I walked through the front doors of school on the first day and cringed as the smell of anxiety and B.O. smacked me right in the face. Excitement buzzed around the halls despite the odors that were drifting about. I made my way to first period, even though class started in over twenty minutes, and looked on at the groups of students huddled together. They looked as though they were eager for the new school year to begin, something I could not relate to.
I walked through the library and felt a pang of sadness when I noticed that the spot where my friends and I had once met every morning was now filled with new faces. I struggled with the thought that I no longer had a place where I fit in at school. Since my two best friends had switched schools, I felt like I was the new kid again. Still the gawky, wide-eyed seventh grader trying her best to copy down the notes on cell functions through her tears. My stomach clenched as I realized I would have to make new friends, something I was not good at. To be frank, it was something I sucked at.
As I walked into the classroom, I settled my things down in the back row. I laid my arm down on the desk and closed my eyes, pretending I was anywhere else. My eyes drifted shut and my mind wandered to things that were far more important, such as the nap I was already planning on having during math or the tweet I planned on posting after school.
My desk suddenly shook and an image of the world cracking open and sucking me into hell appeared in my head. Unfortunately, it was just my phone buzzing against the desk.
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Greta. I will not hit you with my car just to put you out of your misery. Stop asking. I’m sure you’ll have a great day at school. Stay positive!”
I scoffed so violently at the text from my best friend, Wanda, that the teacher sitting at the front of his room was disrupted from what he was doing and stopped to look at me with eyebrows raised. I could feel warmth spread to my face and I ducked my head down into my arms. Great day at school? As if there were such a thing.
The beat of my leg tapping up and down offered me mild relief, and the sound sparked a memory from the week before.
The breeze of late summer grazed my skin and caused me to shiver. We were all gathered around the fire in the backyard of a friend of a friend´s house. A new girl, named Emily, joined us that night and the boys fawned over her long legs and sophisticated British accent. I tapped my finger on the lawn chair as my friend, Wanda, moved around greeting each person present. Her ability to easily make friends was something I had always admired and hoped to replicate. Instead, I sat in the corner twiddling my thumbs and planning world destruction. Or something along those lines. My scowl deepened as I scolded myself for not being more outgoing because, obviously, it was my own fault that I had so few friends. If I could be a little more normal, maybe then I’d be more approachable, I thought to myself.
Once Wanda finally sat down, everyone quieted and a group discussion began. By group discussion, I do not mean that we chatted about the recent fall of the unemployment rate or our outrage with unpaid maternity leave the mothers in our country get, as I would have hoped. Instead, we talked about Spam sandwiches and what to put on them. Eventually, after learning a disturbing amount of Spam sandwich information, Wanda steered the conversation around to describe everyone´s title within the group to clue Emily into how everyone fit in. She labeled herself as the hot one in the group, to which many of the girls in the group rolled their eyes, me included. I waited in anticipation as she made her way around the circle, wondering how I would be labeled. Juanpa fired off finger guns as he was labeled the funny one. Clementine shrugged her shoulders and smiled as Wanda tagged her as mom of the group. Julias merely laughed as he embraced his label as the token minority.
Everybody shifted my way when Wanda finally got to me. They looked surprised, as if they genuinely hadn’t noticed me. The attention made me blush, and I could feel my insides shudder with anticipation.
“And that´s Greta. She´s the quiet one,” Wanda said as she lazily pointed her hand my way.
The quiet one. The words echoed in my head and tears blurred my vision. I would’ve expected being described as quiet by others. I didn’t expect people to know who I am or try to make an effort to get to know me. It was true that I often kept to myself when at group outings, but that’s not my fault. The least they could do was be more interesting. I hung out with them solely out of loyalty to my friend, Wanda. Okay, and maybe a little bit was because my mom kept pressuring me to get out of the house instead of “sitting in my room in the dark all goddamn day.” But mostly because of Wanda.
If anyone else had labeled me as quiet I would have shrugged and written it off as them not knowing me. I would´ve gotten into Wanda´s car and complained about it, laughing and commenting on our shared hatred. To me, quiet is how you describe someone you don´t really know. Like when someone asks you to sign their yearbook at the end of the year and you write ¨you´re quiet but you seem really nice! Let´s totally hang sometime! HAGS! ¨ and then forget about them the following day. Quiet is what you wish your younger siblings would be when you´re trying to binge watch shows on Netflix. But quiet isn´t your best friend.
If the only thing my best friend could say about me was that I was quiet… Then maybe it was true. Maybe I just had to come to terms that I was just boring and didn’t have anything important to say. I forced myself to accept that I would be doomed to silence the rest of my life but for some reason it made me feel nauseous.
I had been expecting something more along the lines: ‘Greta? She´s the weird one. Flat out fucking strange,” or “Greta? She´s likely to become the most successful serial killer of our generation. ”
What I got was the equivalent to “Greta? Greta who? ”
“Greta Jones?” I sprang back into attention as the teacher droned off my name. I didn’t bother correcting him, figuring that he’d forget it the next day anyway.
“Here,” I replied halfheartedly. Thinking about the perspiration accumulating underneath my arms made me sweat even more. The image of the class being flooded with my sweat filled my head. I laughed as my classmates struggled to keep afloat as the salty rushing water raced through the school. “Year 3000” by the Jonas Brothers played in my head while the girl nearest me lost grip of her desk and sank beneath the sea.
“I’ve been to the year 3000. Not much has changed but they live under water…”
“You should really go to the doctor.” The girl in front of me whisper-yelled to her friend in front of me and snapped me back to reality.
