hall and write a three-page essay about the importance of decorum in the classroom. Her parents, who are extremely strict, will be notified. Nancy doesn't care. She misses James. No one has any idea how to react to this information. We nod politely. I stare at my cheesesteak, which is disgusting and almost inedible. Nancy is too distressed to eat. She buys a salad with no dressing. Brian offers her part of a Hershey bar, which she accepts but doesn't actually eat. She plays with her food for 40 minutes, still sobbing about James. Brian tells Richard that he wants his chocolate back.
Nancy has a new friend with benefits. His name is Steven. We all thought it was impossible for her to find someone more undesirable than James, who has been expelled for having pot in his locker. We were wrong.
Steven is Goth. He listens to terrible live versions of eighties metal songs on his iPod Classic in every class. Our principal is forcing him to leave this year because of his abysmal grades.
According to Nancy, he's smart, but doesn't try in school. Apparently, the delusional freak "doesn't believe in the establishment." I tell Nancy that hippies were only cool in the sixties. Nancy tells me to have a more open mind.
Nancy and Steven smoke in the school parking lot every day. She'd smoked pot with James, but never frequently. Steven claims he doesn't believe in pot, which actually means he doesn't know where to buy it. He smokes cigarettes that his college friend Chuck buys for him. Nancy's grades are slipping. She buys Adderall from Steven, which helps her stay awake to study. This only happens theoretically. In reality, Nancy hasn't cracked a book open since September.
She has also stopped eating. Originally, she would buy a meal and pretend to eat it. Nancy would poke at her food with a fork, and then throw it out. Now, she's stopped pretending. All of her lunch money goes toward cigarettes and pills.
Steven doesn't want anything else to do with Nancy. He tells Nancy that she's too ugly for him, that their non-relationship was just practice. I don't know if Nancy is upset about it. She can't pay attention to anything for very long anymore.
At lunch, we talk about Maria Wilson. She has a new boyfriend, Michael, who is remarkably less interesting when your 83 pound best friend is sitting next to you, shaking. I don't know what Nancy is on. I don't think she knows either. Yesterday, she broke into her parents' medicine cabinet and swallowed pills randomly. Even Richard has stopped mocking her. He's concerned.
All of Nancy's clothes are much too big now. She pins them sloppily. It looks messy. Her nails are painted black. She's become obsessive about her manicure - it's the one part of herself that she takes care of. Nancy paints each hand four or five times a day, in most of her classes. She writes on her fingers. Today, they say: F*** F*** F*** F*** EVERYONE.
Sometimes, she starts to cry arbitrarily, without any provocation. She does this today. I hug her. Her neck smells like cigarettes and nail polish. I wonder whether she remembers any Latin words. That was her defining trait when we met. In eighth grade, she enjoyed having conversations that revolved around the obscure origins of complicated words with eight syllables. I ask her if she remembers any Latin. She stares at me, then laughs.
"Wait, what? Oh, wow ..." Her laughter is maniacal. People are staring. I leave the table. I want to forget about her. She's a lost cause.
I'm on the phone with my friend Elizabeth. Her boyfriend just broke up with her. Besides being the ex-love of her life, William Taylor is one of my best friends. I'm attempting to be neutral in the ensuing fights after their breakup. Elizabeth is Israel, Taylor is Palestine, I am Switzerland. Being Switzerland is surprisingly difficult.
My phone beeps. I have a text from Nancy. Elizabeth demands that I read the message to her, but I'm not even sure if I want to open it. We debate the issue for about ten minutes. Finally, I take the plunge and read the following:
hey! i hate 2 ask u 2 do this ... but steven wants 2 hook up again. can i say im at ur house? thx
Elizabeth curses. We try to insult Nancy's mother in Spanish, but it sounds stupid. We give up and fall back on English. I don't even consider the request. Nancy is not my friend anymore. I don't even know who she is right now.
I delete the text.