Monday, February 2, 2015

The Not-so-Golden Compass

I shared a locker with Hopkins his senior year, and because I was a bit shorter, I'd deferred to him using the top shelf for his books and supplies. I generally kept my books in the bottom of the locker, or in my book bag, hanging from the coat hook. It usually didn't matter, but on one memorable day, it did. I was digging around in the bottom of the locker for something and I heard a swish as Hopkins flattened me against the open locker door.

Of course, the teacher on hall duty saw it and thought that Hopkins had availed himself of an opportunity to...I don't know...manifest some interest in me? I was famously prudish about public displays of affection, much less full-frontal physical contact- and the fact that I shoved him backwards with a shriek of, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???" should have been a dead giveaway that it was not a "move", as the kids would have said.

He pointed at a drawing compass, standing bolt-upright in the floor where it had lodged in the carpet. A centimeter or so to the left, had he not pushed me out of the way, and the thing would have stabbed me in the foot.

I can recall defending myself to my mother when a teacher told her about it in church, and feeling very stupid indeed. I didn't want my mother to think I was loose or throwing myself at the boy, but at the same time, it was denigrating to know that nobody believed even a hardcore nerd like Hopkins could have a romantic interest in me.

That's what it's like to be awkward. You learn not to expect much because hope is for other people, and that it was just reflex, no emotion involved...because nobody would care about you enough to put you out of harm's way, right? It's the same sick shame I feel when someone pays me a compliment, as if there's a punchline hidden in there that I don't know about, or some unwritten rule that I've broken that ultimately leads to humiliation.

Just once in my life, I'd like to believe that I could feel what I want to feel without fear of being rebuffed, humiliated, or rejected...that there might be some reciprocity somewhere. I'm fighting with my insurer over the revisional weight loss surgery because there's this overarching sentiment that as a fat woman, my life is invalid, or some kind of running joke. It's an uncomfortable place to be.

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