Girls Like Me

By Vivianne Goode All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

The Girl With The Neon Orange Thong

The Popular Bitch (aka Addison Holland)

The lunchroom is filled to the brim with chatter and the stench of bologna by the time I get there. The bologna smell is kind of a constant, whether you come to the lunchroom when it’s emptier than the Anime Club meetings or fuller than the stands of that one football game last year where all the cheerleaders were bribed to not wear any underwear and it was a sure thing that at least half of them would do it. But the cafeteria only reaches this level of noise and commotion at the peak of our lunch hour. The freaks sitting at the table closest to the entrance, in close proximity to the gigantic trash bins filled with mystery meat and condom wrappers, stare at me as I walk past them, taking a break from their Pokemon Go. Didn’t that game die out a year ago? If it didn’t, it should have.

More heads snap up as I walk by, their prying eyes, mostly from the girls, taking in my every move. I can practically feel their envious eyes scraping me up and down for any imperfection or crack in my perfect appearance. Feeling and looking down at their own scratchy, unflattering clothing on their loose bodies and picturing my effortlessly stylish outfit on themselves. Like they could pull it off.

Being as late as I am to lunch would be a death sentence for an insecure introvert with no friends. If the anxiety-inducing walk through the sea of their hungry, judgemental peers wasn’t enough to send them scurrying to the safety of the library, the desperate search for a place to sit amongst the rigid cliques would finish them off. I’m never this late to lunch. Harper usually waits for me outside my fourth-period class and we walk in, always about three minutes after the bell rings, to the lunchroom. I’m never making the walk through the middle aisle of the lunchroom alone, without Harper’s side to lean into or Harper’s mindless chatter to focus my attention on. Without another person there to brave the stares of my peers with.

I try not to, but I feel it. That slight tugging in the pit of my stomach, anxious to be relieved by my sitting down, away from the center of attention. The center of attention is usually where I thrive. The center of attention and I have been best friends ever since 5th grade when my boobs came in but my knowledge of the existence of good bras didn’t. But there’s something about this walk that knocks me off balance, like an invisible force that just thumps my confidence onto its ample backside.

My sister always gets on my case about how important it is to stand straight and insists I call her the “Posture Angel’ even though her dance class attendance (where she no doubt learned all the gibberish from) lasted less than two weeks. Three lessons, to be exact. Three lessons of dance and the most she got out of it was the act of ‘feeling the string’. The ‘string’ was an imaginary line pulling your body up straight by your head, straightening your posture. I usually always feel the string, standing up straight without even thinking about it, with all the badgering and ‘lessons’ from Chloe. But as the distance between me and the entrance increases, I feel more and more strained. Like I have to work at standing up straight. At walking perfectly. Like when you acknowledge your breathing and suddenly have to work extra hard at doing it. At doing something that should come naturally to you. All because of a few eyes watching me do so. Okay, more like hundreds of eyes.

I hate this feeling.

The sight of Harper, her mouth caught in a careless ‘O’ in response to something funny being said, relieve some of the pressure. My eyes narrow in on the empty chair next to her, at the tip of our otherwise full table. Our table, centered in the middle of the room, nestled between the table occupied by the God-squad and the table with the sporty, not-so-popular kids, is actually two tables. One large circular one and one long rectangular one, pushed together in the shape of a lowercase ‘i’, with the circle pushed right up against the side of the rectangle. I sit at the tip of the circle, the top of the ‘i’ if you will, with my closest friends occupying the rest of the circular table and the periphery popular people scattered across the rectangle table, always fighting for a spot closer to me.

While the periphery people battle it out for their spots at our table on the daily, four spots at the circular table may as well have a ‘reserved’ sign hanging off the back. Harper is always to my right. My ‘flavor of the week’ (I hate that label. I prefer ‘mancandy’) is always to my left. Misty and Blair next to them. The rest falls into place differently every day.

Spotting me, a bunch of the periphery girls start talking at me, reminding me of those seagulls on Finding Nemo.

“Addison, I love your top.”

“Addison, I voted you in for Homecoming court!”

“Addison! I have an Ariana Grande ticket with your name on it!”

“Addison, what size are your boobs?”

