"Baby Beluga! BAAAABY BUH-LEWWW-GUH!!!!" sang the group of tonedeaf kids throwing dirt clods at me while I read my book in the grass. I looked up and made eye contact with my animalistic predators. My normal style is to ignore them until I can't take it anymore, and then I start shrilly shrieking and sobbing, like a chimpanzee going through a tough bout of puberty.
I hated looking at them almost as much as I hated being seen by them.
We had watched a documentary on whales the other day, and I had answered a bunch of stupid questions. Ignorant imbecile that I am, I had forgotten the law that nine year olds should not ever raise their hands and try their best not to answer a teacher's questions, lest we be forever ostracized and burnt at the stake. I had been labeled: a show off, a know it all, a brain, simply because I felt it important to tell everyone the difference between mammals and fish. Ever since then, other nine year olds (especially the boys) had started calling me "Baby Beluga" because I was baby-like (full of tears!) and kinda chubby. (Sooooo clever.)
I made eye contact, my book closing in my lap. Andrew was one of the assholes!? Andrew used to come over to my house and play with Star Wars action figures when we were five. Oh, sweet youth and naivety!
My entire life I've always felt this terrible loneliness, this suffocating feeling that everyone of my friends hates being around me. I try to isolate myself from others, and I also hate feeling isolated. I was an overly anxious little kid, but as the feeling of loneliness inside of me, and around me, barricading me from the outside world, I would become almost like Gollum desperately scrambling for love, sabotaging it once I got it, and still valuing connection as precious.
"BABY Beluga! Baby BELUGA!"
I picked up my book and went inside. I ran into my teacher, Mr. King. (Think Mr. Rodgers but nerdier (in a good way).) Mr. King asked me what was wrong and I said "nothing." He then looked at me for a minute and my eyes welled with tears. Certain people have this effect on me, where they can just look at me, or ask me a question in a certain tone, and I will lose it, like a water fountain or a tiny person who likes coffee's urethra. I'm a very anxious, shy, sensitive, emotional person still. Back then I was more sensitive than a kitten's foreskin.
The next day I was in the same playground during the beginning of recess. The older kids were trying to get together a baseball game. I was less coordinated than an old aunt's boot, and equally as smelly when I did exercise. I started to feel anxious, like I was about to have a panic attack.
"Barbie! You're on Jonah's team!" yelled one of the older kids.
"Yeah!" yelled Jonah, grinning underneath his ridiculously handsome purple Tasmanian Devil hat. "Maybe we can change our team name to The Belugas!"
I stood up and looked Jonah dead in the eye, and then turned and wordlessly walked away.
You know, like a psychopath or something.
A few minutes later I heard shouting.
"Where did it go?"
"You were supposed to catch it!"
"No way, it was totally left field."
"You were playing left field!"
"Seriously, where is the ball?"
Something covered in dust rolled in front of me and I knelt and picked up the baseball of the assholes that had been tormenting me for days. I looked over my shoulder, covertly ascertaining that no one could see me. I put the baseball in the waistband of my pink leopard print spandex leggings. (Early 90s.) I calmly walked underneath the fallen branches of a tree, into a covered secluded enclave at the bass of the tree. I called this area my tree cave, which is way less sexual sounding when you're nine.
I withdrew the baseball from my leggings and sat cross legged on the ground and began to bury the ball.
Two girls my age came scrambling clumsily into my tree cave.
"Barbara! We saw you come in here!" said Katrina. Katrina had curly black hair and was very fun.
"What are you doing?!" yelled Jenny. Jenny had light brown hair and religious parents.
"I'm... burying this baseball I found." I answered truthfully.
"Why?" asked Jenny.
"Magic," I flat out lied.
"What do you mean? Are you doing a spell?" said Katrina.
"Of sorts. I found this baseball, and I just... I had a feeling that it used to belong to a student here... a student who was MURDERED!" I had no idea where this bullshit was coming from.
"Wow. Why do you think that?" Katrina asked.
"I mean... um... look at how dirty and musty it is. It must be super old. It's practically fossilized."
"Oooooh," said both the girls.
"So, I just figured, I'd give the ball a burial, and then the spirit would be at peace and could move on to the next dimension and stop haunting the playground." This level of delusion and imagination is probably one of the reasons why I can kinda do stand up comedy.
"How do you know the ghost is haunting us?" said Katrina.
"Just.... listen quietly..."
We all stayed silent for a moment and then a branch rustled. We all screamed at the definitive proof. At this point I was starting to believe in the ghost myself.
"We should hold a seance," said Katrina, ever the innovative little yes-and girl. "We can find out who the killer is and bring him to justice."
"We could find out where Billy's body is buried, and dig it up as proof!" I said.
"I don't know if I'm signed up for that level of commitment," said Jenny.
"Billy?" said Katrina.
"Yeah, his name is Billy. I mentioned that earlier," I said. "Okay hold hands and try to picture Billy, just think of him, and feel his energy, whatever comes to mind..."
We closed our eyes and joined hands. We took deep breaths, together.
"What are you girls doing here?" The branches bustled open and Mrs. Hilton stood in front of us, crouching to get into the tree cave. We all screamed.
"Recess ended twenty minutes ago," said Mrs. Hilton. "You all better run inside now!"
I sprinted to my classroom, collapsed sweaty and in tears in my desk. Mr. King didn't do or say anything to draw any more attention to me than already was oozing my way like the evil ooze from My Little Pony (the movie!). He didn't lose step in his lecture and handed me a note saying that I had to stay after class for detention.
Detention had been one of my biggest fears of my life. I desperately wanted to please teachers and get straight As and gold stars and be the kind of weird creepy kid that educators give presents to and call "gifted." I hated when adults were disappointed in me. I was not the kind of kid who got detention. I was mousey, god damn it!
Detention was fine. Much like a pun about dogs, I knew this would not be the last time I had to tell everyone, "I got it."
During detention I helped Mr. King clean off overhead projecters, organize books, and then he let me go. I don't know what I was expecting, hard physical labor? A stern yelling session? Perhaps being dipped in a vat of boiling hot milk while everyone I knew spectated?
I survived detention easily. I also had successfully found my own whimsical, secret way to stand up to my bullies and I hadn't cried or had a panic attack in front of anyone that week. And, additionally, most imporantly, while doing so I had bonded with fun people. I could handle everything.
I met with Jenny and Katrina outside school and we started to walk home together.
"So," said Katrina. "I was thinking we should hit up the library research if there was any paranormal activity around our school ever... and also if there were any murders."
"We could be like a real life ghost mystery solving team," I said.
"As long as I can use your guys' library cards. My parents can't know what kind of witchy stuff I'm getting into," said Jenny.
"Oh!" I yelped. "We should be witches!"