INT: A COMEDY CLUB
Brianna is doing a one-woman show about her childhood.
There are moments in your life that you later look back on and say, "Man, I was a jerk." Then there are others that make you think, "That made me who I am today." And sometimes it's both, and you think, "So that's why I'm so screwed up."
I was in seventh grade, which I now understand is a grade that should be held in a bunker just for individual thirteen year olds. In 2002, though, we were all required to sit next to each other on the grass in the courtyard and listen to a mustachioed park ranger who'd walked right off the Brawny paper towel logo lecture us about fire safety.
Like all seventh graders, I was disgusting and I knew it. Like most seventh graders, I thought I was the only one who felt this way, and I viewed any fellow classmate who had no pimples as godlike. While the park ranger talked about lighter fluid I laid back against the grass and chewed the side of my finger, thinking about how greasy my hair was, and how everywhere it touched my skin I was going to break out. If I could've had a super power it would be the magical ability to always feel like I'd just stepped out of the shower.
When the lecture was done, the park ranger called us up to the makeshift stage to hand out stickers in the shape of a fireman's badge, because when you're thirteen all adults treat you like you're eight. I found myself walking up to the stage behind Sarah Parker, who already had a smokin' bod and knew it, and therefore was a person I was only allowed to speak to if I was with my cool friends. I quickened my pace and got right up behind her as we formed a line. It was hot and I could feel oil so thick on my forehead it was like the Enron fiasco on my face. Her hair was one long sheet of bouncy blonde beauty down her back and it reflected the sun like the surface of a pristine lake. She didn't have any friends nearby so she was unusually quiet, and I took a shot.
"That guy was a moron, huh?" I tried, because cruelty is the only currency among the beautiful. She had a good foot of height on me, so she was able to look down at me without moving much at all. Just the barest tilt of her head acknowledged my existence. Brilliant.
"Mm," she said. I could only see a sliver of her flawless face behind that wave of honey hair, and she was searching the lines of people for her friends, so I pretend to look too.
"If you're looking for someone to sit with after this, I'll be right over there," I said, indicating a vague place that might potentially be somewhere Sarah Parker would want to sit.
"Mm," said Sarah Parker.
We reached the front of the line and found ourselves at a long picnic table piled with stickers that said "Fireman Dave" and had pictures of a basset hound in a red fireman's hat. I took one. Sarah Parker took two. I took another. And then I made my mistake. As she walked swiftly and purposely toward her friends on the other side of the courtyard, I followed her, peeling off the waxy backing of one of my stickers. She already had hers prepared. In one two-handed slapping motion, she stuck the badges to her prominent breasts and waved them exaggeratedly at the posse waiting for her as though she were wearing a safety-conscious bra. Now, when I say posse, I'm talking about skinny, voice-cracking, mid-pubescent hormone bomb boys here, leaning against the wall and thinking they look cool. Boys no one in their right minds would want. Except me. I wanted them. I wanted the boys.
So while they laughed and wolf-whistled I put the stickers on where I generally thought I too might one day have breasts. I laughed alluringly and sort of gyrated in the posse's general direction. Sarah Parker took two exaggerated steps away from me and spared me one irritated, sneering smile.
"You can't do that," she said, loud enough for the posse to hear. "You have to actually have something to stick them to."
If I had done what I wanted to do, i.e. crack like an egg and cry for three days in the bathroom, my life might have gone differently. I'd like to say that I had no response, or that I had it eight days later while brushing my teeth. But I didn't. I turned to Sarah Parker and I said, "Well, if we're doing it like that, you should put both your stickers on your butt and then ask for two more."
She took a step away from the posse and laughed that horrible laugh that you think means you don't care but really makes you look like you care even more. It was deliciously awkward, and the posse was laughing too, for me, at her. Her face was red like a sunburn and I hadn't even had to hit her. I was a super hero. My power was zingers. I didn't need beauty and I would never go looking for it again. I would spend my days pursuing sarcasm and one-liners and comebacks. And god help me, for the rest of my life, meeting men, breaking up, meeting men, pushing away, meeting men, being alone, I would always be ready, I would always be guarded, I would always be on.