I notice a lot of them sporting the same hairstyle I wore yesterday. A messy bun on the back of the head with a thin braid weaved in the from the front. It’s no coincidence. I see that one of them, a particularly stunning brunette with bright green eyes, looks better in it than I did yesterday. At the sight of her, I’m suddenly in an agitated mood.

With a sigh of relief, I drop my backpack against the leg of the table and drop myself into my chair. I don’t realize heavy my backpack had gotten till I sit down, completely free from its weight. “I am so fucking hungry.”

“Well hello to you too, little miss sunshine,” Blair says, through a mouthful of lettuce and ham. She’s been on the Keto diet for two weeks and the only thing she has to show for it is the gigantic wet spot at the bottom of her backpack from her equal parts revolting and sopping lettuce ‘sandwiches’. She still swears by it. I actually think she’s gained weight since starting it, after reading a compelling article by Buzzfeed complete with gifs from 2010 stressing how amazing the diet is. The extra weight looks good on her though, bringing out her hourglass figure and nice boobs from under her H&M sweater and leather jeans. It pains me hearing her jabber on and on about how she wants to lose weight when her body is like a photoshopped cross between Kate Upton - and not photoshopped to the point of thinness but to the point of just looking that more amazing.

“Blair, that sandwich looks like the scraps from yesterday’s salad bar.” I fake gasp, putting my flattened hand up to my mouth. “Did you go dumpster-diving? If you’re having financial issues, all you have to do is tell me, Blair.”

She shoots me a face, taking a humongous bite of her disgusting sandwich, making sure to chew with her jaw wide open to show me the monstrosity inside her mouth. A chunk of ham, cheese, and lettuce, held together by glops of saliva falls out of her mouth onto the floor. Her eyes stay trained on me.

There couldn’t be a more far-fetched joke out there. Blair could wipe blow her nose on two 200 dollar bills every day and her family wouldn’t bat an eyelash. I once read somewhere that it isn’t worth Bill Gates’ time to pick up a 100 dollar bill from the street. Well, Blair isn’t that loaded (as far as I know), but I wouldn’t question it if someone told me it isn’t worth Blair Waldrop’s time to pick up a 20 dollar bill from the sidewalk. With her last name, she gets compared to Blair Waldorf more times that she can tolerate.

Unfortunately, Blair isn’t the one who dresses like she’s straight out of Gossip Girl. You would think Misty used to go to a Catholic school with the outfits she wears sometimes. You would think she got kicked out of that Catholic school with how scandalous (but never trashy) the outfits can be. Misty looks like she’s the daughter of a business tycoon who’s never home, and was raised by a full-time nanny whom she now loves more than her own mother. She’s more than pretty enough for the part, too.

Her pretty face widens with a smile at me. “Did you go with her, Addy? It looks like that sweater has had more than a few hardships…”

I look down at my sweater. I should have anticipated one of my friends making fun of the sweater that even I made fun of myself. As I was putting it on. “Yeah, actually, I was. Took this straight out of the dumpster behind Goodwill. Even they didn’t want it, I guess.”

Misty giggles, hiding it behind her hand. Her need to do so is nonexistent. Her laugh is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s to enforce her little schoolgirl look. With two French braids weaved down both sides of her head, giggling girlishly into her hand, she looks like she could be an extra in an Anime. Or a Hentai.

A warm pair of lips presses against my neck, sending a jolt of pleasure, mixed with a bit of disgust, down my body. I press my legs together to stifle my biological response, cursing myself and the creature doing this to me. The pair of lips commonly referred to as Henry, detach themselves from my neck and speaks. Not bothering to move his face from its position -2 inches from my neck and spreading hot, moist breath over my skin, Henry whispers, “What took you so long, babe? I almost left the table.”

I want to roll my eyes at his statement and let my legs return to their natural relaxed position. After what he said, there’s nothing going on down there. He says it so smoothly that no one else at the table bats an eyelash at it, passing it off as some lovebirds’ sweet talk. But I hear it. The threat. Like I’m blessed to have him here and he has other important places that he could be. He might as well have said, “I don’t have to be here. If you ever show up this late again, I’ll show you just how much you need me and I don’t need you. Watch me.”

