They are all just standing there separate, but together. No one is talking or smiling, nor do they make eye contact with each other. It reminds me of people in an elevator. Only this is a bus stop. And it is almost January. And these same boys have been standing together 5 months now trying not to make eye contact each morning before school.
I walk slowly hoping to look casual. I am the new girl. It wouldn’t do for me to start laughing out loud to myself so early in the game. But the ridiculousness of the situation, the phobic shyness of the group seemed comic, so that by the time I got there a smirk was twisting the corners of my mouth.
There was about 8 of them. All boys, all kind of nerdy in that scrawny, pimply face, adolescent kind of way. They were not expecting me of course.
“So,” I ask the group as if they are one, “Why does everyone look like they are going to a funeral?” The looks on their faces tell me I have broached a code of ethics; the unspoken silent rule. But I will start laughing for sure if I think of that. So I plop myself down on the curb, breathe an exasperated sigh and continue, “Anyone have a light?” of course they don’t, but at least everyone looks awake now. I am a bug under a microscope. I shuffle through my backpack, pull out a book of matches and start working on getting my cigarette lighted.
Finally, victory is mine, I take a long drag, inhaling the situation, then stand up, turn around, straighten my jacket and face the group. “It really isn’t that hard ya know. I am Ursula and you are undoubtedly starving for some entertainment. Which I will gladly provide myself by making fun of each one of you in turn, unless you at least introduce yourselves to me and each other, starting now.” I turn toward the bravest looking one of the bunch and start there.
Three months later they are talking to each other and laughing as I drive by the bus stop, a passenger in my moms car, on my way to yet another new high school hell. For a second I feel gladness in my heart, a sense of victory knowing that they are no longer standing there pretending not to see each other. They will be friends now, even though I’m gone. And I’ll once again be the new girl, only this time, somewhere else.