Shortly afterward, word got out that I had dissed poor Jan, the hard luck kid from the wrong side of the tracks who would never be able to afford art school.
This gave Jan fresh ammunition to increase her attacks against me. And she had a small cohort of allies to boost her cause, including her neighborhood buddies, her older sister, the teacher—and eventually, Melissa.
In the eyes of all of my foes, I was the evil rich kid who had it all. It was a John Hughes movie in the making.
The art teacher made a point of yanking my chain whenever she could. She extolled Jan’s artistic talents, while downplaying my own abilities. When I asked her to write a letter of recommendation for college, I noticed that she had slipped in some derogatory comments that were meant to decrease my chances of getting into a good school. Every time I informed her of an acceptance letter, her face would fall.
Jan, as it turned out, managed to get into art school through a scholarship, and got a serious boyfriend during our final year in high school. Even with those notches in her belt, it still seemed like she wanted to beat me, punish me for what I said about her.
Several days before graduation, a delicate ceramic pin I’d made in jewelry class mysteriously disappeared. One day it was resting on a metal trivet, drying from a trip to the kiln. The next day, the trivet was empty.
I remember walking into homeroom, devastated that it was gone. Melissa and Jan were in the room and I remember how they both leered at me like hyenas, clearly delighted that I was upset.
“You didn’t find your pin, Jen? Awww, well isn’t that too baaaaad,” Jan had said.
I remember how my heart fell into my throat, looking into their faces.
It’s the image that haunts me now as I stare at Melissa’s profile on Facebook.
I can see how it would go if I did confront Melissa about the past. Jenny, I’m so sorry that you’ve harbored all these bad feelings over the years, she’d write, in the tone often used for mental patients in the loony bin.
I tried to remind myself that these negative impressions I had were based on events that took place years ago. I had no idea how these two women had turned out.
If you think about it, we were all just a bunch of silly, petty high school kids. If anyone was the villain here, it was our art teacher, who should have known better and risen above the nonsense.
It’s possible that Melissa doesn’t remember any of this, I think, looking at her profile. Or maybe she does, and she’s trying to make amends.
What gave me pause is the fact that she specifically brought up Jan’s name in her message. It’s as if a hand was reaching through my computer screen, ready and eager to press those old buttons—and see how I would react.
I decide not to give her anything to react to.
I write to her. I tell her I won’t be going to the reunion, and that it was nice to hear from her. I didn’t mention Jan or anything from the past. I asked how old her son was.
I have yet to hear back from her.
Sometimes in my wildest fantasies, the stuff that CW Network shows are made of, I envision a package arriving in the mail in the not-too-distant future. Inside, is a small item wrapped in a piece of cloth, revealing an old pin with the image of a dancer on it.
The pin is worn from age, but still beautiful.
(Part 1) | Part 2