“Why? They’re just going to give me medicine and I hate that syrupy stuff,” the platinum blonde responded earnestly. I noted the pale greenish sheen to her skin. She was clearly ill.
“But you puked in the hall!” The girl sounded concerned, as was I. I also wondered where the pile of barf was and whether it made the halls smell even worse.
“No, it doesn’t really count because I ate it.”
“You what?” her friend nearly shrieked in disbelief.
“ I was walking in the hall and barfed into my hand. I didn’t want anybody to see so I just put it back in my mouth.” Her eyes bulged from her head, afraid to hear her friend’s judgment.
I tried my best to contain my disgust but couldn’t help letting out an audible gasp. The two turned around and looked shocked, completely unaware of my presence. I sheepishly looked away from them and gazed out the window into the school parking lot to pretend I wasn’t listening.
I remembered driving to the school parking lot the previous weekend. When I arrived I haphazardly parked and walked over to where most of the group were gathered. I stood over by Wanda and stayed quiet as the gang prattled on about this and that. I prayed my silence was more brooding than timid, because that seemed way cooler.
As I joined them, Juanpa questioned, “What should we do now?”
“Oh, oh! Can we car surf? I haven´t tried it yet! “Wanda yelled and everyone voiced their approval. Juanpa agreed to be the driver and asked if anyone else would like to go with. I raised my hand and relished in the raised eyebrows I received from the group.
I set my foot down on the back of the bright red vehicle and hoisted myself on top. Wanda grabbed my outstretched hands and I fell backwards onto the car as I pulled her up with me. Once we were both up we positioned ourselves laying belly down and gripped onto the ridges of the top.
We yelled down to Juanpa that we were ready and as the car began to move Wanda let out a squeal filled with both terror and delight. I held my middle finger out towards the school as we made it around the parking lot and gazed at the barely visible stars. I felt like I was in one of those indie teen movies, the wind in my hair and the radio creating an almost atmospheric paradise.
Then I saw the cop car.
The cop car rushed into the school parking lot, lights flashing blue and red, and I immediately jumped from the moving car and landed skillfully on my feet. There was a moment after I landed where I stood hunched down, genuinely considering making a run for it. But the cop car was approaching too quickly so I stood frozen in my tracks, waiting for my impending doom. When he finally parked next to us, he gleefully hopped out of the car and pranced over to us. He looked all too happy to bring teenage fun to an end.
The next thing I knew I was in the backseat of Juanpa´s car, shifting around uncomfortably in a car seat because it was the only available spot. I moved around the small chair, trying to find a spot where the plastic arms wouldn’t dig into my ass. Tears dripped from Wanda’s eyes as the police officer lectured us about the dangers of riding on top of a car. I may be stupid enough to ride on top of a car, but I am not too stupid to know that it’s not dangerous. I rolled my eyes and sadly fixed my attention out the window.
Finally, after waiting an hour for him to call all of our parents, listening to him rattle off all the reasons why we shouldn’t have done that, and promising to never do it again, we were let free. We traipsed over to the rest of the group, who by now were very solemn, and inquired about what we’d be doing next.
Clementine shifted uncomfortably in her position on top of a car and said, “We should probably just go home now.”
The rest of the group looked around for other suggestions but none came. So I spoke up.
“Well, I may have a few things in my car…” I mentioned nervously, walking over to where my car was parked and opening up the trunk. Their faces lit up with surprise as they took the large stacks of toilet paper, cartons of eggs, and boxes upon boxes of plastic forks that filled my trunk.
“Why do you keep all this stuff in your car?” Juanpa asked.
I shrugged and smiled mischievously, “Why not?”
“What are the forks for?” Wanda asked.
I laughed and walked towards my car before stopping and looking over my shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said coolly, slamming my trunk shut. I flipped on my shades and glided to the driver’s side of my car as the camera (you know, the one in my indie teen movie) panned in on my face, then back onto the faces of my shocked acquaintances, then back onto me.
“Are you guys coming?”
They climbed into my car and my imagination took over as I drove away. My passengers gazed back at the school as I pressed a button and fire exploded from the parking lot. A kickass playlist started up in my head as we drove away to Mexico to hide from our crime.
“I never knew you were so cool, Greta,” they fawned.
It was time that I labeled myself, instead of letting what other people perceived me be what I become. I was a rebel, the troublemaker with the baby face. I wasn’t two people like I had thought. The one I saw myself as: strong, mischievous with a dash of psychotic, and the one others perceived me as: a mostly unremarkable wallflower. I reveled in the knowledge that I didn’t have to be stuck in the prison of who people thought I was. I could just be me, and damn to hell what everyone else thought.
“From now on, call me Yellow Belly Abacus,” I said through a smirk. I was relieved as I took control of my identity, the weight of everyone else’s assumptions suddenly gone.
I came back to awareness as the bell rang with the image still lingering in my mind. I felt a surge of reassurance as I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder. While walking out the door, I noticed the barf-eater next to me and cringed at her ghastly appearance from close up. I saw that she was already watching me, waiting for me to say something.
“You think in the future we’re going to have humans on display at the State Fair in the birthing centers too?” I watched the shock fill her eyes as she registered what I said.
Visibly relieved that I didn’t bring up the barf, she guffawed and started, “What the-?”
I extended my hand for her to shake, mentally reminding myself to wash it immediately after, and smiled as I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Greta Jonas. But you can call me Yellow Belly Abacus.”
Greta is a senior in high school and besides writing; she enjoys matcha ice cream and Netflix originals. She plans on going abroad to Germany and once she comes back she will attend Hamline University. She is also not quite sure how to write a bio that isn’t for social media; darned millennials.