What an ass. Where’s he gonna go? Back to his table filled with his benchwarmer football buddies who yell about the college football game last night that no one cares about and cheerleaders that aren’t pretty enough, twirling their watermelon gum around their manicured fingers? All the important people are at this table and he should be offering to cater to my every whim just so I would keep him at this table longer. He doesn’t know how disposable he is. How unimportant. I don’t have to take this.

I push him off me, unwrapping his arms from around my shoulders. His eyes widen at the gesture and he tries to play it cool, pulling out his iPhone 5c and opening Flappy Bird. Flappy Bird, really? The wifi in here sucks and he must not have cellular data to do regular things on his phone. Like looking at porn. Why did is he even here?

“Why is he even here?” Harper whispers loudly in my ear. I can smell the ham on her breath. “I thought you were going to drop him today. He smells like ass.”

Hunger pains suddenly barrel into me, twisting my stomach into all kinds of shapes. I lug my backpack into my lap, digging for the bag of Smartfood popcorn a girl offered me in second period today. It’s not typical of me to accept food from strangers because that’s fucking weird but I didn’t have time to pack my lunch and I didn’t bring money to buy anything. I took it, said a polite thank you, then stashed it away for this exact moment. It would have been perfect if I could find the damn thing.

“Where the fuck is my popcorn?” I throw my backpack back onto the floor, letting my frustrations of the day get the best of me, simultaneously looking around the table as if one of them had the answer.

“Aaaaaaddy, answer my question,” Harper whines, in a tone no one would describe as a whisper. A small spray of spit flies out of her mouth, clinging to strands of my hair. I do her a favor in not pointing it out, though I’d be surprised if she didn’t notice it herself.

I spot Blair in the corner of my eyes, licking her navy blue tipped fingers free of white powder. The same shade of white powder that would come on Smartfood popcorn. Upon closer inspection, I wonder how I didn’t notice her other hand tucked under the table, angled perfectly to slide into an upright chip bag. “Blair, you bitch. Gimme that!”

She looks at me innocently, popping her index finger out of her mouth. Her face says she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and I’m prepared to argue against her act of ignorance. Fortunately, she fesses up before I can spew more derogatory phrases. “What? Your backpack was just laying there while you and Henry were screwing around over there and I finished my sandwich. I was hungry.”

“Henry and I were not screwing around,” I protest. I’m surprised by my own words as if her interpretation of Henry and I’s interaction is the main point of the conversation. I look at Henry to my left for him to back me up, not knowing what I expect him to bring to the table. He stays silent, firmly focused on maintaining his score of 29. I’m filled with the sudden urge to smack the phone out of his beefy hands, craving to see it smash against some surface and scatter in pieces of glass and that cheap plastic on the back of the iPhone 5c.

I look up from Henry’s fingerprint-smudged phone to see Blair staring at me, almost daring me to continue the scuffle. There’s a playful glint in her eyes. If there’s anyone who would get a kick out of another person’s starvation and struggle, it’s Blair.

A painful grumble from my stomach reverberates through my body, up toward my chest. I decide guilting her into repentance is my only option. “And that’s the only food I have. I guess I’ll just starve.”

I lean back in my chair, pursing my lips into a childish frown. If Blair cares, she doesn’t show it. She flips her hair back, careful not to get the leftover white powder into her thick, dark hair, and pours the remaining crumbs into her open mouth. Rubbing it in my face. No one else seems to notice my struggle. Misty’s begun to apply Aquaphor to her already soft lips and Harper’s still too close to my ear to see my facial expressions, much less observe the situation at hand.

Harper taps me on the shoulder. “Why. Is he. Still here. You said it was just a one-night thing. This will be the second day he’s at our table. He smells like cheese. Like, week-old Velveeta.”

I look over Henry again and have to ask myself the same question. The answer to Harper’s question comes to me as the solution to my food problem does/ I lean over and place my mouth right next to Harper’s ear. “I was going to break it off in Economics but I heard him and his band of reject football friends talking about homecoming court and who to vote for. I used my thing with Henry to get them to vote for me and I couldn’t just dump him after all that.” I give up on the whispering, given that Henry probably wouldn’t hear us if we were yelling. “Besides, if he gets onto court, we would probably be paired to walk together and it would be cute.”

