“Dopey, Sleepy,” Kenny paused. “Sleezy,” he finished with a smirk. A ripple of subdued laughter passed through the room.
The judge raised one eyebrow. “I’m sorry Miller High School. Sleezy was NOT one of Disney’s Seven Dwarfes. Would another team like to answer?”
The rest of the competition continued in a similar fashion. We did answer a few questions correctly. Larry and Eddie were decent with math. Gladys and I could answer some literature questions. Kim knew music. Only classic rock. Mostly Queen songs.
On the drive home, Mr. Norris, our coach, said, “You guys are not funny.” His stern expression never reached his gentle eyes. “Making up answers is not effective.”
“Sometimes the answer is 7,” I offered.
“True. But you can’t just say 7 to every math problem.” His thick brown mustache twitched with a suppressed grin.
“If you look at the definition of can, then she actually is able to say 7 whenever she wants,” Larry said matter of factley.
“Que los niños estan locos,” Mr. Norris said.
“I think he called us crazy,” Gladys laughed.
“I did and you are.” We all laughed along.
Mr. Norris’ Spanish class was one of the few places I felt I could be myself. His wife had been one of my favorite Elementary school teachers. I had a hard time imaging them married. She was tall and pretty. He was short, round and relatively plain looking. He looked similar to George on Seinfeld, except with hair. He taught Spanish and at the time I thought he was Hispanic. My only evidence being his dark hair and the fact that he taught Spanish.
He was very perceptive and genuinely cared about us. One day he even saved my life although I’m sure he had no idea he did so.
Classmates had been teasing me about being dirty and laughing at my wheezing voice. Mom and Dad were fighting. Tracy tried to choke me over a hairbrush. I was confident nobody liked or cared about me.
I woke up late, pulled my hair into a ponytail and dressed in unwashed jeans and a tshirt that mostly smelled clean. Mom had not taken the clothes to the laundry for a long time. The kids were right, I was dirty. The floor had collapsed in the bathroom so we’d only been able to take bird baths in the kitchen sink for months. I wasn’t sure when I’d last been able to really wash my hair. Generally I tried to look clean by wearing makeup, especially red lipstick. I’d read somewhere that wearing red freshened your whole look. That day I did not care.
The night before I’d stood in my Mom’s room looking at her pills. I considered how many I would need to take to die. I thought about ways to make sure I would not vomit after swallowing them. On the bus ride that day I mentally worked out a plan.
Mr. Norris’ fifth period Spanish class went by in a blur. I sat and watched my classmates file out when the bell rang.
“Carrie, can I see you a minute,” Mr. Norris enquired. I shrugged and walked to his desk.
He looked at me closely. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
I blushed. “Nothing. Why?”
“Where is your red lipstick? You always wear red lipstick. Something’s wrong.”
I did not know what to say. I was shocked that he’d noticed me closely enough to know that I didn’t put on lipstick. Nobody else in my life seemed to notice anything about me. “People have been bothering me,” I confessed.
He reached out and touched my hand. “Ignore those people. They don’t know what they’re talking about. You’re doing great. It’s a pleasure to have you in class. Now tomorrow I expect to see that red lipstick.”
I returned his gaze. I held back tears. “Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow with lipstick on.” I chose not to take my mom’s pills that night.