I don’t know why I’m starting with Debbie. She’s not first alphabetically. She wasn’t a friend. She wasn’t a stand-out student academically or athletically. In fact, she was probably the lowest girl on the peer totem in my class.Don’t judge. I say that because she was likely why I wasn’t on the bottom instead.
As I look at her picture in the yearbook, I wonder why. She was pretty enough. I remember her as slender and tall. She wore glasses, but back then we all did (contact lenses weren’t the norm). I think she was likely a victim of socio-economically judged. Her family had no land, and in a small town where the only people who lived in town were retired farmers who could afford to let their children or hired-hands reside at the farm or families who couldn’t afford land in the first place and worked 9-5 in a tiny town with one bank, one grocery store, a post office, and a motel. Strangely, I don’t ever remember meeting or seeing her parents or siblings. I have no idea who was in her family.
One of my other classmates told me a story he remembered from when we were kindergarteners so the following is more of a “I remember when he remembered”. He said when we were in kindergarten, we were suppose to be napping. Instead I took Debbie’s shoes away from her and threw them into the hallway.
Unfortunately, she often was my target. That was probably my first interaction. One of my last was the time was in high school when I got my hands on some tiny plastic bags. In one I put a small amount of flour, and placed it in her locker in plain sight. When the bell rang, everyone went to their lockers, including Debbie. I watched from a safe distance away for the moment she found the suspicious looking baggie.
She did of course, and her actions were opposite of what I expected her to do. You see, as we grew from asshole elementary children who teased each other, we grew into asshole teens who bullied. Rumors made peers into sluts and drug dealers. What I didn’t understand then is that rumors are often baseless and used to justify the bullying. When Debbie saw that little baggie, she didn’t pick it up and then secretly pocket it while casting a suspicious eye over shoulder. Nope, she picked up in horror and went straight into the nearest classroom and handed it to the teacher.
Probably the most memorable part of this story is what the teacher did next. Since Debbie’s reaction wasn’t discreet, everyone gathered excitedly around the teacher’s desk as he held the baggie of suspicious white powder. First he eyeballed it. Then he opened the zip, stuck his pinkie in his mouth to wet the tip, dipped it into the white powder and tasted it! He announced that is was flour.
No one asked how he knew it was only flour. No one thought twice about what in hindsight an experienced drug-dealer would do. No one thought to call in authorities or parents. No announcements were made. Today a thoughtless stunt like that could force a school into a lock-down.
For what it’s worth, Debbie, I’m sorry. I don’t know where you are or who you’ve become. I hope you’ve found happiness despite having me as a classmate.