Have you ever wanted to do something bad, but didn't have the constitution for it? Then you decided to do something else, something completely silly. Well, in Junior High I wanted to be friends with the skaters, but they didn't want me around because I wouldn't smoke cigarettes. Well, that's when I started chewing gum. But just to be on the "wild side" I wouldn't just chew gum, I'd bum it too.
I remember walking around school. "Hey man, can I bum a gum?"
People probably thought I was nuts, but I KNEW I was cool.
Then when some sap actually gave me gum, I'd chew it really obviously. Everyone knew that I had gum AND good breath too!
There was this one day when the back pocket on my pants got ripped in gym. One of the skater girls let me borrow a pair of her jeans. She cracked me up because she didn't like the clothes her mom sent her in and her locker held an array or awesome skater clothes. That gem of a girl actually let me pick a pair of pants to borrow. They were a few sizes too big, but I didn't care. Plus that skater had a belt and she was amazing since she had an arsenal of coolness in her locker!
I wore those pants. I strutted around the halls. It wasn't cool to merely have those saggy-butt pants on though, so I chewed gum while wearing those stylers. I bet I winked at a few kids who passed by. I waved. "Hey, dude." I even said "dude" to the girls.
That was a great day until the girl next to my locker saw me. Now this girl was huge. She was the queen of all skaters, one of the tallest kids in ninth grade and one of the meanest. It's funny when I think back; I never even asked her what her name was, I was a seventh grader who didn't dare. I was too busy trying to save my own life. She'd always threaten to take my ice cream at lunch, or sit on me if I looked at her wrong. Once she told me I was like a 7/11 gas station; open twenty-four hours a day. I didn't know what she meant. I remember wondering how that could be bad if it meant I worked extra hard and never quit! It may sound funny to you, but that girl scared me. She had a butt bigger than a triple-trailer semi. And if she sat on me, that sucker meant sure death to a little junior high kid like me.
I'd do anything and everything to avoid her. She reminded me of Sloth from Goonies. But that day I felt tough. I had borrowed skater pants and TWO pieces of gum. I chewed really big and stood next to my locker. "Sloth" eyed me.
"What's happening, man?" I asked, deciding to let her be my friend. I was sick of being afraid.
Sloth groaned. Her face swiveled like it could spin in 360's all by itself. I wondered if she was possessed as she asked, "Did you just call me . . . a man?"
Come to think of it, she could pass for a guy. I hadn't meant it that way though! I really hadn't. "I j--j--just said it because it sounded cool."
"You think it's cool . . . to call me a man?" She popped her knuckles. They were big knuckles. That's when I swallowed my gum.
Now I know you should never swallow gum. It has all these health risks. My brother even told me once that the gum would never EVER come out of my body and it could grow a gum tree--or something like that. I never forgot his words and as I swallowed those two pieces, I felt bad for myself. Would the gum ever come out? Would it grow a twin tree since I'd been chewing a couple pieces?
I'd never known how to stand up to Sloth, but as I thought about that gum, I got as angry as my twelve-year-old body would allow.
"Hey everyone. This punk called me a man!"
People started crowding around. They gasped in response to her words.
"I didn't call her a man," I whispered, then gaining strength from the gum inside my belly I continued, "I said, what's happening, man." I'd expected everyone to cheer, tell me how awesome that was, but no one did. I swore I heard crickets.
"You heard her. She called me a man!"
"But she made me swallow my gum!" Crickets . . .
So there was no way to handle things. I thought about hiding in my locker, offering her a piece of someone else's gum. I didn't know what to do until the girl I'd borrowed the pants from stood next to me. I could do this. I knew I could be strong.
"You've been mean to me all year," I said. "And I just wanted to tell you something."
"What?" she barked. I knew she was getting ready to sit on me. She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and my feet dangled like a marionette. Her eyes grew into big orbs. They had red around them, like she hadn't slept in years. That was the first time I felt bad for the Sloth. She was tired, and there was so much aggression inside of her. I wondered what her family life was like. I forgot about my borrowed pants and the gum in my belly. I forgot about the kids around and my awesome family. I forgot everything and just felt bad for that girl. Every time I saw her, I worried for myself. The truth was I should have been praying for her!
"What did you want to say?" she yelled at me as she held me against my own locker.
I faltered and must have sounded so pathetic, so absolutely little. "I want to be friends and I don't want you to sit on me. You've given me a fear of butts."
She continued staring at me, but I swore part of her hardened lips began cracking showing her loosening resolve.
I felt so bad, I wanted to say something nice, anything to show that someone cared. Enough that she didn't need to be mean to feel good inside. So as she held me painfully by my shirt, I said the first thing that popped into my head. "You have beautiful eyes . . . for a bully."
Her eyebrows went from strained to a sort of comfortable confusion. She looked at me, then snorted and dropped me to the ground. Everyone started laughing. Sloth left the hallway and our audience filtered from the area by my locker. A guy patted me on the back as he walked by and whispered, "Nice one. I've never seen anyone handle her like that especially a seventh grader."
I smiled as I watched him walking away. I was glad I'd stood up to her because I'd realized something important; it's always good to see things through other people's eyes. I'm glad it happened, but I couldn't have done it without my borrowed pants and my bummed gum!