Harper turns back to finishing off her BLT sandwich, satisfied with my answer but still wrinkling her little nose at the apparent stench coming off of Henry. I focus back on Blair and the now empty popcorn bag. I sigh loudly. I say, even louder, right in her face, “Man, am I just so hungry. How I wish I had a morsel of food to keep my energy up. If only I had something to eat.”

By the end of my whine, I’m basically yelling. After a few more taps and swallows, Blair lowers the popcorn bag and looks me in the eye. “If I give you two dollars for the vending machine, will you get over it and shut up?”

I nod eagerly.

Blair uncrosses her legs, earning a weird plastic sound from her tight leather pants, and ruffles through her back Kanken backpack. I told her not to get it back in August, citing how basic it would be in the coming months, but she would not have it. Two months later and here we are in a lunchroom with hundreds of other basic, Kanken-owning girls still wearing Adidas Superstars. She’s begged her parents for a new backpack but they said it was between a new backpack and their cruise to Alaska next summer. Her dad’s a big-time orthodontist and his hands have probably been in 80% of the mouths in this room and I would think they could afford a $50 backpack for their only kid. But Blair’s parents are stingy so Blair is unhappy. And basic.

She hands me a crisp $2 bill. I look up at her, perplexed. “Aren’t these super rare? I think they’re worth more than $2 ever since they stopped making them.”

Misty rubs her lisp together, capping the little white tube with its blue cap and putting it away. “You’re so dumb sometimes, Addy. How could a $2 be worth more than $2? Being worth $2 is kind of its whole thing,” she says, tearing open her Fiber One protein bar. Those things are disgusting. Using her other hand, she smooths out her navy blue pleated skirt, the same color as Blair’s gel manicure. If I was a dude, I’d be so turned on by the whole All-American, innocent, school-girl thing she’s got going on. The white, button-down shirt she’s wearing (probably borrowed from one of her preppy ex-boyfriends and never returned) is folded delicately at her elbows and wrinkled just the perfect amount. Her crisp white socks stop just a few inches above her knees, leaving what’s above to imagination. I wish I had legs to pull off that kind of accessory. A dream. Her and the outfit.

I stand up from my seat, tucking the bill into my back pocket. “You might be right. But I refuse to affirm anything that comes out of your mouth, considering Alex Flores’ dick was in it less than 24 hours ago.”

Misty laughs, taking a dainty bite of her protein bar. “You win this time, Holland. Now go get your slutty snack from the vending machine. Shake your ass on the way there for me, sweet thang.”

It’s my turn to laugh as I turn around, shaking my ass down the center aisle toward the vending machine. I turn and see Misty flicking her tongue out of her mouth crudely. I pass the second tier table, second to us, and stop the shaking, making eye contact with Levi Caldwell. I’ve never seen a more average-looking brunette than the one perched on his lap before and decide I’d have preferred to go the rest of my life without seeing her. Specifically, her neon orange thong peeking out between her crossed legs and short corduroy skirt. Even more specifically, the two pieces of concerningly purple skin it’s trapped between.

My appetite dwindles.

The vending machine is basically empty. My tempting array of choices consists of a knockoff brand of Cheetos with a devil wearing a cheese hat on the package, honey bbq baked potato chips, cool ranch Doritos (the inferior of the two flavors), whole grain strawberry pop tarts, and the smallest bag of rainbow Goldfish I have ever seen. I slide smooth out the wrinkled bill on the sharp edge and let the machine eat it up. I type in the numbers for the pop tarts and Goldfish. I wouldn’t be caught dead eating off-brand shit and I can stand to lose a bit of weight through the whole grains and small serving size.

“Hello Levi,” I say, monotony in my voice, to the person walking up to me from behind. The spirals in the machine are slowly progressing forward.

He leans up against the vending machine. I feel like I’m in some old teen chick flick, about to be asked out to the drive-in movie theater where he’ll ask me to go steady and rag me in the back of his dad’s pickup truck. I’d prefer that over whatever was about to happen. The bags could not be moving at a slower rate toward the edge.

Levi flips his wavy hair out of his face, spotlighting the veins snaking up his forearm and hand. Not under the visual protection of a table like last time, I have to cross my ankles to hide the squeezing together of my legs.

