Why does everything in my life have to go so wrong?! Why?!! Out of all the people in the world, why do I have to be the freak who went to school on the very first day of the year with a pair of PANTIES stuck by static cling to the leg of my pants?!!!
La, la, la, isn’t life great—WHOOPS! Oh dear, would you look at that? It’s Mom’s underwear, popping out to say a big hello!!!
And now I can’t stop crying, which only makes me feel more pathetic. But really, it’s so incredibly unfair. I mean, this was going to be my breakout year. The year I finally stopped being invisible.
I stopped being invisible, all right.
I had planned on wearing jeans. Nice, normal jeans with a sprinkling of tiny rhinestones, like raindrops, along the outlines of the front pockets. But could I? Noooo, because they were still in the wash—thanks, Mom—which meant I had to root through the dryer for my gray drawstring pants instead. And then I had to dash back upstairs and change shirts, because while my “Pebbles” T-shirt looked good with jeans, it looked really stupid with the gray drawstrings.
By the time I got to homeroom, everyone was already seated. I hurried to Ms. Larson’s desk to collect our back-to-school handouts, and that’s when I heard someone snicker, then someone else, and someone else. Before long, everyone in the class was rolling with laughter.
I got a stomach-dropping feeling. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Your panties, man!” Jeremy Webster howled. “You’re losing your panties!”
I looked down, but saw nothing. I craned my neck to look behind me.
“There!” said Samantha Greene, pointing at my pant leg.
It was like that dream where you go to school naked, only worse, because it was real. I spotted the band of elastic sticking out from the bottom of my pant leg. I yanked it free, and Mom’s panties billowed forth in a blossom of shiny nylon. As if they were mine. As if they’d slipped off my body and down my leg, which was utterly impossible, but did anybody care?
“Strip show, baby!” called Jeremy Webster. “Take it all off!” Another guy whistled, and others hooted and clapped.
At me and my mother’s underwear, exposed to the world in all our freaking glory.
Same day, 3:52 P.M.
Just got off the phone with Kathy, who somehow managed to make me feel worse than I already did. And if I don’t write it down, the whole conversation will just keep bouncing around in my head. Writing stuff down doesn’t always help, but at least I can read back over it and say, “Oh. Yes. You’re completely right to be so depressed.”
So here it is, the instant replay of my shame, according to Kathy:Kathy: “Omigod, Alli. What happened to you today? Jeremy Webster’s been telling everyone that you did a striptease during homeroom, that you whipped off your underwear in front of the whole class and—”
Kathy: “He’s calling you the stripper of the seventh grade, Alli. Now tell me what happened!!!”
Me: “A pair of underwear happened to be stuck inside my pant leg. It was static cling. And I did not do a striptease. I just pulled them out of my pants and shoved them in my backpack, okay?”
Me: “And they weren’t mine. They were my mom’s.”
Kathy: “Omigod. Alli, that is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever heard.”
Me: “Yeah, well, thanks.”
Kathy: “I’m so serious. I mean, geez, you had your mom’s big old nasty underwear dangling from your—”
Me: “Yes, Kathy. I was there, remember? Anyway, I’ve got to go.”
Kathy: “Fine, whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow. But Alli?”
Kathy: “I’m only saying this for your own good, but be sure to check your clothes before you leave. I mean, next time it could be a bra, or one of your dad’s jockstraps, and—”
Me: (hanging up the phone) Click.
Kathy’s my best friend, but she doesn’t know very much about cheering me up. Lately I’ve been thinking that she doesn’t know much about me, period. But then I feel bad, because even if Kathy’s not as perfect as I want her to be, she’s gone out of her way to be there for me. Ever since last year, when being popular suddenly became important. When Rachel Delaney became queen, and I disappeared.
Kathy stuck by me then, and I know she’ll stick by me now.
Wednesday, September 6, 7:37 A.M.I set my alarm for six-thirty to make sure I’d have plenty of time to get ready this morning. Then I threw half my clothes on the floor, including a horrible burgundy jumper and my too-small cargo pants, before settling on a white T-shirt and a tan miniskirt. Nothing clinging to either. I checked.
“Good morning, Allison,” Mom said when I came down for breakfast. “Are you doing better today?”
I clamped my lips together. I knew I wasn’t being fair, but I couldn’t help feeling that if she had folded the laundry like a good mother, none of this would have happened.
“Could I have a napkin, please?” I asked. I used it to wrap up my Pop-Tart, which I brought back up here to eat. To my room, where no one can ask me pointless questions like, “Are you doing better today?”
Because today is not about doing “better.” “Better” isn’t good enough. Today is about putting my old life completely behind me and starting fresh, which was my goal for this school year all along. Only inside, I don’t feel like a brand-new me at all. I feel like the same old dorky me who missed two months of school last year—through no fault of my own—and turned into a social nobody. The same dorky me who memorized the opening sequence of The Young and the Restless and who chubbed out from lying in Mom’s bed day after day. Kathy claimed I got a spare tire. She also claimed I was faking, that I was never really sick at all.
But why would I have done that? At the beginning of sixth grade, I was friends with everybody, not just Kathy. Everybody was friends with everybody. But by second semester of that same year, when I came back after being absent for so long, the girls carried Tampax in their purses and giggled if someone didn’t wear deodorant. All the rules had changed, and I no longer knew how to play the game.
I was no longer in the game.