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Not Only Once
It started off as a relatively ordinary day.
Snow fell from every inch of the sky, freezing the sidewalks and hiding the tan grass with a glowing layer of itself. As I pulled open the heavy doors of my school, the wind rushed in, pulling me with it. Upon stepping in, I was welcomed by the heating system, allowing my fingers to finally thaw.
My best friend waved to me from the end of the hall, near my locker.
Walking over, I unzipped my heavy jacket-- which was getting too warm for the room-- and revealed a yellow and gray striped sweater with light gray buttons. An unusual color combination, but my seventh-grade self didn’t mind.
I was a mathlete, a cross country runner, a writer, and a nerd in the eyes of some. But that was my true self-- I laughed as much as I wanted, I spoke my ideas, and I certainly didn’t care about what others thought of me. I didn’t.
I greeted my friends and opened my locker to put my things away.
“Are you really wearing that again?” a voice from behind me whispered.
I was facing my locker and was about to close it up. I assumed whoever said that was talking to someone else.
I was positive that, in the middle of a crowded hallway, no one would actually take time to comment on my clothes-- but I turned around anyway.
A girl who I recognized very well stood a few steps away, and, to my surprise, she was looking at me.
“Yes, I am,” I answered, not understanding why she bothered asking.
“It’s just that you wear that every week, and it’s weird. I mean, yellow and gray?”
That was her answer, and, by the way she plastered a smile on her face, it was clear that she wanted to mock me. She waited.
I kept a blank face, not showing any reaction.
I pushed her snarky words away and told myself it didn’t matter. She walked away, and my day went on like normal. I didn’t think much of what she said, but it still stuck with me.
I had nearly ignored all of it-- until the next morning.
I awoke from a long night, and, as per my routine, I walked into my closet to pick out my clothes for the day.
I looked down at what I had worn the day before, failing to see the comfort, the warmth, and the gentle colors. All I saw was an obnoxious piece of clothing with bold colors that clashed and made it all an eyesore. I laid my fingertips on one of my other favorite tops, but, instead of feeling the rich smoothness, I noticed an oddly formed surface. I grabbed it, thinking that I would wear it anyway and that I didn’t care about what happened yesterday.
“Are you really wearing that again?”
The words still came rushing back. My head started pounding with my thoughts buzzing around, pulling themselves up from the depths of my memory. I had kept them all away, ignoring them throughout the years-- thinking that I shouldn’t care.
They shouldn’t be able to hurt me.
“Wow, those-- those shoes are really ugly.”
I told myself that they just didn’t like sneakers.
“Can you not? We don’t want to talk to you.”
They were just busy at that time, right?
They knew what they were saying, and I let it all happen. I ignored everything that was unfolding right in front of me.
It wasn’t only that February day.