“How did you see me coming?” I almost want to laugh at the disappointment in his voice. Like he’s a kid on Halloween in his Michael Myers costume, caught by his mom cutting the tails off the stray cats. I remember liking that childish part of him once upon a time. I remember a lot about him once upon a time.

“It’s kinda hard not to see your huge head in the glass reflection. You practically blocked all the light from my field of vision with that huge melon.” I point to the glass showcasing all that the vending machine has to offer as if there was any other glass I could have been referring to. I slowly lower my hand back to my side and watch the two bags fall softly onto the bottom of the machine.

“My head is huge? I’ve always thought I had an average-sized head. My mommy told me so. My mommy says I’m handsome,” he says, bending back his wrists and positioning his hands under his chin in a ‘V’, jutting out his bottom lip in a pout. I freeze for a split second, thinking he was being serious, before seeing his goofy face in the reflection. My efforts to smother the growing smile on my face work and I almost want to let it show when I see his growingly uncomfortable expression due to my unimpressed reaction. I remember liking this side of him

and I don’t think he’s used to me not showing it.

I try my best to squat to the bottom of the vending machine to retrieve my snacks without the entire school’s population seeing half of my ass. “Well, your mommy lied.”

By the loud, hollow sound I hear, I can imagine him smacking his large hand to his chest in a display of hurt. Still crouching in front of the vending machine, I can almost imagine him with a fake hurt smile on his usually happy face. The mental image has me rolling my eyes.

“So...mean, Addy. You must have no soul, whatsoever, insulting a man’s face and his momma like that. Is that puppy blood on the tip of your shoes?” I find myself checking the tips of my shoes for some odd reason, where there is, of course, no puppy blood. It’s obvious where this is going.

“Very funny, Levi. For your information, I prefer kicking kittens, not dogs. Do you even know me at all?” I stand up. One of my hips crack with a satisfying pop on my way up and I try to play of off like it was some whacky sound from the vending machine, as vending machines would produce.

He crosses his arms across his chest again, leaning up back up against the vending machine. I focus on something far in the distance, tearing my eyes from his lean muscle accentuated by his position. His smirk in the corner of my vision tells me that he notices my flush face. “I think all I learned about you during those eight months was your weird obsession with medical documentaries.”

This time, I can’t help the smile at the memories of us. Me pulling him on the couch, under some ratty but comfortable blanket in his basement, to watch some documentary about human anomalies. Him groaning and complaining, but not being able to tear his eyes from the screen 30 minutes in and shushing me when I start talking over the narration. The documentary ending, but our time under the blanket together not. No one can blame me for missing those simple times.

I tense my face back up, finally looking back at him in the eyes. I’m suddenly reminding of how green his eyes tend to look under fluorescent lighting. Not that “My eyes look different depending on my mood, I swear!” bullshit that every teenage girl with green (or even hazel, as if that counts as green) eyes spurts religiously in response to the slightest mention of eye color. No, something about the severe light flooding the cafeteria reflected into his eyes in the prettiest way possible, muting the flecks of white and brown floating in there and giving the illusion that his eyes are pure green. At the notice of it, I will my eyes to focus, instead, on the space between his eyes, pushing away all the thought. Now, someone

blame me for dreamily describing his eyes like that.

“Speaking of dating, does that girl who was sitting on your lap a few minutes ago have that in mind? I have to say, she’s not exactly the type I could see you bringing home. I’m getting that trashy vibe from her. I think I can smell that fish all the way from over here.” I know I’m just being mean to him, through her, to push my previous thoughts further back into my now confused mind. If I’m mean to him, there’s no way someone can mistake me more still having feelings for him. Like a little boy pulling his crush’s pigtails on the playground. Except, I don’t have a crush on Levi. I’ just doing it so everyone knows that fact to be the truth.

Levi’s lighthearted face immediately hardens. I’ve seen that look before. It’s reserved usually for fights with his dad when Levi feels provoked but knows he can’t do anything to the person who’s provoked him. We’re just as close in distance as before, but there’s no doubt my statement pushed us further apart. I guess there’s a reason that pigtail-pulling type of behavior stops in early childhood. It never produces the outcome anticipated. Quite the opposite, really.

