I believe it was 7th grade. Maybe 8th. They all blend together into one mess. One struggle. One fight. One fight I arguably lost.
I was in french immersion from preschool until grade 9, which meant I was with the same 20~ kids for 10 years. You would think that amount of time would result in lifelong friendships, and many of them. The truth is that they did, just not for me.
I imagine anyone reading this has a chance of being somewhat like me. Never quite understood, often mocked, and never envied. I had friends, and only one I felt I would be close with for the rest of my life. I don’t know how you can know something like that at 5 years old, but it felt like I did. I won’t go into that friendship right now, as it hurts me to even think about.
What I will talk about is one CAPP class in what I now believe to be 8th grade, as I went into 7th grade hopeful. I was not hopeful during that class. “Career and Personal Planning”. Was this a common class? I’d honestly never heard of it before. Then again, I’d never had to really think about my career, or personal plans. The class intrigued me, as it was one of the only ones that I didn’t feel like I could fail in. Who fails that kind of class? If anyone, it would have been me.
The teacher was a bubbly spirit who we’ll name Mrs. R. Her spirit would be temporarily crushed by my rambunctious classmates over the 3 years we spent at that school. Along with CAPP, she taught Science as well as a couple elective classes (sewing and food, both of which I also enjoyed).
And after the day I’m writing about, I couldn’t stand her.
I wish I could describe how the day actually began. That would make a better narrative. All I can remember is the moment leading up to a very dangerous confession that could have ended my pathetic existence.
She took out a cardboard box and placed it on her desk in front of us. She then handed out a piece of paper to everyone and told us to write down a secret that we wouldn’t mind being read aloud, but completely anonymous. Being the gossip fiends 13 year olds can be, nearly every one of us ooooooh-ed with anticipation. Some began writing furiously, others stared at the paper for a few minutes. I began to write the beginning of my “secret” but paused half way through.
I wondered if anyone else’s secret would be as bad as mine. Was anyone else as frustrated and lonely as I was? As it turns out, no. No one in that room was, or at least they weren’t ready to admit it.
I wrote my secret down and put it into the box. Mrs. R shook the box dramatically and everyone laughed nervously. I had goosebumps as she reached in to read the first one.
“I didn’t shower today.”
Mrs. R laughed and we all eewww-ed despite the fact that I guarantee 75% of the class didn’t shower daily. Someone across the room pushed on the boy sitting in front of him and said “That’s gotta be you, S****!” The boy laughed but shook his head. Mrs. R looked around the room, then back to the paper. She raised her eyes and said “This isn’t a secret. Who wrote this?”
The room went silent. My heart started to pound. She wasn’t serious, was she?
Another boy raised his hand. Everyone laughed.
Mrs. R reached in and took out another slip of paper. I can’t remember any of the other secrets, as all I was thinking about was whether or not she expected us to admit what we wrote. That’s exactly what she did. One by one, a secret was read and another hand went up. My breath would catch as she began to read the next one, and I’d exhale deeply when it wasn’t mine.
She got to the end, and there were only 3 slips left. She took one out, read it, and then closed it. “I’m not reading that one.” She shook her head and put it in her pocket. Was my secret that repulsive that she had the grace to not out me? I hoped it was, and wasn’t at the same time.
She pulled out the second to last paper and seemed to pause before reading it. She glanced around the room, perhaps knowing that this particular secret could destroy someone, and yet knowing only 3 people could be responsible for the secret, she read it anyway.
“Sometimes I hate my friends.”
Silence. Deafening silence. Soon chairs squeaked as faces turned to look at someone else. They were trying to figure out who hadn’t confessed yet. I prayed they weren’t keeping track, but I know a few were.
Mrs. R looked around the room as well and her eyes landed on me. She narrowed her eyes and quietly asked “Was that you?” and I shook my head immediately. She knew it was me. I waited. I waited for everyone to look in my direction. I waited for the whispers. I waited to be shoved in the hallway. I waited to be cast out by my minuscule circle of friends. I waited and waited and waited.
Nothing ever happened. It was as if it never happened. No one mentioned it, and I’ll never know if anyone actually cared. Perhaps everyone shared that secret. At 13, emotions are wild. There was very little grey area in my mind at that time. Either I liked someone or I hated them. A number of people undoubtedly hated me. Perhaps it was all par for the course.
I really wish I understood her motive for doing this. Perhaps she thought it would bring us closer. Maybe she did bring some closer. Just not for me.
P.S The last secret was “I wish I hadn’t failed science class.” It was written by the one person who was held back from the grade above ours. Some secret.