During lunch, I sat at a table full of judgemental, wandering eyes. Mine included, I can’t help it, I’m a teenage girl at a private high school. Judging others is in my nature.There was one audible conversation involving the whole table, about the chemistry teacher who was obviously into each of us. “What a perv”. But beyond that, there were so many more conversations happening around the table, only they weren’t spoken. The girl with the perfectly southern, blonde, straight hair peeled apart her sandwich and began scraping peanut butter off of each slice of bread. The girl across from her stopped eating her sandwich and mirrored the blonde by scraping some of the peanut butter off of her own sandwich. The girl to the right of me sat in a chair that didn’t quite fit in the tight circle that surrounded the table. She didn’t fit in the tight circle of girls. She had a strong aroma of fish and B.O. Her clothes were obviously from Walmart or Target and they didn’t always fit right. She sat there tapping her foot, while listening intently to the exclusive conversation the girls were having. I looked up and noticed the girl on the other side of the table who was looking around frantically, as if to see if anyone was talking about her, or even worse, JUDGING her. Her loose black curls flew as she turned her head quickly back to the table. She apparently had too much fun at a party over the weekend. She obviously knows how things work around here. People talk. Everyone knows. And everyone is talking about you.
The bell rings and I watch my students file into the room. Tardy. I wonder if I should say anything, but I don’t. I don’t want to be that teacher. I know they have other things on their minds, and my comment about their timeliness would go in one ear and out the other. I watch them chose their seats at the rectangular desks with two chairs to each. A blob of five chatty, giggling girls wanders into the room. The blonde and the tall brunette grab two chairs at a desk and instruct two of the other girls to sit at the desk behind them. They carry on their conversation but now they’re whispering. The fifth girl stands by the desks hoping that if she stood there long enough, another chair would appear and she could join the girls. But if you’re out, you’re out, and she knows this. She turns away and sits by a boy who doesn’t even acknowledge her when she plops into her seat. The football player and his girlfriend sit at a desk. Obviously he is not as sneaky as he thinks as I can plainly see him slide his hand up her leg under the desk as she suddenly tenses up and her eyes widen. The football player doesn’t even notice and she’s too scared to say anything so she just focuses her attention on her computer that is displaying several pictures of tiny girls in bikinis, pictures of workouts and diet juices. To her right sits two girls with their heads in their books. They scribble down some words, then switch to another textbook and begin working on that subject. Scattered papers cover their desks and I wonder if that’s what their thoughts look like as well. A boy enters the class, dragging his feet across the floor, making his way to the only empty desk in the back. Without looking up once, he slumps his exhausted body into a chair. He itches at an abundant amount of scars on his left arm then rolls the sleeve of his sweatshirt back down. It’s April and warm out, but he always wears a sweatshirt. He lies his head down on his desk. Maybe if he can’t see anyone, no one will see him. But that’s not how it works here. People see him. Everyone’s watching. And everyone is looking at you.
I throw on my school sweatshirt that I thought I would have grown into by now. But I haven’t. I walk into the doors of the school and head over to the rest of the guys. “Dude, sucks you didn’t make the team this year. But Team Manager is cool”. I nod in agreement and lie, “Yeah, I’m actually glad to be manager because like now I can have more time to lift and prepare for lacrosse season, you know?” Not one part of that is true, I hate lifting and I only play lacrosse because I’m good and being good at a school sport here makes people like you. When you’re liked, you’re safe, so I do what I can to impress. When the bell rings I run to class in effort to get the seat next to Cassie, but of course, another kid got there first. They always get to her first. I sit down next to someone I pretend to like and open my laptop. I have several texts from random girls that I’ve been avoiding for a few days. The girls are nice and all, but they’re all the same and I just am not sure I’m into that. A tall brunette comes over to me and places her hand on my back for a little bit longer than I’m comfortable with, “Hey, I heard you didn’t make the team. I’m really sorry, but there’s always lacrosse.” I fake a smile and nod and say thanks. Because that’s how it works around here. People fake smiles. Everyone fakes being friends. And everyone is faking that they like you.