“Come on, Addison. She’s done nothing to you.” His voice takes on a hardened tone, but I can hear the upset in his voice. He never calls me Addison except for situations like these when I’m hurtful for no reason, even after we broke up. One of the things I liked most about Levi is he never raises his voice, which is atypical of such a socially commanding person like Levi. His response to many arguments is to show emotion, rather than show pure anger. In a world where everyone jumps on the chance lash out without the slightest cause, he was a breath of fresh air. Still is, as far as I’m concerned.

I know what he wants to say:

. He’d be right. Why am I such a bitch sometimes?

But I can’t stop myself. “Well, maybe that’s why we’re no longer an ‘us’. I’m too mean and you’re too defensive. You know, back when we were dating, I remember wondering if you had any balls. I felt them at times, sure, but they sure as hell didn’t seem like they were there.” None of it is true. But it’s one of those lies that you can’t stop yourself from telling even though you know it won’t end well, and you only catch yourself doing it once you’ve twisted the truth beyond repair and become the cause of hurt on another person’s expression. I do it a lot.

I look behind myself to my table. Harper is staring. “I gotta go. Say hi to your new little toy for me. Tell her Addison says ‘Good luck’ with lots of kisses. Also ask her to check for your balls, just for me. I really am curious.”

He doesn’t deserve it. But there’s something about kicking someone who’s already down. Someone who can’t do anything about it but stand there and take it. It reminds me of the feeling I got back in the girls’ bathroom with Jennifer and Laila. Besides, Levi asked for it. Everyone knows the term “We can still be friends” means “I’m just saying this to make you feel better and to make this breakup less awkward”. Everyone except Levi, apparently. It’s about time he knows.

The bell rings as I’m halfway back to my table, Levi already a blip in my conscious memory. When I make it to the table, Harper and Blair are the only ones still there. I have no doubt in my mind that Misty’s already sitting in her fifth period, that goody-two-shoes. If she’s in Mr.Eckert’s class, likely the first one there, her presence is all but detested.

Harper hands me my backpack, shooting me a disapproving look, but not saying anything about what she saw. Her mouth is set in the hard line like she has to physically work at keeping her mouth shut. Blair’s chewing and popping a piece of watermelon flavored gum. I wonder if she got it from the girl in the bathroom that offered the same gum to me or if it’s just a popular flavor of gum.

Blair starts explaining what happened with Alex Flores and Misty last night to keep me up to speed. Despite what Misty had said, she hadn’t blown him and had only been on the receiving end of We’re at the double door exit, caught in the sea of chattery teens before Harper says anything, cutting into Blair and I’s explicit conversation.

She twiddles with the ends of her hair. “Have Levi’s biceps gotten bigger?”

The Whore on Levi's Lap (aka Jalene Parsons)

I’m a control freak. I would say I have OCD, but I really don’t and one time, some girl got on my ass about ‘appropriating real mental health issues’ and it pissed me off more than it triggered her. People around here seem to think taking Psychology in freshman year makes them Doctor fucking Phil. So I stick with saying that I’m a control freak. It’s hard to give me shit for that.

An article on Snapchat Stories told me that being a control freak is usually the cause of nurture, not nature. I don’t know if I should believe any article that is sandwiched between two articles rightfully named

(spoiler: one of the tips was to put your mouth on it) and

but man, it hit really close to home.

I grew up on a steady diet of Chef Boyardee and Diet Sunkist. I am I not fat and as shit? Well, the only positive thing my parents passed down to me was good genetics. Fast metabolism, the predisposition for clear skin, and a generally symmetrical face were all I got from Dear Old Mom and Dear Old Dad, which I can’t really complain about since those three things are what girls around the world would go under the knife for. I mean, I still want to go under the knife to fix the roast beef hanging between my legs but that’s a whole different story. But still, it would have been nice to receive - oh, I don’t know - tender loving care and quality parental guidance from them? I learned from a very young age that that was too much to ask for. Anything besides food and shelter was too much to ask for. And even those two things seemed like burdens upon my parents at times.

