My nine year old self and all my enemies
That fire's still burning and it won't go out. This is the first in a long series of "The Friends Problem"
*This is a true story, but the names of people inside of it have been changed. How i wish I didn't have to do that and expose them!(:*I was seven when I had my first real enemy. I’d always been mama’s easy child, the one who got good grades and loved to bake and was so sweet. But then I started interacting with people outside of my family. Before The Friends Problem came up, my family lived in eastern Mongolia, where we worked with an orphanage there. Being really little, of course I hadn’t learned the language, and living in a tiny, off the map town, there weren’t any other kids who spoke English to play with. But I didn’t mind. I had four siblings and an awesome “Atta” (Mongolian grandfather), who was more than will to play dolls with me and my sisters or give us a show by slaughtering sheep in the front yard. We loved that. We’d take our plastic camping chairs and sit in the minus twenty degree weather watch the little animals guts spill out. Hey, we were kids, what do you expect? Besides that, I had my bestie, my older-by-two-years brother, and we told each other everything and spent the days riding baby goats and eating them for dinner. My life was a happy one, and then we moved again.
To be honest, I don’t remember much about moving. My six year old self could only think about how heart breaking it was to leave my my little pony sleeping bag behind. But we loaded our meager possessions into our borrowed, once white van and went off into the snowy morn. We moved to Thailand, and that’s where The Friends Problem we’re here to talk about started. We moved to Thailand so my mother could have her next baby, our little brother to be, Isiah. Now, if you’ve ever been to Thailand or Mongolia, you can figure how much of a culture shock we were in for. Mongolia was never above the fifties weather wise, and its people weren’t much warmer. The men were always drunk and basically just ran around annoying other people, and the women milked the cows and birthed the babies. The best you would get was a “friendly” Sime ban oh, which could mean either hello or shut the door. Most commonly the latter.
But Thailand… that was something else entirely. There are not two more opposite places on the planet. Thailand was hotter than three Texas summers, and the people were just as sunny. People would stop us on the street to greet us with a cheerful Sawadiee khap, or even the occasional hello in broken English. The food couldn’t have been more different either. While Mongolian’s ate boads, meat wrapped in fried dough, or horoshore different meat in fried dough, Thai food was a whirl of color, love and spices, no two dishes were the same, and every one delectable. Except maybe the egg soup. That wasn’t quite a favorite. And suddenly, there we were, living in a beautiful house with a farm down the road whose owners personally brought us their fresh grown lychees and pomelos. And also quite suddenly, there was co op. Thailand was a favorable place for plenty of foreigners, the food, the weather, and easy living. Things were incredibly cheap, and it was exceedingly easy to get a job English teaching. In fact, there were so many foreigners there that they had started an entire school that ran on Mondays every week from nine to twelve for English speaking home schooled kids for free. That’s where it all got started. The home school co op was full of kids and classes and delicious lunch, but held nothing but drama and tears for me. Because that’s when I met HER. Denise had beautiful blond hair that reached past her shoulders, which of course I was jealous of because I had stupid brown hair, and naturally curly though it was, it didn’t grow very well and I thought it was scraggly and ugly and I hated it. She was one of the those kids whose mother thought the world of her and gave her anything she wished for. Her mother was also one I’d never forget, and(though I didn’t know it yet) my first face to face consolation with a true to life Karen with a capital K. At first, I was excited when Denise came to talk to me. I wanted friends so bad. She mostly talked about herself, but I didn’t mind. At least she was talking about herself to me. But then, one day, we were sitting in the gym and lunch, and she told me to go get her a drink of water. I was eating my lunch and looked up at her in shock. My mother had always been very strong on the whole please thing and she didn’t even try to phrase it as a question. After some through consideration, I said solidly, “No.”
She looked at me and the rush of blood in my ears made everything else seem silent. I had never been mean before. I had always been the submissive little girl with the big smile who loved everyone around her and would do anything for them. I didn’t realize it then, but she had a kind of popular kids group and she just expected everyone to do everything for her. Instead of frowning and going back to her lunch, or rolling her eyes and getting to go get water herself, she looked me in the eye and repeated herself.
“Go get me some water.”
“It’s literally right behind you.” I said, my face heating up with shock at myself for what I was saying. “I’m going to finish my lunch.” This odd sort of fire started up in my throat. It couldn’t be excitement.
“I want water.” Said Denise.
That fire burning me from the inside out, I kept looking down and let out the smallest eye roll. “I know.” I said. My face stomach was burning and I was cursing my brain a hundred times over. What was I doing? Mom told me to be nice. One of the other girls stood up, glared at me, and said, “It’s okay, Denise. I’ll get you water.”
But even then, Denise wasn’t finished.
“If you can’t get me water, then you can sit somewhere else.” She told me.
The fire in me got hotter, but my heart turned to steel. I suddenly had flashbacks of all the books I had read, the popular girls having their own seats, and I almost laughed out loud. This couldn’t be happening to me. That wasn’t real. I said with ice in my voice, despite the fire, “I’m going to finish my lunch.”
