The first year I was in public school was the fourth grade. Another new school in a new school district and I did not know anyone, had not grown up with those children. Private school kids can be mean, but public school kids are meaner.
There was a girl - she was skinny, with long brown hair and holes in the knees of her jeans (jeans? kids get to wear jeans to school here? rad.)
She did not have friends; the other kids told me she was a witch, that she could hurt you without even touching you. Well, I came from a Catholic school and I totally believed that. Some people just got the Devil in them, and apparently this girl did too.
She was quiet. She sat by herself and she read. Everyone avoided her, except for the girls who were mean to her.
One day, I saw her work her deep, black magic. A boy was playing on a playground toy; it was a strange toy, made up of metal pipes with a bench for sitting. The toy was dome-shaped, and that bench was in the middle. I have never seen a toy like this since.
The boy, sitting on the bench inside the dome-shaped toy, called out to the little girl as she was walking past. Something rude, and she stopped dead in her tracks. She turned toward the boy and slowly started to walk over to him. He made an exaggerated show of scooting backwards away from her, as though he were afraid she really would hurt him. She walked closer and closer and he scooted farther and farther back on his bench, until he ran out of bench and fell over backwards. As he toppled slowly backwards he smacked his head on the metal pipes that made up the dome-toy.
Adults came running and carried the boy off; his eyes here glassy and he had a righteous lump forming on the back of his head.
I am pretty sure I had joined my peers in taunting that little girl; I discovered that you can fit in with others by behaving the way they do, and I am sure that I was mean to her just as the others were.
Until that day, when I saw her do no more than stand in front of a boy. She wasn't a witch; she had merely figured out how to turn people's own fears against them. People gave away their power to her, and she used that power. I am certain I thought she was exceedingly clever after that.
I got to know her a little bit throughout that school year. I shared my lunches with her because she never got more than PB&J (which I NEVER got) and I got vienna sausages (which I thought were gag-worthy and she loved because you could spear them with a stick and eat them in one bite).
We moved again before the year was out and fourth graders don't keep in touch with one another. I never saw that little girl again and I wonder about her. Where is she now? Is she a doctor or an artist or a scientist? Does she write books about flowers and track the migration patterns of small birds? Did she stay in Sacramento? Maybe she is a psychologist, teaching people how to manage their fears and retain control of their power? Maybe she has children, and she gives them peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and vienna sausages in their lunch.
I don't remember that little girl's name; I don't remember the name of the school we attended together. I doubt I can ever find her again, but I hope that she surrounds herself with people who treat her with more kindness than our child-peers did.
And if not, I totally hope she still intimidates people into hurting their own selves like fools.