My parents had an array of other things to do besides caring for their only young, very impressionable child. Like bringing strangers into our house to fuck them. Almost every single night. Sometimes twice a day. It wasn’t my parents secretly sleeping with other people behind each other’s backs; that would just be both of them having affairs. That would be too normal and heaven forbid anything in my childhood being normal. It was them going to bars together, hitting on other people, then all four of them going home in the same car to have sex. Like...what? Talk about the most awkward car ride ever.

Considering the process it took to get them there, it’s no surprise that the people my parents brought into our house were not the cream of their crop. They were drunks, cheaters, drug addicts, drug dealers, drug pushers (my parents like drugs, apparently), felons, and much much more. Whatever piece of shit you can think of, it’s probably fondled my mom’s boob or licked my dad’s dick. My parents were real champs.

Now, for some reason, those outstanding citizens of society seemed to think that being invited into our house to fuck meant that they owned the house. After ragging my mom or shagging my dad, these fuckers would waltz around our house doing whatever they felt like doing. Eating my Chef Boyardee, changing the channel that I was watching, jacking off ON MY BED, picking their nose and sticking the booger underneath our already gross coffee table (it happened more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes). And I couldn’t do anything about it. But that wasn’t even the worst part. No, the worst part still haunts me to this day. The worst part is why I am the piece of work that roams North Lake Tacoma High School like there’s a stick up my ass.

By the time I started kindergarten, I had become as self-sufficient as a six-year-old could possibly manage. Of course, my parents still saw me as a little baby that needed coddling that they had no intention of providing. If anything, their view of my mental capacity was below average and, when they did decide to make contact with me, their actions reflected such. Normal drinking cups taken out of my hand and sippy cups shoved in my face despite my telling them, in full, coherent sentences, that “I don’t need a fucking sippy cup.” The TV changed from the weather channel to Sesame Street (the exact same episode, each and every time. I could recite it by heart). It was demeaning and upsetting, but tolerable. My definition of ‘tolerable’ had been altered and stressed beyond what another would consider ‘horrible’.

The worst part came every weekday before school, in the dim lighting of the rising sun trickling through our beat-up blinds that were really long pieces of construction paper folded like an accordion and duct taped to the wall. Dear old Dad, apparently, was extremely convinced that I was not able to get dressed for school by myself. I don’t know where this conviction originated from since he’d seen me walking around the house in clothes he knew neither him nor mom had put me in. Nonetheless, this was another part of my life my parents butted and forced their way into for reasons I cannot procure. Another way my parents thought to make up for their incompetence in every other role of a good parent.

Of course, mom and dad weren’t going to be the ones getting up at 6:45 am to put clothes on a child they had bothered to even take to the dentist. So every morning, dad’s bed warmer would be pushed out of bed toward my room with the simple instruction “Just get some damn clothes on her. Can’t have my child showing up naked to school.”

Like it was his reputation on the line if I showed up butt-ass naked in public.

But the girl, no matter how old or young or pretty or ugly, would do just that. Just as excited as I was about the whole ordeal, the woman would always mumble and groan and complain while throwing a half-assed combination of my Goodwill clothes on me. The construction paper did a really good job at keeping out the light so it was kind of just a game of feeling around for a piece of fabric that felt like a shirt and something that had two leg holes. She never asked me what I liked to wear, what my favorite color was, or even how old I was. How could I expect her to? She went home with a guy, expecting some one-night stand, and ended up dressing a young child in the early hours of the morning. I would be pissed too.

The kids at school stared at me, but never commented, on my interpretive outfits and mismatched shoes. They didn’t say anything, but I knew it was just because our kindergarten teacher hovered over me at all times, probably scared I would do something weird, like sticking my hands down my pants to finger myself in the middle of the playground because that’s what someone wearing my outfits would do.

The kids never made an effort to befriend me and the boys called me ugly, not even bothering to say it behind my back. I was actually quite pretty for a child my age, from what I gathered from the few pictures my parents managed to snap of me on their Kodak camera, and I tried my best to do well in school. But because of the materials slung across my body, I was the ‘weird girl’ and it seemed like they thought I had some contagious disease that anyone within a five-foot radius would contract on the spot.

