Last Wednesday morning, as usual, I went to my favorite bathroom. It’s right between the entrance of the school and the hall that leads to the main classrooms, so I can make sure I didn’t line just one eye or put my shirt on backwards before I walk into class.
Then, in an open stall across the bathroom, I saw my name. “Ruby?” it said. I had no idea what it meant, but it pissed me off, so I started trying to get it off, but it was in permanent marker. Grr.
Later that day I pulled my friend into the bathroom to show her the “Ruby?” and ask if she knew what it meant. There was one thing I had missed before: it said “BURN WALL” above it in red. Three people had made their “burns” already since I got to school: TOTAL FREAK. Emo. Secret slut. Weird. I wasn’t the only name there, but mine had the most (and meanest) comments.
I tried to make myself believe that all of the comments were probably from one mean girl who was having a bad day (and carried three different pens). But they probably weren’t. Maybe that’s what people think of me. I’m weird, a freak, an emo… and a “secret slut,” whatever that means. “Aw, that’s so mean!” said my friend, and she took a picture of the wall with her cell phone. I told her I didn’t care and that was the end of it.
Our school is Quaker. A couple days a week we all have Quaker meetings in the Meeting House, where we basically just sit in silence for 40 minutes. If someone has something important to say during that time, they stand up and say it. Then the silence continues. Most kids consider this a boring time. I love it, even though I’m not Quaker. It lets me think. Not necessarily about God, but about everything in my life. It’s a nice break from the world.
The next meeting we had was very quiet. Nobody shuffled around or coughed or got up to go to the bathroom. Everyone was waiting for something. Everyone was just waiting.
I felt the pressure build, pushing down on me, forcing me further into my bench. I had spoken in a meeting only once, and it was a generic comment about how wonderful my education is during Thanksgiving, and a bunch of other people had gone before and after me. I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t want anyone to notice me.
The eerie silence continued until I couldn’t wait anymore. I stood up. Every head turned, much more noisily than I would have liked. I just stood there for a second, and then I cleared my throat. All eyes were on me.
“I noticed something on the bathroom wall this week.” I heard a few muffled ohs. They weren’t the eye-rolling kind, though. I continued my speech.
I don’t know exactly what I said. I don’t know if I got really into it and started yelling or moving around, and I didn’t know if I started to cry or laugh or if I did nothing. I hope I didn’t swear, but I can’t be sure. The whole thing was a three-minute blur, and it felt amazing. Everyone was listening to me! The girls who pushed passed me in the halls listened, the boys who made fun of my clothes listened, my friends who I didn’t really connect with before listened, and the other people who were on the burn wall just listened as I talked.
I said my closing line, and then paused to breathe and take in what had just happened. I looked around, and sat. For a moment, everything was quiet.
Then, out of nowhere, like something falling onto concrete, I heard applause. In a Quaker meeting. I had made people clap where they weren’t allowed to! I didn’t know what to think, because I hadn’t thought.
It was what I needed. I let myself be vulnerable, and nothing bad happened. A feeling came over me that I can only describe as healing. ♦