“No.” She said. “This is my spot to sit with my friends, and if you can’t get me water, than your not my friend.” I shrugged and kept eating, determined to ignore her.
“I said move.”
I still ignored her.
“If you don’t move, I’m going to get my mom.”
I shrugged again. “Okay.”
As I suspected, she didn’t. “If you don’t move when I count to three, I’m going to get my mom.”
“You’re not my mom.” I said, and my heart jumped with that fire again.
“That’s it.” She got up and left. Five minutes later she came back with her mom. I couldn’t believe how petty she was.
Of course, her mom was even more so. “Honey, could you move? Denise says you are bothering her. She really scared. If you don’t go I’m going to have to talk to your mom, honey.” They sickened me. I got up and left. Denise stuck her tongue out at me. But even when I got up and walked away, that fire still burned in me. Excitement and fire and joy, that fact that I stood up for myself and something a little more. From then on, whether I admitted it or not, I was always looking for a way to start that fire burning again.
I never told my mom what happened. I knew she wanted friends just as much as I did, and I also had a feeling she wouldn't believe me because Mrs. Monna was an "adult". But I also knew that this wasn’t over, and I was right, because the very next week, Denise stopped by me when I was eating lunch outside and said,
“Hi, how are you doing?” All sickeningly. I ignored her. “I’m talking to you.” She said. “How are you?” “I have a stomachache.” I told her.
“Oh.” She didn’t try to talk to me after that for a while. But then it was swim team tryouts and it all came crashing down.
There were several classes my age group could choose from for those three hours every Monday. One of them was swim team. I’d always loved the water, and even though I hadn’t learned to swim until I was almost eight due to the lack of pools in Mongolia, I wasn’t half bad. The woman in charge was strict and obnoxious, but she was also fair. When we showed up at the pool at eleven o clock, she got mad at us for being late(I’m still not sure why. We were three minutes late and we were nine), and then went on to show us how to warm up. After that, she told us how to get in. It was pretty simple. All you had to do was swim across their fifteen-twenty foot pool without touching the bottom, and you were good to go. While the kids in front of me went, Denise walked up to me and said, “You’ll never make it. You’re too dumb.” I was shocked to the bone. I had never heard anyone say anything so mean. But to be honest, that nasty little comment probably was why I made it without too much of a problem. A couple of other kids went, and then it was Denise’s turn. She touched the bottom almost immediately, our teacher saw her and kicked her out. She sat on the dock because she had to wait until the class was over. She would have to wait until next week to switch. All the other kids got in. Every last one. Every last one but Denise. I was utterly triumphant, but I was also still brought up to be nice, so I went over to Denise and said, “I’m sorry you didn’t get in.” “You touched the bottom, I saw you. You’re a cheater.” She stomped away. I was insulted, and so left it alone. But even I put it past Denise to do what she did next.
It was the third week at co op when it happened. My dad took us home and my mom and him were up in their room for a long time. Then my mom came down and asked to talk to me. She told me that Denise had said during warm ups at the swimming pool I had hit her hand continuously when we did jumping jacks. Mrs. Monna had said through text that Denise wasn’t going to shut up about until she got an apology. She had shocked me once again. We had been across the room from each other during warm ups. What was she talking about? The worst part? My mom believed her. She wanted me to be punished and make Denise a card and go over to apologize. By this time, it was no secret that me and Denise didn’t like each other, so I guess her lie was plausible. But it still hurt that I was going to get in trouble because that little brat had flat out lied and my own mom believed her. Once again, that fire started burning, but it was angry this time, embarrassed and angry at the world.
“I didn’t do it.” I told my mom, but she wouldn’t listen, and eventually I wrote a card and gave into the pressure. But we were half way to her house when I changed my mind. I suddenly knew what I was going to do. When we showed up, Denise came out of her house to see us and laughed when she saw my letter.
“Thank you for apologizing,” She said. My mom had disappeared inside to talk to Mrs. Monna. I let out a light laugh. Play it cool, I thought.
“Oh I’m not here to apologize.” I told her. “I’m here for an apology. Go ahead.” “What?” She said. “I don’t have anything to apologize for. I didn’t hit anyone!”
“This is what you need to apologize for, then, ill give you a list. One, lying about me and trying to get me in trouble I didn’t deserve. Two, calling me dumb and trying to make me lose during swimming tryouts. I made Denise, you didn’t get over it. Three, calling me a cheater when I wasn’t. Ordering me around like your little servant when I’m not and tattle and going running to your mommy every time you have a problem. And most of all, calling me a liar when you were the real one. Denise, I don’t want to be your friend. Thank you for the apology anyway.”
Just then, my mom came out of the house and asked if we were finished. I nodded and turned to Denise one last time. “Here’s your card. Have a nice day.”
I turned and walked home with my mom. She still doesn’t know to this day. I hope she never finds out.