My clothes defined who I was. And my clothes were white-trash. So I was white-trash. I mean, I was white-trash but it didn’t exactly fill me with joy to have that fact on display.

To be fair, I wasn’t exactly the nicest to my fellow children. Why should I have been? They hated me, so I stressed my hate for them right back. I couldn’t control how they saw me, so why not just feed off of that image.

Being mean to my peers may have been an outlet for my voicelessness at home. No matter how bad it got at school, I never complained at home or even talked for that matter. The one time I got brave and commented on the woman’s choice of a thin tank top on a day that wouldn’t get above 50 degrees, the redhead pinched me hard enough to draw a few drops of blood , screamed about respect for my elders in my ear (she couldn’t have been more than twenty-five), then went to yell to my dad about how she “refused to work with a diva!” As if I was a prissy, trust-fund baby about to walk the runway during fashion week, not a 6-year-old child that went dumpster-diving on occasion. Maybe it was just the temper of that one woman, but it scared me enough to zip my lips shut during every other encounter with dad’s women. And during every other encounter with a person in my house.

None of the women ever saw the tear stains on my face. No one ever did.

In fifth grade, when I was officially alienated from the 65 people in my grade, I came to school with a shit-stain on my Hello Kitty shirt that was two years too small and a skirt that my teacher swore she threw away the other day because some girl peed herself while wearing it. My teacher called the principal, who then called DCF, who then made an unplanned visit to my house. They took one look at me sitting on the couch, with an overweight, drunk man passed out naked on the floor in front of me, and I was out of there. I haven’t eaten Chef Boyardee since.

My first foster parents was that couple that you always see in ‘real-life’ TV shows that have always dreamed of having a baby but are forced to live their lives half-assed and unsatisfied due to their inability to do so. I don’t know why they got me, a child with a double-digit age and the promise of at least C-cup boobs on my chest, but they did. And I stuck out like a sore thumb in their cookie-cutter lives. They were all hand-painted pieces of wood with their last name written in calligraphy on it and large slabs of granite countertops on a huge, wood island. I was all screaming in my sleep and refusing to sit on a couch if another person was already on there. Most of my trauma-induced tendencies faded with time, but not before they drove multiple sets of self-described ‘tolerant’ parents insane. But one habit appeared and has yet to fade away. And I have no intention of letting it.

Before I was taken into the foster care system, my clothes limited me. Imprisoned me to one stereotype. After that fateful day in Mrs. Wentworth’s fifth-grade class, I was free to be whoever I wanted. As much as people like to spew shit about “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, your clothes define you. And for the first time ever, I was free to define myself. To define how others saw me.

The first time my fosters tried to dress me, with the impression that I didn’t know how to do so, I cried my eyes out and scratched the dad’s arm. He called the mom in, thinking the whole reaction was coming from an aversion to adult men undressing me (they really assumed the worst of my treatment before), and she tried her hand at stuffing me into the lavender purple shirt and matching ruffled skirt. I did the same thing to her, this time getting my nails on the tender skin of the face, and they gave up. I guess they have some report of me and my behavioral tendencies to show to potential caregivers because, after that, no one ever tried to dress me again.

After tearing a hole in Mrs. Acosta’s cheek, I had the chance to dress cute and fun and pretty and make all sorts of friends in the middle school I was about to enter. But why would I? They would be the same type of kids the judged me for the drab clothes I wore just a year earlier and alienated me for it. I knew I would just pine and pine after my peers’ approval and friendship and would just end up rejected and sad in the end, just like I had in elementary school.

I had overcome the limitation of having someone else decide what I wore. But I could never control how others saw me, no matter what I wore or how much I tried.

So I wore what I wanted. What made me feel good, not what all the others saw as socially acceptable. And boy, the feeling of doing so is one of a kind.

Now, I’m bouncing from halfway home to halfway home, sometimes not even in a home at all. But I’ve never been more in control of my life. I’ve never been more liberated.

The kids used to poke fun at me for wearing something that someone else put me in. Now they do the same, just with different words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’, for wearing what makes me feel good. My mini skirts and tight tube tops earn me looks of disgust and stares of desire alike, but I couldn’t care less.

People still don’t like me or the way I dress. But at least now I like me and the way I dress. And that’s more than I ever thought possible.

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